The fastest RC cars in the world

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Google Music: More clues?

From Zdnet:

I received another email today from the person who wrote last week. He has some more information about Google Music — none of which I can confirm, but for what it's worth I wanted to pass it along to my readers.

1) "Google Music" is not going to be the final name. There are a few names on the table, including "GMusic" and "Google Tunes". I can't say either is a huge improvement.

2) Google Desktop will have an interface for the music thing, with a search and media player built-in.

3) was sketchy on this part, but he was fairly sure that Google will reformat Google Video Player for all media. It should be able to play video and music, and maybe integrate Google Pictures with a picture viewer similar to Windows Picture and Fax Viewer.

4) all music video previews on GMusic or whatever will be ".gvi" format, and that for copyright reasons the files would either be un-downloadable or cut to 30 seconds. I'm hoping for the former, I want to be able to see the whole video.

5) All music videos will have their own section in Google Video.

None of these points surprise me, they all seem plausible and predictable. It would make sense for Google to rework the existing Google Video Player to include any type of multimedia — maybe we will see the name change to Google Media Player when/if this service is launched?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Net Neutrality Part V

From Arstechnica:

Amazon exec: net neutrality necessary because of "little choice" for consumers

The two largest telecoms in the US are proponents of a tiered Internet, in which an ISP would have carte blanche give priority to certain traffic at the expense of the rest. Joining consumers on the other side of the debate are companies that rely heavily or exclusively on the Internet for their revenue streams, like Google, Yahoo, and Amazon. In an interview, Amazon VP of Global Public Policy Paul Misener reinforces one of the reasons why we need net neutrality: our (lack of) choice when it comes to broadband.

For the past several years, the Federal Communications Commission has enforced a view of broadband regulation that emphasizes competition between types of broadband while effectively ruling out meaningful competition within broadband delivery methods. Hence the ruling that cable companies and DSL providers need not lease their lines to competing ISPs if they don't want to (and why would they?).

By the FCC's reckoning, that means I have broadband choice here on the northwest side of Chicago. Well, sort of. For cable, my sole choice is Comcast-and that's what I use, with few service complaints. On the other hand, DSL is not an option for me because of the lousy infrastructure in my over 80-year-old neighborhood and my distance from the DSLAM. Broadband over power lines? Not yet. Citywide WiFi network? A gleam in Mayor Daley's eye. WiMAX? Some day, maybe. Broadband choice? Not in any coherent sense of the word.

In Misener's opinion, the lack of choice means net neutrality is a must because if an ISP decides to begin prioritizing certain traffic, consumers don't have a meaningful alternative.

"[U]ltimately what can they do besides complain? Consumers have little choice when it comes to high speed Internet. If they had more choices of providers, this wouldn't be such a dangerous situation."

There are a number of other arguments for net neutrality, including the possibility of ISPs clamping down on traffic that they find objectionable. Misener outlines one such scenario involving a striking union and points out that while such scenarios may seem far fetched, there are no laws in place to prevent it from happening.

With the latest attempt at legislating net neutrality into law having failed, does the issue still has life on Capitol Hill? Misener was encouraged that support for net neutrality grew between votes on the issue. One thing that would help out in the nation's capital is some lobbying by the tech giants that have a lot to lose if a tiered Internet shows up. Yahoo, Google, AOL, Amazon, and their allies were severely outspent by lobbyists for the telecoms and cable companies during the last battle, and that is going to have to change. Beyond Washington D.C., awareness of the issue appear to be rising on Wall Street, as other industries begin to ponder the ramifications of a tiered Internet.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

New Dell XPS, looks like it fell off a Jet.

The most realistic virtual reality room in the world

Jared Knutzon, an Iowa State University graduate student in human computer interaction, demonstrates how Iowa State's C6 virtual reality room can control the military's unmanned aerial vehicles.

From the Iowa State webpage"

AMES, Iowa -- More than $4 million in equipment upgrades will shine 100 million pixels on Iowa State University's six-sided virtual reality room.

