Sunday, December 24, 2006

Best tech videos

Best tech videos is a collection of videos of conference presentations and screencast demos and tutorials. You can watch or download them.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Business use of consumer services

The Economist has an article on business use of consumer services. One could argue that consumer products and applications, not military or business, are now driving technological innovation.

One example cited in the article is Arizona State University which is now using Gmail and plans to use other Google services. ASU IT director Adrian Sannier explains why he made that choice in this blog entry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Paying to seed a user community

J. C. R. Licklider described the importance of communities of common interest rather than common location in his widely influential 1968 paper on The Computer as a Communication Device. Today we have many examples of the importance and value of user-contributed content and community. But, people's time and attention are limited, and starting a successful community is difficult. has experimented with paying early users for reviews of restaurants and other local businesses.

Would you be willing to contribute content in an area you know about for a small fee?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Global wealth disparity underlies Internet disparity

We have discussed global disparity in Internet backbone deployment, cost and usage rates. North America, Western Europe and the rich Asian nations are the "haves," and the rest of the world ranges from "have not" to "have almost nothing." A recent UN study investigates the distribution of world wealth (as opposed to income), and, not surprisingly, finds high correlation with the Internet disparity we observed in class.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Amazon Web services

We have talked about data centers and mashups or composite applications. Amazon has exposed application programming interfaces for its applications and will also store your data at their data centers. All you supply is the business idea. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos describes their services in in a short video or you can read more in this Business Week article. Amazon Web services could be used for Internet, intranet or extranet applications.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Parking garage mashup

We've been talking about mashups and hosted applications. The city of Santa Monica has a parking availability site that mashes Google Maps with online counters at the gates of city parking structures. This would be particularly useful if accessed from a mobile device while driving to the parking structure.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Backbone speed trends

We have been talking about backbone growth and speed increases. A NetworkWorld article summarizes Ethernet improvement over time and describes coming standards of up to 100Gbits per second. The article reports that Equinix data centers are seeing a doubling of traffic every 12-14 months and that YouTube is now serving up to 25Gbps and will soon be up to 75.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fiber is the future

In the long run, most of us will have fiber to our homes and other fixed locations. The cost of installing fiber is generally estimated at about $1,000 per home or building. You can see why it is so costly in this description of a Verizon fiber installation. (Incidentally, it is at the home of spreadsheet co-inventor Dan Bricklin).

While retrofitting old construction is expensive, the cost of installing fiber in a new housing tract or other new construction is relatively low and the maintenance cost is less than that for copper infrastructure.

The OECD reports that, as of June 2006, over 37% of broadband connections in the Czech Republic used fiber, 26% used fiber in Japan and 7% in the United States. (Of course the US and Japan have many more broadband connections than the Czech Republic). Many feel the deployment of communication infrastructure will impact the quality of life and economy in a nation.

While installing fiber is a daunting task in the United States, critics argue that the telephone and cable companies are slowing progress in order to maximize profit and minimize investment. Critics like Bruce Kushnick argue that US phone companies have already been given over $200 billion ($2,000 per household) in rate increases and tax breaks in return for commitments to install fiber which they reneged on. Kushnick recently stated his case in a PBS documentary on The Net at Risk.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Combination Wifi-cellular phone and service

T-Mobile announced a combination Wifi-cellular phone and service. You make and receive calls using Wifi when at home or at T-Mobile public hotspots. When you are out of range of a Wifi radio, the phone automatically switches to the cellular network. If you leave home while on the phone, the transfer is automatic and the call is not interrupted. T-Mobile has Wifi hotspots in Starbucks coffee shops, Hyatt hotels and other locations.

They are calling this "the only phone you need" because it will work well inside your home where cellular reception may be poor and outside. Calls are unlimited and the cost is fixed.

If you use your telephone for applications other then telephone calls, it may not be the "the only portable device" you need -- they are selling telephone service, not open Internet connectivity.

Would you consider this service yourself? (Check the prices before answering). What do you use your telephone for beside phone calls? What might you use it for in the future? How did you like the T-Mobile web site?

The New York Times covered the announcement in this article.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

TV is changing

The LA Times had a front page article on the flood of copyrighted sporting event video being posted on Youtube. The networks are ambivalent. On one hand, their "property" is being distributed for free, on the other, it is good publicity, the image quality is poor, and the videos are of limited length.

But what of the future? How is a program televised today?

  • A network crew produces the show.
  • Where relevant, they include paid references to products in the show (product placement).
  • The network publicizes the show.
  • The network distributes (broadcasts) the show.
  • Sponsors produce commercials.
  • Sponsors pay the network to distribute the commercials.
  • We watch the program when it is broadcast or record it if digital rights management software allows that.

