Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Google Phone

By now you've probably heard rumors about a Google phone. According to Bloomberg:

Google Inc. is in talks with Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. about developing mobile-phone software and services, two people familiar with the discussions said.

Google, owner of the world's most-popular Internet search engine, may build a phone operating system or applications, said the people, who wanted anonymity because the talks are private.

Mike McGuire, an analyst at Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm Gartner Inc. is also quoted in the Bloomberg piece:

An operating system would give Google another way to profit from sales of mobile phones, which outsold personal computers by more than 4-to-1 last year......

According to numerous sources on the web, the Google phone will compete directly with the iPhone and be built on an open-source platform, Building it this way could make it a lot cheaper than the iPhone which currently sells for $399. The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the phone will include many Google applications including search, Gmail, Maps and YouTube.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Google is expected to announce advanced software and services within the next two weeks. These services would allow handset makers to bring Google-powered phones to market by the middle of next year.

Read Show Notes and listen to Mike Q and my latest Podcast titled The Next Generation Cable Network: DOCSIS 3.0 linked here.
Listen directly in your web browser by clicking here.
Podcasts also free on iTunes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

AT&T Project Lightspeed Update

Probably because of where I live and work I seem to spend most of my time writing about the things Verizon is doing with their FIOS Fiber to the Home (FTTH) project and Comcast is doing with their DOCSIS 3.0 testing. I've mentioned AT&T and their Project Lightspeed product in the past and think it is time to take a little closer look.

Project Lightspeed was announced as a 6 billion dollar project by AT&T in June 2004 and involves running optical fiber out to a remote terminal, or node and providing the last portion of the connection over copper wire. The project was ambitious from the start with initial plans to reach close to 19 million homes by the end of 2008. AT&T has given the product the name U-verse and at the TelcoTV conference last Wednesday, VP of converged services at AT&T Labs Research Peter Hill gave the keynote address featuring the product. Here's a few quotes from an October 26 CED Magazine post:

AT&T’s roll out of its IPTV video services has been slower than it originally anticipated, but with more than 126,000 current subscribers, the company feels as though it’s on the right track. AT&T started the year with 3,000 video subscribers, then grew that base to 16,000 and 60,000, respectively, in the first and second quarters.

“We’re past the point of last year where the question was, ‘Will IPTV scale?’,” said Peter Hill, VP of converged services at AT&T Labs Research, during the first keynote address Wednesday morning at TelcoTV. “You can’t get to that number (126,000 subscribers) without significant flow through and automation. We do have a competitive service and we can do it to scale.”

Bandwidth has been a major concern, with Hill commenting on the H.264 compression standard:

“The encoding rates for H.264 have come down faster than we projected,” Hill said. “We’ll be able to do more channels in the same amount of bandwidth.”

Hill says the company will be adding home DVRs that allow satellite set-top boxes to show video downloaded to the DVR box. Hill also said the company will be adding to the current 30 high-definition channels next year along with photo-sharing and a Voice over IP (VoIP) service. Here's more interesting quotes from the CED Magazine piece:

While cable executives have said there is no compelling reason to move to an IP infrastructure to deliver video services, Hill contends that IPTV is “very different from cable and satellite” because the nature of IP allows for easier integration among services while also allowing it to take advantage of Internet partners such as Amazon.......

One of those features is “Cinema Center” that allows movies to be purchased from Amazon with one click. The movie portal content would be dynamic and would allow subscribers to view trailers prior to making their purchases.

“We don’t have to create this stuff in IP because it reaches out to Web devices and incorporates them into IPTV,” Hill said.

Hill demonstrated how an iPhone could be used to remotely program a home TV and how multiple cameras at live events could be selected by the viewer. He also demonstrated a feature that used an i-Phone to remotely configure channel favorites on a home TV. The application would give four different i-Phone users the ability to program their favorite shows on their household TVs. Also discussed was a Web cam feature that would let viewers in different locations view a live performance of a sporting event or dance concert based on IP technology that uses switched digital video.

Also, according to CED Magazine:

During the question-and-answer segment, Hill said AT&T would continue to rely on the Motorola set-top box with the Sigma Designs processor as its main workhorse, although it’s also working with Scientific Atlanta on a box with the same signature.