That's twice the number of pixels lighting up any virtual reality room in the world and 16 times the pixels now projected on Iowa State's C6, a 10-foot by 10-foot virtual reality room that surrounds users with computer-generated 3-D images. That means the C6 will produce virtual reality at the world's highest resolution.

Iowa State's C6 opened in June 2000 as the country's first six-sided virtual reality room designed to immerse users in images and sound. The graphics and projection technology that made such immersion possible hasn't been updated since the C6 opened.

The difference between the equipment currently in the C6 and the updated technology to be installed this summer, "is like putting on your glasses in the morning," said James Oliver, the director of Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center and a professor of mechanical engineering.

The new equipment -- a Hewlett-Packard computer featuring 96 graphics processing units, 24 Sony digital projectors, an eight-channel audio system and ultrasonic motion tracking technology -- will be installed by Fakespace Systems Inc. of Marshalltown. The project is supported by a U.S. Department of Defense appropriation through the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

The project began this spring with a prototype upgrade to one wall of the C6. The remainder of the work will continue throughout the summer. Oliver said the improved C6 will open in the fall. A grand opening celebration is being planned for the spring of 2007.

A better C6 will be good news for the Iowa State researchers who study virtual reality.

Chiu-Shui Chan, an Iowa State professor of architecture, has used the C6 to develop 3-D models of buildings, cities and workplaces. He's studying how virtual reality can be a tool to create a library of historical buildings, plan urban growth and test workplace efficiency.

A virtual model of the Xidan business district in Beijing can help city planners manage urban growth.

Chan said the upgrade will improve the visual realism and interactive speed of his virtual reality applications. And that will enhance the sense of place in his applications and the effectiveness of his research.

Chan said the C6's existing technology requires him to balance and sacrifice some of a project's size, speed, realism or human-computer interaction. "With the new system I won't have to worry about that," he said.

Eve Wurtele, an Iowa State professor of genetics, development and cell biology, working with Julie Dickerson, an Iowa State associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has used the C6 to develop new ways to visualize data from as many as 22,000 genes. She's also developing a virtual cell project that shows cells in 3-D action to help students learn about photosynthesis and other aspects of cell biology.

Wurtele said the higher speeds and better pictures will be a boost for her research and teaching.

"This upgrade is fantastic for us," she said. "It's essential for our research."

Mark Bryden, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, has used virtual reality to develop engineering tools that help engineers make better decisions. He said the C6 upgrade will mean more realistic images capable of transmitting more information. And seeing more information will allow engineers to be better informed when they make decisions.

Bryden also said the upgrade will put the C6 back on the leading edge of technology. He said that will help researchers attract projects and funding.

Oliver is leading a research team that's developing a virtual reality control room for the military's unmanned aerial vehicles. The researchers are building a virtual environment that allows operators to see the vehicles, the surrounding airspace, the terrain they're flying over as well as information from instruments, cameras, radar and weapons systems. The system would allow a single operator to control many vehicles.

The C6 upgrade will move that project forward, Oliver said.

"The idea is to get the right information to the right person at the right time," he said. "There's a tsunami of information coming toward you and you have to convey it effectively. We think this kind of large-scale, immersive interface is the only way to develop sophisticated controls."

So those 100 million pixels are going to make a difference, Oliver said.

"Seeing is going to be believing," he said. "This upgrade will enhance our ability to amplify the creativity and productivity of people. It will help us build on the center's record as a world leader in virtual reality. And it's one more way Iowa State can be the best at putting science and technology to work."
From Cnet:

It's ironic that Iowa State University (ISU) announced a big upgrade of its C6 virtual reality (VR) room the same day as SGI filed for bankruptcy. Back in 2000, this 10x10x10 feet room was powered by SGI Onyx2 computers. The new version of this six-sided VR room will use 96 graphics processing units from Hewlett-Packard. And with its 24 Sony digital projectors, the researchers at ISU will immerse themselves into images of about 100 million pixels in the most realistic VR room in the world. Of course, this upgrade is not cheap. But with this $4 million addition, this new C6 should lead to new advances in urban planning, genetics, engineering or unmanned aerial vehicles. Read more…

Before discovering the new C6, here is a link to the original news release which announced the first version of the C6 room on June 8, 2000.