How might it work in the future when we all have high-speed Internet connections to our homes?

  • The sponsor produces the show, and includes periodic announcements that the show is "brought to you" by them.
  • When relevant, they place their products or others in the program.
  • They put it on Internet servers.
  • We watch it at a convenient time.

Who wins in the latter scenario? Who loses?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A datacenter in a shipping container

Data center real-estate, cooling and electrical power are very expensive. Sun Microsystems hopes to cut cost and save power with their Blackbox data center in a shipping container. They estimate a cost 1/10 that of an equivalent traditional data center with ten percent less power consumption and a setup time of one week -- just connect it to the Internet, electrical power, and water for cooling. For comparison, check this traditional data center in a building.

Take Sun's cost saving figures with a grain of salt, but the idea of a portable, preconfigured data center is interesting. Google is rumored to be working on one too -- read about that here and this followup.

Read more on the blog of Sun CEO Jonathon Schwartz.

OECD broadband statistics

The OECD just released statistics on broadband connectivity per 100 habitants. The US ranks 12th, but the OECD did not report on cost, speed or symmetry. It is interesting to note that fiber to the home or premises is creeping up in Japan, Korea, Scandinavia and the Czech Republic.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why contribute content and what is the Gross Contributed Product?

I recently learned about Levelator, a new program for audio processing. I tried it and found it to be effective and easy to use -- a terrific addition to my audio tool kit.

Levelator was written by Bruce Sharpe and his son Malcom, and, like much Internet content, it is free. What motivated the Sharpes to spend the time to develop Levelator and why did they contribute it to the community? I don't know, but one clue is the fact that they are distributing it through the Gigavox network, which grew out of IT Conversations, a volunteer organization for podcasting IT-related conferences. IT Conversations editors and audio engineers were all volunteers, so it may have seemed natural for the Sharpe's to contribute their software.

My personal reaction to Levelator may also help with the "why" question. I spent about two hours testing Levelator and creating a teaching note -- an example of its use. I will use the note in teaching, and I also posted it on the Levelator Forum so others could use it. What did I gain from that effort?

The teaching note has no monetary value (the program surely does), but it is "capital" since I can use it on my job. Someone else using it would make me happy -- I would get a kick out of that at no additional cost. Creating the note was also fun. Even small creative acts are enjoyable, although there is usually some tedium in the execution. Reputation building provided another motivation -- in a small way, I am now a contributor to the community of Levelator users.

The bottom line is that the payoff was sufficient that I contributed two hours of my time. In return for creating and contributing the teaching note:

  • I had it for my own use.
  • I had the pleasure of knowing some members of the community might use it.
  • I had the fun of creating it.
  • My reputation was slightly enhanced.
But, I am not unique. The Internet is a platform for millions of small contributions like mine as well as large ones like that of the Sharpes. At the low-effort end of the scale, people click "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on a video or song, forward an interesting email to a person or list, or vote in an online poll.

More effort is required of those who post millions of reviews of books, restaurants, movies, videos, and other products every day. Others, like the Sharpes or the Wikipedians or the Linux and Apache developers, contribute much more. These large and small contributions add up. How many millions of hours did Internet users contribute to the online community yesterday? What is the economic value of those millions of hours -- how does the Gross Contributed Product compare to the Gross National Product? What will it be in ten years? Might this non-market economy one day rival the market economy in importance? (Stay-at-home mothers and grandmothers might ask the same thing). If so, what are the implications for organizations or management or the entertainment industry? (Writing a new teaching note is more fun than watching most TV programs).

This is reminiscent of the Wikipedia. Neither the government nor the market economy could create and maintain the Wikipedia, it could only be done for free -- a cool paradox. If this sort of thing seems interesting, check out The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler or listen to his talk on IT Conversations or at UC Berkeley. Of course you can read about him and his ideas on Wikipedia too. Going further back, I talked about incentives to cooperate in a 1992 academic journal article called Systems for Finding People.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Higher education applications: Cyberone and Berkeley Webcasts

We have discussed the applications and implications of the Internet for higher education. Most of our class felt that watching Vint Cerf's lecture The Internet Today and Tomorrow on the Net was better than being there. Universities are putting increasing numbers of courses online. For example, UC Berkeley offers a growing list of webcasts and podcasts of courses and special events like distinguished lectures. (The courses may also be streamed from Google).

