Thursday, November 29, 2007

Google Launches Cell Phone Map Location Application

Yesterday Google launched a new beta application called Google Maps with My Location (My Location). According to Google, the downloaded application runs on most web-enabled mobile phones. Once installed, My Location determines exactly where you are located using GPS if you have a GPS enabled phone. If you don't have a GPS enabled phone, My Location uses cell tower triangulation to indicate your location with 1000 meters.

Here's a bit of a bonus - remember - GPS services are not available indoors but cell phone services are. This means, using cell phone signal triangulation, My Location can find your location when you are indoors!

My Location is still in Beta and, according to the Google My Location site, "is available for most web-enabled mobile phones, including Java, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Nokia/Symbian devices."

Here's a YouTube video demonstrating how the service works:

It will be interesting to see if Apple incorporates My Location into the iPhone Google Map application.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

AT&T Wireless Upgrades and the Second Generation iPhone

A small article in the Springfield, MA Saturday Republican paper caught my eye. AT&T has been quietly updating their cell phone towers to 3G in Massachusetts along with 220 other metropolitan areas in other parts of the country. Just last week the company updated 30 towers in the Western part of the state with plans to do the New Bedford area next. Both Boston and the Worcester area have also been upgraded.

3G technologies provide approximately 144 Kilo-bits per second (Kbps) to around 2.4 Mega-bits per second (Mbps) to mobile devices like cell phones and non-mobile devices like computers. For AT&T, 3G is a significant upgrade from the current EDGE network which, according to PCWorld, averages around 109 Kbps.

EDGE is commonly referred to as "2.75G" (between 2nd and 3rd generation) and has been the source of a lot of discussion with regards to the iPhone. Many questioned Apple's decision to go with AT&T/EDGE and have debated why Apple did not go with a 3G option for the iPhone. Steve Jobs has always said the decision to go with EDGE instead of 3G was based on battery life. Here's a quote from Steve jobs in a piece from MacNN:

"The 3G chipsets that are available to semiconductors work reasonably well except for power. They are real power hogs," .... "So as you know, the handset battery life used to be 5-6 hours for GSM, but when we got to 3G they got cut in half. Most 3G phones have battery lives of 2-3 hours [of talk time]."

There have been rumors (see Mathew Millers post at The Mobile Gadgeteer here ) going around since the current iPhone was announced in January that the next generation iPhone would be 3G capable. People have also been questioning whether the current iPhone has both an EDGE radio and a 3G radio built in, which would allow current iPhones to software update to the faster 3G network as the network becomes available.These rumors have pretty much died out after people have taken iPhones apart and have not been able to find an upgradeable radio.

Some complain about EDGE network performance with the iPhone but this has not been an issue with me personally. Perhaps it is because of the places I find myself at - I may be unique - I find myself on a WiFi network probably 90% of the time with the iPhone. The 10% of the time I'm not on a WiFi connection I'm usually checking email, looking up directions on a map or searching for a phone number on the web. On these occasions the EDGE network performance/bandwidth has been fine for me.

Is this 3G build-out by AT&T in (at least partial) preparation for a 3G enabled second generation iPhone? Partial is the key word here but i would say yes - it's time to move to 3G. I'm excited to see what Apple comes out with for the second generation iPhone and it will be interesting to see (if it is 3G enabled) how the battery life issue is dealt with. My bet right now would be on a multi-mode EDGE/3G/WiFi second generation iPhone that would operate on all three types of wireless networks. Time will tell!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wireless Everywhere - Wireless Grids

A startup in Syracuse, NY called Wireless Grids is close to a trial on a very interesting project on the campus of Syracuse University. Here's a description of the project from Wireless Grid's website:

The project is researching issues associated with nomadic ad-hoc resource sharing, which is a effort to bind together developments in Grid, P2P Computing and Webservices along with ad-hoc and wireless networking. The ultimate vision of the grid is that of an adaptive network offering secure, inexpensive, and coordinated real-time access to dynamic, heterogeneous resources, potentially trversing geographc, politica and cultural boundaries but still able to maintain the desirable characteristics of a simple distributed system such as stability, transparency, scalability and flexibility.

Academic partners include Boston University, ETH Zurich, MIT, Northeastern University, Syracuse University and Tufts University. Business partners include Nokia, Cisco Systems, Fractal Antennas and Novell. The project has also been partially funded by the National Science Foundation.