The equipment in this room has not been updated in six years. But with money from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the C6, which is operated by the Virtual Reality Applications Center (VRAC), will receive new equipment this year for a grand opening in 2007.

The difference between the equipment currently in the C6 and the updated technology to be installed this summer, "is like putting on your glasses in the morning," said James Oliver, the director of Iowa State's Virtual Reality Applications Center and a professor of mechanical engineering.

The new equipment — a Hewlett-Packard computer featuring 96 graphics processing units, 24 Sony digital projectors, an eight-channel audio system and ultrasonic motion tracking technology — will be installed by Fakespace Systems Inc. of Marshalltown.

Obviously, this upgrade to 96 megapixels from 6 megapixels will benefit the ISU researchers.

Now, let's look at some projects that will benefit from the new version of the C6 environment. For example, here is a picture of a student participating to the High-Dimensional Metabolic Networks led by Eve Wurtele (Credit: VRAC).

Eve Wurtele, an Iowa State professor of genetics, development and cell biology, working with Julie Dickerson, an Iowa State associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has used the C6 to develop new ways to visualize data from as many as 22,000 genes. She's also developing a virtual cell project that shows cells in 3-D action to help students learn about photosynthesis and other aspects of cell biology.

The C6 is also used for urban planning in U.S. China Cooperative Research led by Chiu-Shui Chan, and for which the students spent two real weeks in Beijing measuring monuments. Below is an image of central Beijing (Credit: VRAC).

There is also a project about unmanned aerial vehicles led by James Oliver. Inside the C6, a single operator controls several semi-autonomous unmanned remote vehicles and here is what he sees (Credit:VRAC).

Oliver is leading a research team that's developing a virtual reality control room for the military's unmanned aerial vehicles. The researchers are building a virtual environment that allows operators to see the vehicles, the surrounding airspace, the terrain they're flying over as well as information from instruments, cameras, radar and weapons systems. The system would allow a single operator to control many vehicles.

I could continue over and over, but here is a link to a previous project I wrote about in October 2003, Playing With Technology — and Augmented Reality.

Finally, Oliver said that "100 million pixels are going to make a difference" and he concluded with this.

"Seeing is going to be believing," he said. "This upgrade will enhance our ability to amplify the creativity and productivity of people. It will help us build on the center's record as a world leader in virtual reality."

[Disclaimer: I worked in the past for Silicon Graphics (SGI) and it is sad to learn that the company had to file for chapter 11 protection two days ago.]

Sources: Iowa State University news release, May 8, 2006; and VRAC web site

This needs to be built. Cadillac 16 - 13.6 liter, 1000hp

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Video: 250mph, 850hp, The Koenigsegg CCX

One of the most bad-ass cars made

Houston police running over perp... Awesome!

Why You Should Care About Network Neutrality

Another article about net neutrality from Slate:

Why You Should Care About Network Neutrality
The future of the Internet depends on it!
By Tim Wu
Posted Monday, May 1, 2006, at 4:35 PM ET

The Internet is largely meritocratic in its design. If people like better than, that's where they'll go. If they like the search engine A9 better than Google, they vote with their clicks. Is it a problem, then, if the gatekeepers of the Internet (in most places, a duopoly of the local phone and cable companies) discriminate between favored and disfavored uses of the Internet? To take a strong example, would it be a problem if AT&T makes it slower and harder to reach Gmail and quicker and easier to reach Yahoo! mail?

Welcome to the fight over "network neutrality," Washington's current obsession. The debate centers on whether it is more "neutral" to let consumers reach all Internet content equally or to let providers discriminate if they think they'll make more money that way.