I have been following Professor Charles Nesson's Harvard Law School course "CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion." Cyberone is relevant to our course. For example, the course covers ways the Internet facilitates collaboration and explores the implications of collaboration technology for organizations and the economy. It is also interesting that the course was intended from the outset to be open to the general public along with Harvard Law and Extension students. (The Extension students meet in Second Life). The Wiki and projects they create, student notes, lecture videos, etc. are all online with Creative Commons license. The instructor hopes this material will influence public opinion.

Is this the future of the university? Would you rather hear a lecture on the history of intellectual property law by me or by a Harvard law professor who specializes in the area? Professors struggle to involve students and elicit participation. Professor Nissen took a similar approach in his Evidence course, and, in a three week period, the students accessed the course Wiki over 10,000 times. How's that for participation?

Follow these links for more information on the course:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Location-stamped photographs

This attachment for a digital camera automatically records the location, time of day and compass direction you are facing when you take a picture. How long do you think it will be before this capability is built into a high-end digital camera? How long do you think it will be before it is built into all digital cameras? We will be talking about location-based applications -- how might this capability be applied?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Apple's video strategy

Robert Cringley has written a column speculating on Apple's video strategy. He notes that Apple's recently announced iTV video extender connects only to HD TV sets which will data over a wireless link to a PC or iPods. Cringley thinks Apple is moving into video conferencing and the sharing of text, audio and video content at home and the office. He expects Apple to eventually sell HDTV sets with iTV capability built in.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Barriers to mobile Internet access

The British broadcasting Corporation has an article explaining the slow adoption of mobile Internet access in Europe compared to Japan and Korea. They attribute it to a number of factors like slow connectivity, poorly designed hand sets, and limited content due to "walled garden" policies. All of that seems to be changing (at least with some providers) as evidenced by support for the .mobi top level domain.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Professor Sells Lectures Online

A thread was posted on Slashdot discussing a professor's decision to charge $2.50 for recordings of lectures. We have just listened to lectures in the Distinguished Speaker series at UC Berekely. How do you see the future of networked applications in education? What are the implications for individuals, organizations and society>

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Remote medical monitoring

The New York Times has published an article on remote medical monitoring. The article gives examples of patients who remain at home and are monitored by doctors. Wireless connectivity would allow similar monitoring outside the home. While there are technical problems to be overcome, the greatest difficulties facing this and many other applications are with the people "system" around them. Why might doctors, hospitals, and medical instrument makers resist this sort of application? Could this technology empower people to better manage their own health care?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fourth generation cellular communication

Samsung demonstrated a prototype of fourth generation mobile connectivity recently. Connectivity speed was 100 Mbps in a bus traveling 60 miles per hour. The "nomadic" speed inside a building was 1 Gbps. Samsung has been active in the mobile WiMAX standardization effort -- will they set the 4G standard?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Monitor your location 24 by 7

Here is an example of a location-based application. Tim Hibbard has carried a GPS phone in his car for the last year. His position was updated and plotted on a Google map every 15 seconds. Soon, all cell phones will be location aware. Would you like to be tracked this way? Would you like to track your kids this way? Should we track criminals? Everyone? See where Tim is now and where he has been during the last year.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

UN report calls for developing nation backbones

(disclaimer -- I am the author of this report).

UNCTAD, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, has published a report documenting the deepening digital divide between developed and developing nations. Conventional policies focused on privatization, competition and independent regulation are not closing this gap, so the report calls for publicly funded, neutral-access backbone networks with points of presence in every rural village -- a similar strategy to that used by the US National Science Foundation in connecting universities in the late 1980s.


1. A decade of pilot studies and projects has shown that Internet applications can improve the quality of life in rural villages which, as a side effect, would slow the growth of urban slums. There are many success stories in commerce, medicine, education, news and entertainment, etc.

2. During the last two decades, we have encouraged a policy of telecommunication privatization, competition, and independent regulation (PCR), but the digital divide persists. PCR policy has been beneficial, but has run its course, and will not raise the capital to bring the Internet to rural areas of developing nations.

3. Therefore, we should build and operate neutral-access backbone networks (not access networks) providing high-speed Internet connection points in every village at public expense. The Internet is a general purpose communication technology that encourages substantial private investment, innovation, content creation and the sharing of knowledge by users and service providers.

4. Building these backbone networks would be a daunting challenge involving research and development as well as procurement, but we have faced such grand challenges before in other fields. We can follow the policies that guided construction of the US National Science Foundation backbone in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Links: Report highlights, and Full report.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Internet performance monitoring report

Physicists share very large data sets on the Internet, so performance is important to them. As such, they measure performance by regularly timing small data transfers between computers around the world. The 2006 Performance Monitoring Report shows continuing improvement in packet loss, data transfer rate and latency in all parts of the world. Performance in developing nations continues to lag that of developed nations.