Hill expected new set-top boxes with second-generation chipsets from Sigma and Broadcom to be available in 2009.

The U-verse product website lists:

Subscribers: 126,000 U-verse TV and Internet subscribers in service (as of end of 3Q07)

Homes Passed: Approximately 5.5 million living units (as of end of 3Q07)

Deployment: Plans to pass approximately 8 million living units by the end of 2007Another interesting roll out to watch in 2008.

: AT&T expects to reach nearly 18 million households as part of its initial deployment by the end of 2008.

This will be another exciting product to watch in 2008.

Read Show Notes and listen to Mike Q and my latest Podcast titled The Next Generation Cable Network: DOCSIS 3.0 linked here.
Listen directly in your web browser by clicking here.
Podcasts also free on iTunes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Microsoft Buys a Piece of Facebook and Files for Social Network Firewall Technology Patent

On October 25, Microsoft filed for a patent titled Integration of social network information and network firewalls. For a number of reasons, primarily security based, many corporations block social networking sites like Facebook and mySpace.

You may have also heard that, on October 24 (one day before the patent application), Microsoft and Facebook announced that Microsoft has purchased a 1.6% stake in Facebook for $240 million. According to Richard MacManus at Read/Write Web:

The amount invested is lower than expectations, which were around $500M. Microsoft's new deal with Facebook is all about bolstering their existing advertising arrangement - Microsoft will now sell Facebook's international display ads, in addition to the banner ads it already sells on the US site. However this deal leaves room for Facebook to run its own advertising network. Facebook's ad system will likely use social profiling to target ads, given the wealth of such data that Facebook has.

Lower than expectations..... still - do the math - $240 million for 1.6% of Facebook puts the value at $15 billion! The numbers are making me dizzy and I'm going off track.......

Seriously - after investing $240 million it does seem logical that Microsoft would apply for a patent on technology that would allow easier access to sites like Facebook from inside firewalls. In the patent application Microsoft proposes the problem with current firewall technology:

Internet protocol security (IPsec) allows the remote user or machine to be identified and is an additional mechanism for providing security to Internet traffic. A firewall may be programmed to require IPsec security on incoming connections. However, maintaining accurate connection information in a firewall can become tedious and prone to error. Detailed configuration knowledge may be required and the highest levels of protection may require frequent changes to the settings.

For example, broad application level exceptions may be authorized because it is too difficult or time-consuming to program a narrower, more appropriate, exception. Furthermore, due to the difficulty of configuring such elaborate settings, firewall configuration is generally statically set, wherein exceptions are configured once and then left unaltered thereafter. This decreases the security of the machine by causing the firewall configuration to not accurately represent the precise security requirements of a machine at a given moment, but instead represent the least restrictive superset of the needed configuration at all times.

And then the solution:

Instead of manually entering an allowed IP address or list of remote users to allow for setting a firewall exception, an invitation mechanism may be programmed to extract data about a connection invitation sent to an outside party and to appropriately program the firewall exception. The exception may be specific to the particular connection invitation, and, optionally, for limited duration. The invitation mechanism may be associated with an application, for example, an instant messaging program, or a game.

Alternatively, the invitation mechanism may be part of an operating system callable by an application or trapped by the OS itself. The firewall may receive an application handle and an identifier for the outside party, such as cryptographic material. The cryptographic material may be a public-key. The identifier for the outside party may be a handle, or pointer, to the public-key or an equivalent, such as a certificate. The exception may be timed corresponding to the type of application or invitation. For example, an exception for an e-mail-based invitation may be available for a period of hours, whereas an IP-based invitation for a game may be available for a minute or less. By making available the cryptographic material (e.g. public key) for an IPsec connection, the firewall can process the connection without interruption to the application, user, or OS.