The cable firms and the Bells have (to their credit, but under pressure) sworn off blocking Web sites. Instead, they propose to carve off bandwidth for their own services—namely, television—and, more controversially, to charge selected companies a toll for "priority" service. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin thinks there is nothing wrong with that. But critics say technological prioritization and degradation are the same thing—that given limited room on the network, whoever isn't prioritized is by implication degraded.

In trying to figure out who's right, let's forget about the Internet and look at KFC. The fast-food chain discriminates. It has an exclusive deal with Pepsi, and that seems fine to pretty much everyone. Now, let's think about the nation's highways. How would you feel if I-95 announced an exclusive deal with General Motors to provide a special "rush-hour" lane for GM cars only? That seems intuitively wrong. But what, if anything, is the difference between KFC and I-95? And which is a better model for the Internet?

Two obvious differences are market power and the availability of substitutes. KFC is a small fry, relatively, locked in competition with the likes of McDonald's and Popeye's. KFC sells Pepsi? So what? McDonald's sells Coke.

It's a lot harder to substitute for an interstate. And if highways really did choose favorite brands, you might buy a Pontiac instead of a Toyota to get the rush-hour lane, not because the Pontiac is actually a good car. As a result, the nature of competition among car-makers would change. Rather than try to make the best product, they would battle to make deals with highways.

That's what would happen if discrimination reigned on the Internet: a transformation from a market where innovation rules to one where deal-making rules. Or, a market where firms rush to make exclusive agreements with AT&T and Verizon instead of trying to improve their products. There's a deeper point here: When who you know matters more than anything, the market is no longer meritocratic and consequently becomes less efficient. At the extreme, a market where centralized actors pick favorites isn't a market at all, but a planned economy.

What we're ultimately asking is a question that Adam Smith struggled with. Is there something special about "carriers" and infrastructure—roads, canals, electric grids, trains, the Internet—that mandates special treatment? Since about the 17th century, there's been a strong sense that basic transport networks should serve the public interest without discrimination.This might be because so much depends on them: They catalyze entire industries, meaning that gratuitous discrimination can have ripple effects across the nation. By this logic, so long as you think the Internet is more like a highway than a fried-chicken outlet, it should be neutral in what it carries.

This is the basic case for network neutrality—to prevent centralized control over the future of the Internet. But there's a long-standing rebuttal that goes like this: A broadband company already has incentives to make the network neutral, because it's a better network that way. If AT&T makes money on an exclusive deal, they'll lose it somewhere else. Whatever money AT&T earns by prioritizing Google rather than Yahoo!, it will lose by making its product—broadband service—less attractive to consumers. By this logic, regulating the Bells is a waste of time. AT&T and Verizon also say that they must be free to discriminate to justify their investments in building networks. If you don't let us discriminate, they say, we won't build.

It's true that the Bells might make extra cash by discriminating. But AT&T can extract cash in other ways, too, like charging its customers higher prices. I believe that it's better to have consumers pay more for service than to have AT&T picking and choosing winners on the network. Both are a cost to the economy, but the latter is a double cost. It creates costs that are passed on to consumers anyhow, and it also distorts competition between eBay, Yahoo!, and the like. Building networks at the expense of network applications has a logic O. Henry would enjoy, for it's akin to selling a painting in order to buy a better frame.

None of this is to say that a good network-neutrality rule must be absolute, or even close to absolute. It's an open secret that AT&T and Verizon want to become more like cable television companies. If Verizon wants to build a private network to sell TV, that would justify broad powers to control the network, a precondition to providing the service at all. No neutrality rule should be a bar to building better networks that do more.

But what must be banned are blocking, gratuitous discrimination, and choosing favorites. While it's one way to earn cash, it's just too close to the Tony Soprano vision of networking: Use your position to make threats and extract payments. This is similar to the outlawed, but still common, "payola" schemes in the radio world. Yes, there's money in such schemes, but they aren't good for the industry or the country. If allowing network discrimination means being stuck with AT&T's long-term vision of the Internet, it won't be worth it.

Thoughts about E3 so far...

