Saturday, February 24, 2007

Petition to open the cellular networks

In a recent post, we noted that Apple had succeeded in negotiating some control over application and hardware design from Cingular wireless. Now Skype has petitioned the FCC to open cellular networks. If they prevail, we could see a wireless end-to-end network, with Internet like innovation. Wouldn't that be cool?

My guess is that the cellular companies will fight this vigorously, but that might be short sighted. If they provided competitively priced Internet access, they would take the wind out of the municipal network and hotspot movements. More important, an open wireless network would be an important piece of infrastructure, providing a much needed boost to the US economy and our sagging Internet.

There will be powerful companies on both sides of this important issue -- make your voice heard by signing an FCC petition.

The Skype petition is not yet posted on the FCC Web site, but we will update this post with a link when it is.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Lessig on copyright "orphans"

What happens if you are not sure who owns the copyright to something you want to use?

Lawrence Lessig, Stanford law professor and the inventor of Creative Commons licensing, discusses this "orphan" problem in the following presentations:

Lessig on spectrum deregulation

Lawrence Lessig, Stanford law professor and the inventor of Creative Commons licensing, gives his views on spectrum deregulation in this presentation.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Overview chapter for a Globaltext book

The Global text project hopes to create a free library of 1,000 electronic textbooks for students in the developing world. One text, which is under construction, will introduce information systems.

I have just drafted a chapter that surveys quite a bit of the material we cover in this course. I'd appreciate feedback -- it is a first draft.

Apple negotiates for end-to-end control on the Cingular network

Our notes emphasize the fact that the Internet is an end-to-end network with application development, funding, hardware, and content being supplied by users, not carriers. Telephone, cable and cell phone companies would rather sell specific services which they provide, charge for and control.

Cellular companies have kept tighter control than telephone and cable companies, but this Wall Street Journal article says Apple's Steve Jobs played hardball in negotiating control over application and hardware design with Cingular in return for being the exclusive carrier for iPhone calls.

This means Apple can innovate. For example, iPhone users will be able to display a list of phone messages and listen to them out of order rather than consuming call minutes while a synthesized voice says "you have ten new messages ..." then listening to them one at a time. Try that with your current cell phone.

Amazon Web Services, a case study

Podcasting pioneer Doug Kaye, Amazon's Jeff Barr and others discuss a complex application Kaye built using Amazon Web Services. Kaye describes both the system architecture (loosely coupled services buffered by queues) and the business reasons (zero startup cost and seamless scalability) for using Amazon's virtual servers and storage rather than his own. He also expresses concern about the lack of a service-level agreement and dependence upon Amazon. Barr talks about Amazon's plans and the important role of the developer community. The show notes contain other links for those interested in more detail and other applications Amazon-based applications.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Larry Lessig talk on "The Withering of the Net"

Larry Lessig, inventor of Creative Commons licensing, gave a talk on "The Withering of the Net" at the Center for American Progress in Washington June 2006. Lessig mentions many things we cover -- the breakup of AT&T, telecommunication regulation, the end-to-end principle, license-free spectrum, copyright, net neutrality, etc. He fears Congress will let powerful network and media companies stifle innovation and participation. Favoring the "read-only" network at the expense of "read-write" network will harm our culture and economy.

Download the talk or the transcript.

If you find it interesting, you will also like Lessig's presentation on US copyright law.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A mashup example: adding audio to this blog

We talk about composite applications or mashups in class. This blog serves as an example.

There is a link at the bottom of each post that reads listen to this article, and, in the right-hand column, there is a link reading Audio RSS Feed.

If you follow the first link, you will hear a slightly stilted sounding woman reading the text of the article. The program that does this text to speech conversion is quite complex and requires a fast computer, but that complexity is hidden. A server at does the conversion and the link to that service required adding only one line of HTML code to the blog template.

Adding the RSS feed converts the blog to a podcast. A user who subscribes to the RSS feed will automatically receive spoken recordings of articles when they are posted. Again, this complex feature was added with a single line of HTML code in the blog template.

Adding these audio features brought the blog into compliance with university regulations on accessibility by blind people. Doing so took only a few minutes because of the simple API exposing the service at

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Practical tips for corporate podcasting

Michael Geoghegan, co-founder & CEO of Gigavox Media, gives practical advice in this informative presentation on corporate podcasting. He focuses on podcasts for corporate customers, as opposed to dissemination of internal information.

Geoghegan covers both internally produced podcasts and sponsorship of podcasts produced by others. This 19 minute excerpt focuses on internally produced podcasts using examples from three case studies. (The entire presentation is over an hour long).