The project concept is extremely appealing - here's a couple of quotes from an excellent article in the November 19 issue of Business Week:

The concept is that everyone should easily be able to access all of their own content, whether it is stored on a phone, a computer, or a personal video recorder. And users should be able to swap content among devices regardless of where those devices are located in the world. Even more radically, Wireless Grids says users should have the power to specify individuals with whom they'd like to share—and to decide who gets access to what. For this purpose, Wireless Grids says it has built in security measures that are all but hacker-proof.

Any device that can link to the Internet can download Wireless Grids' software, which will work across all types of networks or computer operating systems. Once the software is loaded, a menu pops up asking which things you'd like to share. The initial version allows users to share software files as well as computers, speakers, printers, cameras, and screens. Users click on an icon and select which files and devices they want to make available. The other parties can be located anywhere, as long as their devices also have the software loaded.

Cell phones, laptops, TiVo, televisions....... any device that can connect to the Internet will be able to share content with other attached devices after Wireless Grids software is installed on the device. The trial is scheduled to be launched in January with 40 students in a dorm on the Syracuse campus. It's pretty much a given these students will be posting on places like YouTube - it will be fun to watch the progress and see the kinds of creative applications these students come up with for this technology.

I can imagine all kinds of applications - sharing video with a student in one of my classes cell phone to cell phone, my daughter's cell phone communicating with my TV while I'm watching a football game telling me where she is with the car, my kids looking in real-time at video on a big screen TV in Massachusetts that I'm shooting using a WiFi video camera in California .....

Security and privacy certainly will be a challenge..... watch the Wireless Grids Project Blog and Wiki linked from the project website for trial progress and updates.

Friday, November 23, 2007

U.S. Presidential Candidates on Innovation, Science and Engineering Education

The November 15, 2007 issue of Business Week published an interesting special report titled Proposed Presidential Innovation. Here's a quote from the report:

Where do the leading Presidential candidates stand on the issue of innovation? The creation of new things that have value in the marketplace has always been a major force for generating wealth and power. But the rise of Asia is changing the geography of innovation, shifting it East, away from the U.S. and Europe.

Business Week asked selected candidates to define the word innovation and then asked them what their plans were to stimulate innovation in four areas (science and engineering education, green energy, the military and research and development) and asked for details on how the candidates would develop better methods to measure innovation. I've included the interviewed candidates responses to their definition of innovation and views on science and engineering education below, as quoted in the Business Week report. I've listed the interviewed candidates in alphabetical order and have left off their political party affiliations.

Hillary Clinton
Innovation: “Innovation...will be key to creating new jobs and rebuilding middle class prosperity.”

Science and Engineering Education: "Triple the number of National Science Foundation fellowships and increase the size of each by 33%; provide government financial support to encourage women and minorities to study math, science, and engineering."

John Edwards
Innovation: “Innovation means taking impossible tasks and turning them into reality.

Science and Engineering Education
: "Invest more in teacher pay and training; expand math and science education; strengthen high school curricula; expand the number and size of National Science Foundation fellowships."

Rudy Giuliani
Innovation: “America can meet its challenges through innovation...low taxes stimulate growth [and] spark innovation...”

Science and Engineering Education: "Establish federal school voucher programs; provide choice within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; give educational opportunities to military families; expand charter schools."

John McCain
Innovation: “Innovation is fueled by risk capital, skilled workers, incentives for entrepreneurs, a light regulatory framework, and open access to markets”

Science and Engineering Education
: "Provide incentives for summer mentoring programs for high school and college math, science, technology, and engineering students; train science and math teachers."

Barack Obama
Innovation: “Innovation is the creation of something that improves the way we live our lives.”

Science and Engineering Education: "Increase science and engineering grads and minorities and women in science and technology; expand public school offerings in science, technology, engineering, and math."

Bill Richardson
Innovation: “The American Dream is a belief that we can make tomorrow better. Innovation powers that dream.”

Science and Engineering Education: "Create 250 math, science, and innovation academies countrywide for grades 7-12; fund 100,000 new math and science teachers."

Mitt Romney
Innovation: “Innovation and transformation have been at the heart of America’s success from the very beginning.”

Science and Engineering Education: "Focus on fields such as math and science so the workers of the future can remain competitive in the new global marketplace."

Fred Thompson
Innovation: “What we need is another spike in American creativity and innovation.”

Science and Engineering Education
: "Review federal programs for cost-effectiveness, reduce federal mandates, and return education money to states; encourage students and teachers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math."