From Extremetech:

Heading into E3…

It's kind of frightening to think that, even though we've already been subjected to countless game announcements, trailers, promos, and promises, E3 hasn't really begun yet. The show floor opens tomorrow morning, and it's then that we'll get our hands on some of these games and get more in-depth demos where we can ask questions of the publishers and developers.

So who "won" the great Press Conference Battle of 2006? It's hard to say. Sony really didn't impress very many people. Most of the games they showed didn't seem all that compelling, and nothing real-time even came close to living up to the rendered videos from last year that were supposed to show what the PS3 will be able to do. The technology inside the box is exciting, but the price is a real problem. Given that the $500 model seems to lack Wi-Fi, HDMI, and memory card readers (features Sony has been crowing about for a year), the $600 price tag looks ever the more necessary—and scary. There will certainly be a scarcity of units for the first couple months, which means that most sales will come as bundles. Will anyone be able to get a PS3 and not spend $800 or more?

Nintendo has a hard sell. It's hard to show people a game and say "it's not about how it looks, it's about how it feels to play it." It may very well come out of E3 with more buzz than any other console manufacturer, but it will have to earn that with the playable demos on the show floor, not with the rhetoric from the press conference. And we still don't know the price or release date. If using the funky new controller is really that great, and the system sells for around $200, they could have a big winner on their hands. That's a lot of "ifs," though.

Microsoft had a great conference from the perspective of showing that its system, even though it beat the others to market by a year, is very much a next-generation experience. They kind of blew it by showing too many rendered marketing trailers and not enough real live gameplay. We expect to see rendered cinematics for games that are a year or more away, but those shipping this fall should have been live gameplay demos. The Live Anywhere announcement is absolutely fantastic news, and we can't wait to hear more specific details.

Stay tuned over the next couple days—we'll be updating several times a day with our own impressions of the games we see at the show. And be sure to check out 1up for up-to-the minute news, screenshots, trailers, etc.

An overclocked $130 CPU beating out $1,000 CPU's??

From Toms Hardware:

Conclusion: The 4.1 GHz Dual Core Delivers Peak Performance For Pocket Change

Those who first break this bit of news to their circles of friends can count on some surprised looks - in fact, they might even find their credibility getting questioned! But it is true: a cheap CPU that costs $130 outperforms the fastest processors from AMD (Athlon 64 FX-60) and Intel (Pentium Extreme Edition 965), each of which costs over $1,000.

We bought an Intel Pentium D 805 from a local retail outlet and overclocked it up to 4.1 GHz, even though this part runs by default at just 2.66 GHz. This represents a heretofore unattained clock rate increase of just over 54 %, for which only some additional cooling is required. The secret is in the FSB clock rate, which is raised from 133 MHz to over 200 MHz; the system remains completely stable, because modern motherboards with Intel 9xx chipsets are laid out to handle FSB clock rates of up to 266 MHz. In language that overclocking enthusiasts will love to hear, the Pentium D 805 ascends to the throne as the new King of overclocking, knocking out the AMD Opteron 144.

Here's how the system looks after being reworked: a pumped-up Pentium D 805 outperforms the flagship processors from AMD and Intel that cost more than $1,000. Talk about an investment with an immediate payback!
A short while ago we tested Intel's latest flagship processor, the Pentium EE 965 (Extreme Edition), which costs nearly $1,100 at retail outlets. Even this CPU, which still isn't available at too many locations, has to surrender first place to this stealth candidate. Things look the same for the top-of-the-line AMD processor, the Athlon 64 FX-60, which also fell behind in most of our benchmarking categories.

Our comprehensive benchmarks show that an extremely overclocked Pentium D attains the best performance numbers for nearly every area of activity, including video editing and decoding, audio encoding, office applications, photo retouching and various 3D games. The Pentium D 805 also leads in the multi-tasking arena, where multiple applications execute in parallel. Those who work with complex filters and effects in Adobe PhotoShop CS2 or who use Pinnacle Studio Plus 10 for HD video editing and related rendering and encoding work will also find that this budget $130 CPU is best for their needs. Even gamers can unpack this secret weapon at their next LAN party, without others recognizing that they've got a monster inside their PC case. In any event, the results of doubling the CPU clock rate should earn them some respect!