2006 Digital Economy Factbook available

The 2006 Digital Economy Factbook is a good source for background data. It includes data and statistics on e-commerce, the communications industry, the hardware sector, digital media, the global use of the Internet and threats to the digital economy. Earlier versions are also online for viewing trends.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wikipedia evaluation

We recently created an online survey on the accuracy and completeness of Wikipedia articles.

So far, 50 respondents have evaluated a Wikipedia article in an area of their expertise. Of those, 76% agreed or strongly agreed that the article was accurate and 46% agreed or strongly agreed that it was complete.

Of the 50, 18 compared the article they reviewed to the article on the same topic in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Thirty four percent of those people found the Britannica more or substantially more accurate and 39% found the Britannica article to be more or substantially more complete.

Please complete the survey yourself (for as many articles as you wish) and forward the link to others.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

VOIP in the WAN

We saw that VOIP has grown rapidly within organization LANs. It is also making inroads in the WAN. This has led Verizon to cut VOIP prices in response to diminishing profits, caused in part by competition from VOIP service providers like Vonage.

Market research firm TeleGeography reports that 5.4 million U.S. households now subscribe to a VOIP service. This is up from 2.7 million one year ago. More worrisome to Verizon -- 2.8 million households have cancelled their local phone lines and are using cable-based VOIP. TeleGeography projects that by year-end 2010, VOIP will have attracted over 21 million subscribers--nearly one in five of all U.S. households.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


We have been talking about VOIP and using Skype. Skype just announced the ability to do "skypecasts," conference calls with up to 100 participants. Try that with your Verizon phone service.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tests of early 802.11n products

of early 802.11n products are in. The following shows speed versus distance for three of them:

For unobstructed, short distances, speeds are similar to CAT5 Ethernet.

Mobile connectivity options

We have been talking about options for mobile connectivity, and this notebook has a 3G radio built in. This mobile router combines EVDO with WiFi for an instant mobile hotspot.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


We spoke of the tension between government fear of the cultural and political impact of the Internet and the necessity of the Internet in a modern economy, and listened to a comparison of Web surfing in China and the US. This article looks at Internet censorship in China in more depth. This editorial also summarizes important issues dividing the US and China. (Students -- if these articles are no longer accessible, contact me for a fair use copy).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

WiMax deployment: 3 Mbps for $18.99 per month

We have been talking about portable (not mobile) connectivity and WiMax. An early WiMax deployment has just been announced in Muskegon County Michigan. This will be a public-private partnership, and data rates of 10 Mbps and higher will be available at higher cost.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Ad-supported connectivity

We have been talking about municipal wireless networks, and a coalition between Google and Earthling recently won the bidding for the San Francisco network. Google plans to offer free connecivity by presenting ads to users based on the location of the access point they are connected to, the nature of the establishment with the access point and the personal profile of the user. They have applied for a patent on this form of advertising.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Attend conferences -- virtually

There are many interesting conferences that are relevant to our class. You can "attend" many of them virtually on the Web. For example, there is a very complete Web site for Microsoft's recent MIX Conference. You can see the keynote talks and other sessions, read blogs and comments, see demos and video recaps, download beta software given to attendees, etc. (Atlas, Microsoft's new AJAX development tool was presented and is available for download).

Another excellent source of conference coverage is IT Conversations which posts audio recordings of the sessions at excellent conferences, most of which are relevant to CIS 471. You can listen to these on your PC or download them to an MP3 player for portable listening.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Applications of blogging in business

Scott Anderson, Director of Enterprise Brand Communications at Hewlett-Packard, gave a talk on HP's use of blogs. He spends some time on using blogs for internal collaboration, but focuses primarily on their use in maintaing a two-way relationship with customers.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Britannica refutes Nature's comparison with Wikipedia

The BBC publised an article on Britannica's article-by-article refutation of the Nature study comparing Encyclopedia Britannica with the Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Municipal WiFi networks

WiFi was invented for indoor LANs in homes and offices, but it is also being used in cities. One report esitmates that 320 cities are building networks and another estimates that 126,000 square miles will be covered by 2010. See our class notes on municipal WiFi and the Hermosa Beach wireless project.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Breaking the end-to-end principle

We have talked about the end-to-end principle of network design and the idea that routers treat all packets the same. Now that a few telephone and cable companies control much of the ISP business in the US, they are seeking legislation that will allow them to program IP routers to examine packets. This would allow them to bill for specific services and give delivery priority to their content or that of those who pay a premium. Here is Vint Cerf's advice to congress on this bill. You can also listen to a brief roundtable discussion of this effort.