Note: Other candidates, including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee who is moving in the Iowa Caucus polls, were not included in the report.

To read the entire excellent report including the candidates views on green energy, the military and research and development, follow this link.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

FCC Awards First Piece of 700 MHz Spectrum

On November 19, theFederal Communications Commission awarded a 10 MHz piece of the 700 MHz spectrum to the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST). PSST is a non-profit that was setup, according to PRNewswire, by the "national public safety leadership to oversee the creation of a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety."

More 700 MHz spectrum will go up for auction starting on January 28th next year. Here's more from PRNewswire:

According to the FCC's Second Report & Order on the 700 MHz band, 10 MHz of the spectrum now held by the PSST will be combined with an adjacent 10 MHz of spectrum to be licensed to the commercial winner of the upper 700 MHz D Block auction. The 700 MHz auction is set to begin on January 24, 2008. Together, these spectrum assets will be used to create one shared nationwide wireless broadband network, which will provide commercial service for consumers, while maintaining a nationwide network for public safety, including priority access during emergencies. also had some good information on how this public safety piece of the spectrum will be used:

The new broadband network will herald a new era for public safety communications, supporting applications not readily available to first responders today, such as live, streaming video from the scene of a fire, said Alan Caldwell, senior adviser for government relations for the International Association of Fire Chiefs. He added that the broadband network also will allow first responders in a remote command post to access building drawings and diagrams and augment radio channels with VoIP phone calls over the network.

The network also could support telemetry channels, which monitor firefighters' vital signs and allow ambulance crews to transmit ultrasound images to clinicians at a remote hospital, where doctors can use the technology to determine whether a patient should be taken to a trauma center. "This could make mobile tele-medicine a reality," said Kevin McGinnis, PSST vice chairman and a program adviser to the National Association of State Emergency Medical Services Officials, which is part of the consortium of public safety organizations that make up the PSST.

It will be interesting to see who wins auctioned spectrum next year. We'll know more about who will be bidding in a couple of weeks - the FCC has set an application filing deadline of 6 PM on December 3, 2007.

You can download the
PSST License (FCC-07-199) pdf here and watch FCC auction news here.

Tera-bits Per Second Over Fiber has reported that Tohoku University researchers in Japan have enabled Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) over fiber to move information at rates of hundreds of tera-bits per second. Here's a few quotes from the press release:

At the heart of the development is a technique already used in some digital TV tuners and wireless data connections called quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). One glance at the Wikipedia explanation shows that it's no easy science, but the basics of QAM in this scenario require a stable wavelength for data transmission.

As the radio spectrum provides this, QAM-based methods work fine for some wireless protocols, however the nature of the optical spectrum means this has not been the case for fibre-optic cables ... until now.

The university team has solved the stability problem using a special laser that makes it feasible to pipe data down a glass fibre using the QAM method at blistering speeds. Although we shouldn't expect to be choosing from internet connections rated in Tbit/s anytime soon, the development could one day make us look back on ADSL as fondly as we now do our 56K modems.

Analog modems have used a form of QAM for years to move information from device to device across the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or voice network. QAM is also used by cable modems and ADSL modems to modulate (convert digital signals to analog) and demodulate (convert analog signals back to digital) communications signals.

Let's try to get a basic understanding of how QAM works - without any math! Computing devices (computers, PDA's, laptops, etc) use digital signals (1's and 0's) to process, store and manipulate information. Sending this information over long distances though typically involves a conversion or modulation of digital signals to analog signals on the sending device and a conversion or demodulation of analog signals to digital signals on the receiving device. QAM has been the method of choice for transmitting signals this way for years.

QAM combines amplitude modulation (think height of a sine wave) and phase shift (think of a sine wave moving along the x-axis relative to a zero degree reference) and allows multiple bits (combinations of binary 1's and 0's) to be transmitted for each cycle of a sine wave. I like to use the term multiple bits per cycle when I describe QAM.

QAM is categorized by the number of bits that can be transmitted in one sine wave cycle. To get a simple understanding let's take a look at 16-QAM. 16-QAM is considered rectangular QAM - the square root of 16 is 4 and this indicates that each cycle of a 16-QAM waveform can represent a 4 bit binary (1 and 0) pattern. Using the same method we can calculate 64-QAM represents an 8 bit binary (1 and 0) pattern because the square root of 64 is 8. 256-QAM can represent a 16 bit binary (1 and 0) pattern because the square root of 256 is 16, etc.