Windows shows a CPU clock rate of 4.1 GHz. Marks of respect at LAN parties and in your circle of friend should soon follow the acquisition of one of these babies. Right now, nobody offers more capability, either!
In conclusion, we want to say that it's probably wise to also consider the risks with regard to this project. First and foremost, power consumption increases in direct proportion to clock rate: at 4.1 GHz, a fully-loaded system measures out at 210 W, more than twice the nominal specification for this CPU, which Intel pegs at 95 W. High current consumption of 125 A (!) also commands respect, and contributes to high heat output from the switching regulator. That's why we strongly recommend purchase of a high-end CPU cooler and a supplementary fan. Nevertheless, the CPU isn't subject to damage from overheating, thanks to "Thermal Monitor 2", which means overheating leads to clock rate throttling rather than device failure. That's also why the CPU core voltage should be raised only within limits, and more than 1.7 V is decidedly unwise.

Those who find themselves thinking of a new system project as a result of this story should probably get going quickly. The $130 or so a Pentium D 805 will cost you is money well spent in any case. Those who switch away from AMD will also have to spring for a new motherboard (at least $130 for a suitably equipped model) along with 1 GB of quality DDR2 RAM (at least $100). The joy of (re)building such a system adds nothing to the cost, however. For die-hard AMD fans this will mean a change of sides, and possibly politics. But hey, why not, if the results are worthwhile?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why Even Bells Need Net Neutrality

Great article:

By Daniel Berninger Definition: Net Neutrality - Internet access without discrimination by use or user except as required for network management purposes.

The FCC’s decision to relieve AT&T and Verizon of net neutrality requirements in August 2005 definitively broke the chain of events the companies use to assert right-of-way privileges. The Bells claim privileges based on over 100 years of practice that may or may not coincide with the intent and limits of the original deals, but the resulting laws explicitly require a public purpose in exchange for the right-of-way concessions.

The obligations established on a state by state basis sometimes include build-out requirements or other compensation, but they all specify that access to state right-of-way at largely no cost or limit requires common carrier status (aka net neutrality.) The loss of common carrier status invalidates the contracts. The Bell companies have no access to state right-of-way for deployment of private, closed, non-neutral, non-common carrier network deployments.

There may exist many unfulfilled obligations in the century old details of these arrangements, but there exists no doubt right-of-way access requires common carrier status. Maryland represents a typical case. The terms of right-of-way obtained by the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company (now a unit of Verizon) after its founding in 1883 persist in the Maryland Code section covering public utility companies. Title 1-101 defines a telephone company as “a public service company that owns telephone lines to receive or transmit telephone communications.”

The same section defines a public service company as a “common carrier” company. Title 8-103 “Construction of lines and fixtures” defines the right-of-way available to the public service telephone company. The authority of Maryland to regulate telephone companies shows up in the Maryland Constitution Article 12 titled “Public Works” noting among other things that “the Directors of all said Public Works guard the public interest, and prevent the establishment of tolls which shall discriminate against the interest of the citizens or products of this State.”

Another interpretation to the plain language requiring a public purpose for right-of-way concessions does not exist. Does anyone believe government should grant public assets to private entities for private purposes? The loss of net neutrality changes the terms under which the Bells enjoy access to right-of-way. The non-neutral private network deployments associated with the Bell company broadband offers look like the non-common carrier networks of the cable companies.

Cable companies do not enjoy the same no cost access to right-of-way and pay franchise fees that typically equal 5% of gross revenues or $30 billion over the last ten years. The assertion that property rights convey an ability to leverage any business model regarding the Internet seems ironic given the telephone companies own less than 2% of the property where they deploy infrastructure. The real estate Verizon owns directly represents less than 3% of the value claimed for equipment and infrastructure.