Read/Write Web has also posted some web traffic stats regarding Facebook as compiled by Hitwise:
  • was the ninth most visited website (as ranked by Hitwise) in the U.S. receiving .96% of all Internet visits for the week ending 10/20/07.
  • U.S. traffic to has increased 102% YOY comparing the week ending 10/20/07 versus 10/21/06.
  • Among a custom category of leading social networking websites, received 15% of U.S. visits for the week ending 10/20/07. That was second most among social networking websites behind, who received 76%. Windows Live Spaces received .40% for the same week.
  • received '9.90%' of its U.S. traffic from Search Engines for the week ending 10/20/2007. Of that traffic, MSN Search and Live Search combined for .46% to last week. Google sent 6.82% percent of U.S. traffic while Yahoo! Search send 1.34% of traffic for the week ending 10/20/07.
  • U.S visits for among users ages 35 and over have increased 19% comparing the week ending 10/20/07 versus 10/21/06.
Providing easier access to sites like Facebook from inside corporate firewalls has the potential to make these numbers even higher - at least that is likely what Microsoft is thinking.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Radiohead: Open Source Music

Depending on your musical taste, you may or may not have listened to the band Radiohead. In their Wikipedia entry, the band is referred to as "the "English version of Nirvana". Both bands make/made songs with quiet and beautiful moments and also loud guitar distortion."

A few weeks ago Radiohead released their latest album titled "In Rainbows", selling it as a download without digital-rights management (translated - no copy protection). The band is asking for fans to establish the value of the music on the album and determine how much they want to pay for the music, if anything at all. It's available free.

Radiohead has joined a list of artists moving away from traditional distribution methods. According to the New York Times:

"....a short but growing list of recording stars that includes Prince, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails and .... Radiohead have indicated their willingness to depart from the conventions of music sales and the control of the four multinational corporations that dominate the industry."

Here's more from the New York Times piece:

"Early reaction suggested that listeners would pay, but less than they would for a CD in stores. The blog carried a poll in which the plurality of voters — almost 40 percent — said they would pay from $2.05 to $10.12."

and a bit more:

"Whether Radiohead’s move will lead to a shift for the industry is far from clear. In taking over more of its own sales, the band risks losing what connection it has with the mass market and turning into a niche operation. Indeed, not all artists choose to depart the major-label structure when the opportunity arises — Bruce Springsteen, for one, decided to renew his relationship with Sony Music’s Columbia label when his contract was near expiration."

The band currently is not contracted with a recording company and has not sold content on iTunes. According the the Times - early next year they say the will release a CD, two record vinyl (!) set and photo book that will sell for approximately 40 pounds (about $82).

Watch the Radiohead website and legally download the music here.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

250 Mbps Over Your Telephone Wires!

Dr John Papandriopoulos, an Australian research fellow at the University of Melbourne, won the University's highest academic prize on Tuesday - the Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in the PhD. According to the Australian Herald Sun, Papandriopoulos has "developed technology to make broadband internet up to 200 times (Internet speeds up to 250 megabits per second) faster without having to install expensive fiber optic cables."

This kind of bandwidth is hard to imagine over copper telephone wires and requires a little bit of background to understand. Papandriopoulos' work is based on the work of Stanford Professor John Cioffi, considered by many as the "father of ADSL". Cioffi is currently working in the area of dynamic spectrum management which, according to Wikipedia, is: "a technique being researched to improve DSL performance over ordinary copper phone lines by reducing or eliminating crosstalk between DSL phone lines that are close together."

Crosstalk occurs between conductive wires that are close together. Information, whether voice, video or data is transmitted in the form of electrical signals on copper wire. These signals produce magnetic fields around the wires and these fields are inductively coupled into surrounding wires. Ever drive under a high voltage power line with your AM radio on? If you have then you've likely heard the effects of a coupled field. Telephone wire fields are no where near as strong as high-voltage power transmission fields but, when other wires are close, crosstalk will occur and produce interference on the receiving wire.

Right now there is not a lot of technical information available on Papandriopoulos' work. According to the Herald Sun:

"Dr Papandriopoulos' research, which took a year to complete, uses mathematic modeling to reduce the interference that slows down downloading."

Also, according to Image and Data Manager:

"Dr John actually plans to part ways with the University of Melbourne and is “Currently trying to find a licensee for the intellectual property and I’ve also recently taken a position with a startup in the US, this startup focuses on this area and is run by Stanford Professor who is known as the father of ADSL” he continued, “The professor is John Cioffi who is pushing this whole notion of dynamic spectrum management, which is another way of saying dynamically managing interference.”