QAM signals are susceptible to instability and noise but it appears the Tohoku University researchers have figured out a way to stabilize optical signals and use QAM methods for tera-bit level data transmission. I have not been able to find any detail on the stabilization methods being used at this time.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Email Interoperability: IMAP

If you have not switched from Post Offfice Protocol (POP) to Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) - you should! What's IMAP? According to, it's "a method of accessing electronic mail or bulletin board messages that are kept on a (possibly shared) mail server. In other words, it permits a "client" email program to access remote message stores as if they were local. For example, email stored on an IMAP server can be manipulated from a desktop computer at home, a workstation at the office, and a notebook computer while traveling, without the need to transfer messages or files back and forth between these computers."

How am I using it? I find myself relying on my gmail account as my primary account and, in a typical day, I'm accessing the account from multiple devices. Let's look at a typical day - last Friday (Nov 16), I decided I'd log access to my gmail account. Here's my list:

6:00 AM - Up early at home, check gmail account using home computer and Firefox web browser.

7:00 AM - Eating breakfast (Cheerios), get email notification on iPhone, read and reply to message from student using iPhone.

8:30 AM - In meeting with Regional Technology Enterprise Council, monitoring (reading, replying and moving email to separate folders) using MacBook running Entourage.

10:30 AM - Using desktop computer in office, monitoring (reading, replying and moving email to separate folders) using gmail in Firefox web browser.

11:30 AM - Using a Verizon NextStep notebook computer running XP to prepare for a class. While preparing I access gmail on the notebook using Internet Explorer 7.

Rest of day - a combination of email monitoring, replying, etc using multiple devices. I do find myself using the iPhone more and more.

So let's count - last Friday I accessed my gmail account using 5 different devices in numerous locations running 3 different operating systems...... Does this sound familiar?

Let's get back to IMAP - late last month Google added IMAP support to gmail and it has made my life a lot easier. As we all move from device to device answering email, deleting and moving messages around it can get very confusing if you are not using IMAP. How is IMAP different than POP? Here's more from

IMAP's ability to access messages (both new and saved) from more than one computer has become extremely important as reliance on electronic messaging and use of multiple computers increase, but this functionality cannot be taken for granted: the widely used Post Office Protocol (POP) works best when one has only a single computer, since it was designed to support "offline" message access, wherein messages are downloaded and then deleted from the mail server. This mode of access is not compatible with access from multiple computers since it tends to sprinkle messages across all of the computers used for mail access. Thus, unless all of those machines share a common file system, the offline mode of access that POP was designed to support effectively ties the user to one computer for message storage and manipulation.

Post Office Protocol (POP) was great when I was using primarily one computer but got very confusing as I moved from device to device as I do now. With IMAP I can do things like create, delete, and rename mailboxes, reply to, move and delete individual messages on one device and automatically see the results of those changes on all devices and applications I use to access my gmail account.

Setup for various email clients is simple and well documented - just search on your particular application. For example, if using Outlook do a search on "Outlook IMAP Configuration" and you'll find the procedure. To give you an idea of how easy it is - here's a PC Mechanic video titled How-to: Set up IMAP Gmail with Outlook Express / Thunderbird:

If you give IMAP a try - you won't go back to POP.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Verizon Demonstrates 100 Gbps FiOS TV Connection Between Tampa and Miami

In a press release today Verizon announced they have completed a 100 Gbps optical communications test between Tampa and Miami, FL. The two cities are 312 miles apart. Here's a couple of quotes from the press release:

Verizon has successfully concluded the industry's first field test of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) optical transmission, on a live, in-service 312-mile (504 kilometer) network route between Tampa, Fla., and Miami.

The test, which utilized a live video feed from Verizon's national FiOS TV network as the "payload," was successfully completed Friday (Nov. 16). The 100 Gbps transmission was conducted on a Verizon Business ultra long-haul optical system carrying other live traffic at 10 Gbps. The test demonstrated that by deploying advanced electronics, an existing network system can easily and quickly be upgraded to 100Gbps.

The test was done using existing fiber that had been installed for 10 Gbps service. Here's a couple more quotes from the press release:

Unlike other trials that used 10 separate 10 Gbps wavelengths to carry 100 Gbps, the Verizon test utilized a 100 Gbps signal on a single wavelength, demonstrating Verizon's drive to promote "true" 100 Gbps in a serial fashion on just one transmission wavelength.