The exposure to litigation for private use of public right-of-ways already exists. Verizon deployed FiOS as a entirely non-common carrier private network. Scrutiny of right-of-way arrangements could change the balance of power in the battle between the Bells and municipal wireless projects. Ed Whitacre and Ivan Seidenberg might regret their push to remove government oversight.

The regulatory sphere offers cozy warmth compared the to risks that await their plans to extract increasing private returns from public assets and government granted monopoly. Regulation has proven a potent defense from antitrust litigation while still allowing price increases, industry consolidation, and the use of the risk free returns from local telephone monopoly to subsidize expansion in new markets like wireless and broadband. The tariffed rate doctrine has long protected the Bells from pricing litigation. Verizon does not report R&D as a separate expense on income statements like Intel, Microsoft, or Google, because lobbying and litigation rather than technology dominates spending.

The Bells want Congress to believe ignoring net neutrality requirements will incent investment in broadband networks, but their idea of return on investment means monopoly rents. The Bells only invest in more monoply which usually means buying each other. The track record shows steadily lower spending on networks to increase free cash flow for acquisitions. The $140 billion SBC spent acquiring Ameritech, PacBell, SNET, AT&T Wireless, and AT&T lifted the company’s market cap by only $40 billion. The fact that $100 billion disappeared might suggest the need for a different strategy, but the new AT&T seeks government approval to spend $67 billion to acquire BellSouth. SBC missed an opportunity as $140 billion happens to be about what it would cost to run fiber to every home in America.

The Bells fund think tanks to explain why private organizations need to privatize a public asset, but the decision process in Congress should consider the public’s return on investment from the previous 100 years of access to right-of-way. It hardly qualifies as a public good that the Bells trimmed the number of people they employ by 40% and doubled the price of local service since 1984. The $200 billion in profit generated by Bells over the period did not even benefit investors as their chosen investments left equity values relatively unchanged.

Ed Whitacre might want to pay fair value for the public and private property utilized by the telephone network, before asking “…why should they be allowed to use my pipes…” when explaining to a Business Week reporter why Google, Yahoo, and Vonage should pay new usage based fees. There will be arguments Internet access represents an “incidental use” allowed by state laws, but these arguments will succeed only at the cost of the Bell’s much promised transformation plans. The desire to extinguish net neutrality does not arise from worries about incidental use.

The Bell companies need to stop the neutral Internet from erasing the legacy telephone network’s voice revenues. Price discrimination enables metering of Internet access by keeping per bit price of low bandwidth voice relatively high while offering relatively lower per bit prices to initiate a video revenue stream. Net neutrality stands in the way of their becoming digital economy toll collectors.

Daniel Berninger is a senior analyst at at Tier1 Research.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Fake DVD sniffing dogs

From Engadget:

Dear large-scale phony DVD mafia ringleader: we certainly don't hope you're using FedEx UK to ship around those counterfeit movies en masse to clients like an illegitimate Netflix or something. Why, you may ask? Good question. The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has begun employing two very special black labs for the express purpose of sniffing out pirated DVDs. If it sounds fantastical, think again. The two doggies who volunteered for the job, Lucky and Flo, have already begun sniffing out phony DVDs from packed parcels (the third, Hustle, quit to pursue an acting career as the vicious barking dog in hip hop videos). Never mind the privacy implications for those mailing backup DVDs to themselves (like, when they're moving), this is all about nailing the more nefarious counterfeiting individuals who may soon have to find a better way to move their wares -- unless they just give up and put Lucky and Flow out of business. In which case can they come help sniff out our keys? We're like, totally late, really gotta go.

Electric X1 beats Ferrari and Porche GT

Wrightspeed is an early stage Silicon Valley based startup using ‘ultra clean technology’ to produce highly energy efficient performance cars.
Wrightspeed has constructed a proof-of-concept prototype, the X1, which has demonstrated 0-60mph in ~ 3 seconds, and an energy consumption equivalent to 170mpg. The X1 prototype proves that extreme performance vehicles can also be extremely efficient – if they use advanced technology drivetrains.