"... the technology could be installed directly into existing modems as a software upgrade or be shipped in new modems depending on the ability of the particular modem type. In addition to this there would be a further installation required at the DSLAM in your telephone exchange which would then start cutting down the interference. Don’t expect to see the offering on your local PC store shelves anytime soon though, as Dr John hopes it will be available within 3-4 years."

This will be very interesting to watch.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Verizon Launches 20 Mbps Symmetrical FIOS Service

On Monday of this week Verizon announced 20 Mbps symmetrical FIOs service in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for as low as $64.99 a month. There are two things that I find exciting about this offering. First - it's great to see the bandwidths continue to go up. I feel this is just the start and we'll see bandwidths of over 100 Mbps within the next two years in selected areas as the telcos, like Verizon, go head-to-head with the cable companies like Comcast. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where FIOS is available you re in for a real treat regarding bandwidth.

The second exciting thing I see here is a shift to symmetrical services. Broadband products to date, including FIOS, ADSL and cable modem, have always been asymmetrical - the "A" in ADSL is even short for asymmetrical! Asymmetrical services provide more downstream bandwidth than upstream bandwidth. It's been a way for the providers to "cheat" a bit based on traditional Internet usage. Consider the way you traditionally surf the web - you enter a small amount of information in the address bar and hit enter. The address you type ends up going to a DNS (Domain Name Service) server and is looked up. The DNS server sends back the IP address of the site you want and your browser is directed to that site location. The site server then sends your browser the site contents you want to see.

Think about it - in the traditional model - a little information gets sent upstream and lots of information comes back downstream. Recognizing these patterns the providers have designed their networks to provide a little upstream bandwidth and lots of downstream bandwidth. Well...... all this has changed with this new FIOS offering from Verizon. Here's a quote from a Verizon press release:

"Verizon's new symmetric service is a smart response to the changing usage patterns of high-speed Internet subscribers," said Vince Vittore, senior analyst with Yankee Group. "We believe that as user-generated content continues to expand and telecommuting increases in popularity, upstream speed will become just as important as downstream for all users."

User generated content........ upstream speed becoming just as important as downstream for all users...... these are historical times!

Update - 10/31/07 - I found this video product demo on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Colorado Rockies Online World Series Ticket Sales

By now most of you have heard that the Rockies had to suspend website World Series ticket sales yesterday afternoon. The team started selling tickets to the three possible Coors Field games yesterday. Here's a quote from the Rockies Team President Keli McGregor:

"Our Web site, and ultimately our fans and our organization, were the victim of an external, malicious attack that shut down the system and kept our fans from being able to purchase their World Series tickets. Throughout the day we've evaluated all of our options, and we continue to believe that the online sale approach is the most fair and equitable method to distribute the tickets. Our partners at and Paciolan have fully assessed the situation and assured us that tomorrow's online sale will go as originally planned."

Here's another quote from USA Today:

"The Rockies were forced to stop the online-only sale of tickets after about two hours Monday after 8.5 million hits overwhelmed the servers set up to take the orders."

I'm questioning whether the attack was malicious or just people trying to cash in on World Series Tickets. Tickets at Coors Field are going for $65 to $250 on the website with close to 18,000 seats being sold for each game via the website. Here's more from USA Today:

"Season ticket holders were allowed to buy tickets over the weekend....... one ticket broker was selling lower-deck tickets for between $1,400 and $5,500 and an online seller offered tickets in the normally cheap Rockpile section for more than $17,000, although better seats were available for less."

With those kinds of potential profits this does not look like a "malicious" website attack. Selling on-line allows anyone any place, any where to buy and in turn sell for large profits.

The Rockies are supposed to turn the site back on today at noon.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Analog Televisions Still For Sale

I've written in the past about the FCC digital television mandate set for February 18, 2009. As part of the mandate, the FCC set some preliminary rules that appear to have been broken by some major retailers.

According to the FCC rules - as of May 25, 2007 - retailers that were selling televisions without built in digital tuners had to be clearly marked as such either on the set itself or in close proximity. The warning is required to say that the television will not be able to receive over-air broadcasts after February 18, 2009 unless a separate set top digital-to-analog converter box is used. Warnings were given out to several retailers back in June and this past week several fines were issued to some very larger U.S. retailers.

