Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ATT objects to metaphor of White House chief of Technology, comparing ISP's to China!

AT&T has objected to comments made by Andrew McLaughlin, White House chief of technology, comparing the potential for web censorship by ISP’s to censorship by China. All this appears in a story by Cecilia Kang, The Washington Post, p A15, “Comments on net neutrality irk AT&T: White House official links the issue to censorship in China”, link here.

That earlier entry is in the Post Voices column Nov. 23 and seems to be this, and refer to remarks made at a telecom law conference at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln (one state up from my own University of Kansas, where I went to grad school myself; a math PhD friend became a professor there).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cloud Computing and new operating systems: provides another argument for greatly improved domestic broadband

Miguel Helft offers a strategically important article on p B4 of the Friday Nov. 20 Business Section of The New York Times, “Google offers peak at operating system, a potential challenge to Windows,” web URL link here, tied to the Chrome browser, which I personally generally find works faster than IE or Mozilla.

The operating system would depend on using the Internet to perform many functions typically loaded today onto PC’s as running (often startup) programs. This might even included word processing.

The concept is called “cloud computing.” But it would place a much greater dependency on broadband. Users would buy smaller, cheaper and more portable PC’s (embedded perhaps in blackberries or iPhone or tablet like devices) and depend on cable or wireless for basic functions. This also makes wireless security a bigger issue. Broadband access in remote areas becomes more important, as does equitable use of bandwidth.

The Obama administration should take note of the technical nature of operating systems proposed to depend on cloud computing, in order to pursue broadband infrastructure policy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Verizon on replacing lost Blackberries; an oddity on the engineering of Comcast cable boxes (and why they fail)

Well, here goes the saga of a lost Blackberry, one which vanished during a shopping trip. I get to the Verizon store, and find that if I want service transferred to another Blackberry, it costs almost $500, although it’s refundable if the old Blackberry shows up and the new one is returned. With the “insurance” you can get a new one at the old price but only in two days by FedEx.

Well, the Smartphone 9630 is smaller, and curiously there is no VZAccessManager CD. And Windows Vista isn’t smart enough to find it on Vzam (it does find the drivers for most new hardware). There is a card in the new box telling you to go to, and then you have to locate the right model yourself. Then comes a long download, and a multi-step remove-and-install-and-verify charges before you can finally go online on the laptop with the new Smartphone blackberry.

But one good thing, the wireless access on the Vista machine is much faster than was the big old 8830. A smaller Blackberry is easier to carry properly in-case when out and probably less likely to be lost or misplaced.

Probably the Secret Service has made sure that the president’s blackberry is easy to carry and get out without being misplaced.

Here’s another technical weirdo. I try to connect an old radio shack cordless phone, and instant a few cable channels drop off the Comcast box (not all of them, just a few less stable ones). I disconnect it and they come back. It looks like Comcast cable boxes are very sensitive to voltage changes, and this behavior may mean that a surge protector has failed.

Update: Monday

Well, the clunky old 8300 showed up tucked away deep inside the front door space of the car. So Verizon accepted the new phone (which is much better) back for a full refund, and I have to wait for 20 elapsed months to be eligible for upgrade.

Nevertheless, the new driver from works for the old Blackberry (it probably would work for President Obama's Blackberry) and it is MUCH better. It gives you usage detail and, for what it is worth, if finds more local networks, including a local business which I would not use illegally. (Okay, maybe that's a security problem; if I weren't a good guy -- more postings to come on Wireless security on my Internet security blog.) Also, the sites pull up much faster (so it's the driver, not the Blackberry itself), including Blogger sites now load fast in wireless. So I gained something from all this.

If you do buy an older Blackberry for Verizon, use the VZAM website; don't use the CD. But Windows Vista doesn't find it automatically. VZAM has separate drivers for Windows 7, which I believe it will load automatically when I get it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A paper in March 2009 from the University of Minnesota School of Mathematics: watch out for logical traps in arguing net neutrality

A paper in March 2009 from the University of Minnesota School of Mathematics and the Digital Technology Center, by Dr. Andrew Odlyzko carries out a thought experiment in showing the dangers of carrying the intellectual arguments for network neutrality too far. The paper, published in The Review of Network Economics, is titled “Network Neutrality, Search Neutrality, and the Never-ending Conflict Between Efficiency and Fairness in Markets”, with link here.

The discussion of this article was continued by Nate Anderson in Ars Technica on Oct. 28, 2009, in an article with link here.

The concern is that after zeroing in on ISP’s and telecommunications companies, we’ll apply the same “logic”, inexorably and relentlessly (rather like pursuing Nixon for his tapes) to the behavior of search engines.

Differential pricing, based on what a consumer is willing to pay based on the way the consumer approached the provider, is necessary in most business models, the argument goes. Yup, Donald Trump talked about it all the time on “The Apprentice.” Cable companies do it by charging existing customers more than new customers, because if the inertia or inelasticity in changing companies. So it shouldn’t be surprising that search engine companies could get tempted or lured by it. (Odlyzko goes into a complex hypothetical example with Starbucks.) Yet the market will probably limit how much price manipulation --- and therefore engine result placement – really happens. The fact is, with no regulation, search engines companies in the late 90s found in their best interest to index the content of amateurs (including me) free, even without the use of metatags, meaning that newbies with innovative content, even if not particularly crafty or pretty technologically, could get noticed, and very globally.

Odlyzko’s paper comes from an upper Midwestern campus that we think of as progressive and perhaps leftist – but the tone is certainly libertarian to conservative, somewhat like the writings of U of M graduate Tim Lee (which appear on Ars Technica). It wouldn’t surprise me to find the Washington Times running some of the materials by either writer.

Wikipedia attribution link for U of Minnesota campus picture. I lived about two miles from here, in downtown Minneapolis, from 1997-2003.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Is US broadband capacity too weak to handle telecommuting for a pandemic?

Here’s a good one. CNN, over the Halloween weekend, reported the concern that so many people would telecommute and work from home during the H1N1 influenza crisis that the Internet would come to a halt.

More specifically, the nation, when compared to Japan or South Korea, does not have the broadband capacity to deal with a sudden increase in tele-work (including teleconferencing in lieu of travel by air) that can happen during a pandemic.

Any takers on this argument? I suppose we could face the question again, if something deadlier, like H5N1 (instead of H1N1) surfaces.

Who keeps all the telecomminications and ISP's up if we have really big workplace outages?

Let the FCC ponder this now.