Lobbying against municipal networks

Telephone and cable companies have lobbied for State legislation to outlaw municipal networks for several years. They are also doing so at the federal level. Russell Shaw shows AT&T (SBC) contributions to the sponsors of the legislation. You can also listen to a short roundtable discussion of this lobbying effort.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Considerations for Pasadena city wireless network

We have talked about municipal networks, and Pasadena, California recently received bids for a citywide WiFi network. The bidders raised many questions while working on their proposals. Note that they are generally not concerned with technology, but with mechanical mounting of the radios, power supply, and other "nuts and bolts" issues. That is typical.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

AOL goes P2P for video

AOL will use peer to peer technology to deliver video over the Internet. Would you give AOL permission to store files on your hard drive in return for the ability to download?

A lot of people think of AOL as a network for beginners, but do not forget that they are part of Time Warner. AOL may become an Internet video powerhouse.

Vint Cerf talk

Vint Cerf gave a talk entitled The Internet Today and Tomorrow at Stanford University. He covers some of the topics we will in our Network Applications and TCP/IP sections. Cerf was co-inventor along with Bob Kahn of TCP/IP.

Interview of Bob Kahn

I have posted an excerpt from a NerdTV interview of networking pioneer and TCP/IP co-inventor Bob Kahn. At the start of the excerpt he is talking about the ARPANet. The ARPANet was a single network, like a large LAN. The next step was to inter-connect multiple networks, to create an inter-network. Kahn and his colleague Vint Cerf invented TCP/IP to do that. The initial goal of TCP (later split into TCP and IP) was to connect the ARPANet with two other networks each of which had different packet sizes, data rates and communication protocols. TCP/IP has ended up connecting millions of dissimilar networks (3 minutes 33 seconds).

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Recommended paint program

This week's Creative Cow podcast recommended a paint program called ArtRage. There is a free version and a full edition for $19.95. I have not tried it out. If you do, let us know what you think of it or show us some of your work using it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

We paid $200 billion for broadband connectivity -- where is it? (Make that $400 billion).

Bruce Kushnick just published The $200 Billion Broadband Scandal in which he shows that in return for promising to install fiber for high-speed connectivity to US homes, the Bell companies received $200 billion in higher phone rates and tax perks -- about $2,000 per household. The promise was not kept. Today we are the 19th ranked nation in household broadband connectivity rate, just ahead of Slovenia.

In the latest (2009) edition of his book, Kushnick has upped the title to "$300 billion".

The total is now up to $400 billion -- see Kushnick's latest The Book of Broken Promises.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Pracitcal wireless book published under Creative Commons license

Wireless Networking in the Developing World is a practical book that is not limited to developing nations. It covers the wirelss material we will cover in our class and more.

In addition to being a valuable book, it is an example of a new approach to content creation, publishing and intelectual property. It is available for free download under a Creative Commons license and (soon) as a print-on-demand book from

Some of the material from the book is based on a wireless workshop. You might also find that to be a useful reference on wireless networks.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The role of the Internet in making life decisions

A recent BBC article states that the internet has played an important role in the life decisions of 60 million Americans, research shows. The article is based on a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, an organization that conducts research on American life. This survey sheds light on one of our course topics: the implications of the Internet for the individual and for society.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Joel Spolsky on interface design

Joel Spolsky just began a series of articles on user interface design. If you are interested in Web design, I'd advise you to check it out.

Note that he is not going to publish them as finished articles, but will start with first drafts, then incorporate reader feedback into the revision. This is another variation on our question "who created the content?"

Monday, January 23, 2006

IEEE 802.11n specification set for first draft vote

This Infoworld article states that the IEEE 802.11n specification will be voted on this week, setting the stage for standard-compliant, 100 Mbps Wi-Fi products by midyear. This article touches many of the topics we cover.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Users judge Web sites in 50 milliseconds

A recent study shows users make very rapid judgements about Web pages. They do not like a lot of complex graphics and do want speed. Google seems to understand this.

British like mobile TV

The BBC reports that a marketing trial concludes that British people are willing to watch TV broadcasts on a small, portable device. Similar service is in use in Korea and is being tested elsewhere. Would you use such a service? How much would you be willing to pay per month?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Data mining and privacy

There has been a lot of publicity about the National Security Agency doing data mining lately. Open APIs allow us all to mine data. Are you comfortable with the Amazon data mining described in this article?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Camstudio -- open source screen casting

Camstudio is an open source program for audio/video screen capture. It sounds like it might be an alternative to Camtasia or Captivate. I have not tried it, but would like to hear from those who have.