At this time I would not buy a TV without a built in digital tuner.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Google and Yahoo Offering More Online Space

Check out the Gmail blog and the companies efforts in their "Infinity+1" storage plan - a plan to provide Gmail users with "more space as we were able." According to the blog, the Standard and Education Edition storage, which is now at 2GB, will get a bump and begin matching Gmail's counter. Premier Edition users get bumped up from 10GB to 25 GB. The standard edition is free and the Premier edition is $50 / user account / year. The Education Edition also offers 2GB but makes the text-based ads alongside email, found in the Standard Edition, optional to students and academic faculty and staff.

Yahoo’s unlimited storage product provides unlimited email storage space. According to Yahoo:

"....users that follow normal email practices and comply with our anti-abuse limits can consume an unlimited amount of free email storage. This will apply to both new and existing users."

Yahoo also offers the Yahoo! Briefcase that provides up to 30GB of free file storage free to Yahoo account holders. Briefcase is great for students who are accessing computers in different locations - imagine a community college commuter student using a computer at home and another computer at school. Brifcase allows file storage that can be accessed from both locations.

There have been Google Gdrive storage rumors for over a year now.

Friday, October 12, 2007

U.S. Broadband Census of America

House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet Chairman Edward J. Markey's (D-MA) Broadband Census of America Act was given initial approval this week. The bill is designed to "provide for a comprehensive nationwide inventory of existing broadband service, and for other purposes" and will produce a national broadband inventory map. I've beat around broadband a bit here and have expressed my frustration regarding the "broadband divide" in the United States today.

According to the FCC website, broadband is generally defined in the United States as follows:

"High-speed Internet access or “broadband” allows users to access the Internet and Internet-related services at significantly higher speeds than those available through “dial-up” Internet access services. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) generally defines broadband service as data transmission speeds exceeding 200 kilobits per second (Kbps), or 200,000 bits per second, in at least one direction: downstream (from the Internet to your computer) or upstream (from your computer to the Internet)."

The bill had language to change this - according to

"The bill (original discussion draft pdf) initially stated that if a connection wasn't 2Mbps, it technically wasn't broadband. That provision has since been removed in a compromise....."

It's extremely unfortunate to see the 2 Mbps minimum removed for obvious reasons. Markey has posted an interesting release regarding the current broadband collection methods - here's a piece:

"...the fact that current data collection methods used by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are inadequate and highly flawed. Currently, the FCC counts a single broadband subscriber in a 5-digit zip code as indicating the entire zip code has broadband availability, even if the sole subscriber is a business and not a residential consumer. This can lead to highly inaccurate and overly generous notions of actual broadband availability and use, particularly in rural areas where zip codes are quite large."

This obviously needs to change. Markey goes on to praise mapping work done in Kentucky:

"This bill also encompasses an effort modeled, in part, on the experience in the State of Kentucky. There, a state-wide broadband mapping effort and community organizing initiative for un-served and under-served areas has helped to increase consumer and community knowledge of where and what type of broadband service is available, at a street-level degree of specificity. This is a very consumer-friendly mapping function and “demand-side” identification that the high tech and telecommunications industry also supports. The Committee Print contains similar provisions that embody the same goal."

A colleague in Kentucky, Vince Dinoto, has shown me some of these maps - very impressive. You can see some of the Kentucky work here. Figuring out exactly where services are needed - mapping - is one of the first steps in breaking the "broadband divide" in this country.

The bill is now up for consideration by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UC Berkeley Posting Full Lectures on YouTube Channel

I said I would not until next week but just had to write a quick post on this topic. UC Berkeley announced today that it has started posting full lectures on YouTube. Subjects include biology, chemistry, physics and a lecture titled Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Here's a quote from Christina Maslach, UC Berkeley's vice provost for undergraduate education:

"UC Berkeley on YouTube will provide a public window into university life, academics, events and athletics, which will build on our rich tradition of open educational content for the larger community,"

The Berkeley channel is at: Take a look at what Berkeley is doing and also watch our NCTT channel at: You may find our RSS feed tutorial interesting!