• 0-60 ~ 3.0 seconds
• Standing quarter mile ~11.5 seconds
• Top speed 112mph (electronically limited)
• Range >100 miles in urban use
• Charger: onboard conductive. Input 100-250V 50 or 60 Hz. Current: user adjustable up to 80A
• Energy consumption 200 WHr/mile in urban use, equivalent to 170 mpg (33,705 WHr/gallon)

Boeing Commercial Airplanes completes latest 747-8 wind tunnel tests

Pictured above is a model of a 747-8 Freighter used during recent wind-tunnel testing at the Boeing Transonic Wind Tunnel in Seattle. The model is a 3 percent scale model of the 747-8 and measures about 87 inches (2.2 meters) long with a wingspan of 74 inches (1.8 meters). (Shane Marlantes photo)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Where Is Google Going With All This?

This is what I've have been thinking Google is working towards:

An Uncle Dave commentary:

Last week, Google released a 3D graphics program called SketchUp. As someone who has played around with computer graphics, this program is the real thing, not only because it’s free, but because it’s ridiculously easy to use. With the simple tutorials you get when you first run it, even your grandmother could recreate the house in the picture in just a few minutes. I wish more commercial 3D programs were this easy to use. And did I mention it’s free!

It’s Windows-only at present and it has limitations (a full featured version can be had for $500), but what you can do with the free version is amazing. One interesting feature is that after, say, recreating your house, you can plop it down in its place on Google Earth.

What I can’t figure out is why? What is Google up to releasing a program like this? Yes, it has the Google Earth tie-in, and Google also has Picasa for organizing your photos, but where is this leading? Computer graphics isn’t exactly in the Google search domain. Is this a shot over the bow that no program or area is off limits? When they come out with the long talked about Google Office, will it include a Photoshop-like program for 2D work? Will there eventually be a Quicken-like program for personal finances? A Quickbooks-like program for small businesses? And so on? Is the goal to eventually be a one-stop shop for at home users to get free, easy to use programs that whet the appitite of the commercial use people to buy pro-level products? In other words, one hell of a clever marketing scheme that just happens to provide something really useful instead of just a page of ads (or more appropriately in Google’s case, links to websites)?

Now, here’s a way-out idea I had about another of Google’s possible directions based on an assortment of things I’ve read over the last year.

A few months ago, Robert Cringely wrote about Google and it’s data centers in a trailer. Right now, there are limits on what TV stations, cable companies and the telcos can do regarding transmitting TV channels over their various pipes and/or airwaves. Same goes for phone calls (regular or VOIP), internet traffic and so on. A lot has to do with who owns what and who can share what at what price.

There’s a lot of dark fiber out there. Suppose Google buys it up and connects every community in the country with those data center trucks as hubs. Then, it sets up each city with wireless, gigabit internet. (Yes, they just announced they aren’t wiring Silicon Valley, but there may be specific issues for not participating.) Now, write contracts with each cable channel. What has Google got? End-to-end data, video, VOIP that it controls. It also has the ability to store content on its vast server farms so video on demand becomes almost trival. Hey, Paramount. Store one HD copy of M:I:III on our servers after it’s theatrical run, then any channel can pay a fee to play it. Or skip the channels. Either way, viewers can call it up (or any show) any time, but they need to use our special browser/player (works on everything from your TV to computer to phone) which keeps it protected from pirates.

Going farther, perhaps the TV channels morph into being just producers of shows that are provided to Google just like the movie studios would.

Anyway, notice what wasn’t mentioned. No telcos, no cable companies, no ISPs anywhere. Google owns it end to end. Cost to users? Have corporations who will be more than happy to get better, consistant, coast-to-coast (eventually world-wide?) service than they are now pay for what they use, plus ad revenue from cable channels. Home users get it all for free. Well, maybe they pay a nominal fee to see MI:I:III (or any movie) whenever they want.

What do you think about that? We’d espcially like to hear from CEOs of telcos, cable companies and ISPs. Bill Gates, too.