Like the equipment in the company's 40 Gbps trial in June 2004, the 100 Gbps equipment used in the field trial was implemented with a "plug and play" approach. This is a key objective for future commercial implementation, and means the technology was used without any changes to the fiber, amplifiers and other embedded equipment.

Amazing bandwidth obtained using existing fiber - the trial only swapped electronics using, according to the press release, Alcatel-Lucent's 1625 LambdaXtreme Transport system.

Interoperability - The Next Killer App?

Last month I was invited to attend a Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) New England Roundtable Event at a Comcast facility in Enfield, Connecticut. Interactive roundtable sessions were led by New England Multiple System Operator (MSO) Leaders on the next wave of changes for the Cable Telecommunications Industry. These interactive sessions were held on new business markets, new technologies. cross-platform content strategies and new products. One of the sessions I attended was on Pivot, a collaborative wireless product that connects Sprint with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox and Advanced/Newhouse Communications.

Pivot integrates a customers mobile phone, home phone, broadband and digital cable services into one interoperable technology and billing package commonly being referred to now as a "quadruple play". At the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) I.T. conference last March, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts discussed "killer apps" for products like Pivot. These apps include interoperability, wireless email and place shifted television. Here's a quote from Roberts at the conference:

"Over time [the killer app is] going to be interoperability. Can I take my email and get it on another device? I've been watching my on-demand shows, I've stopped watching at home, I want to finish the last five minutes. Place won't matter." Roberts continued: "There'll be a relationship with the company that will manage my data, my television, my phone, my address books, and my voice mails. The seamless nature of that is what mobility brings.

Robert's comments are right on the mark in my opinion.

Pivot also allows unlimited calling between your cable home service and mobile phones and you can do things like program your DVR using your cell phone. Here's a 45 second commercial you may have seen if you live in Pivot territory:

I was impressed with the first generation Pivot phones and applications I saw at the CTAM meeting last month. I walked away asking myself - Is it cable? Is it wireless? My answer - it's both - it's interoperable!

You can get more info at

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Uber-Bandwidth: Verizon Testing 400Mbps Service

Last month I wrote about Verizon's 20 Mbps symmetrical FiOS service - if you haven't had a chance to read that entry follow this link - there is a good description of asymmetrical and symmetrical services along with a quick video at the end demonstrating the differences between the two types of services.

A few days ago Gizmodo posted an interesting piece titled Next Up for Verizon FiOS: Invading Manhattan, Japan-Like Uber-Bandwidth. Gizmodo describes a Pennsylvania trial Verizon is running - in the trial they are seeing peak rates of 400Mbps downstream and sustained rates of 200Mbps upstream. Incredible bandwidth that, according to Gizmodo, is enough to make even the most hardened Tokyo resident jealous with their measly 100Mbps downstream fiber service. Yes - this is incredible bandwidth and we can only imagine the voice, video, data, entertainment and communications possibilities.

Let's back up a bit and take a look at the way Verizon is delivering services using the FiOS Fiber to the Home (FTTH) system. Verizon currently uses the Broadband Passive Optical Network (BPON) standard, which has limits of 622 Mbps downstream and 155 Mbps upstream for each Optical Line Terminal (OLT). OLT's are also referred to as service provider endpoints and one Verizon OLT will connect 32 homes with fiber.

Verizon is also currently using BPON OLTs to service their 20 Mbps symmetrical service which may or may not be a problem. Let's do some math:

Downstream Bandwidth
32 homes at 20 Mbps/home downstream require: (32 homes)*(20 Mbps/home) = 640 Mbps

Upstream Bandwidth
32 homes at 20 Mbps/home upstream require: (32 homes)*(20 Mbps/home) = 640 Mbps

You may think a fully loaded (32 home) BPON OLT running symmetrical 20 Mbps service does not provide enough bandwidth and you may or may not be right. It comes close in the downstream direction (622 Mbps available and 640 Mbps required) but is not even close in the upstream direction (155 Mbps available and 640 Mbps required). It turns out this may or not be that big of a deal - for now. Telephone company traffic engineers have always calculated voice switch connections using units called Erlangs. Erlangs are dimensionless units used as a statistical measure of the volume of telecommunications traffic. Brian Whitton, Verizon's Executive Director of Broadband Access Technologies is quoted in the Gizmodo piece on this topic as follows:

Of course 32 households couldn't run 20/20 full blast all at once but simultaneous peak usage on that scale is such a remote possibility it's not really an issue. Yet.

I always like to describe Erlangs and switch connection calculations using an example - have you ever got a fast busy signal when you tried to make a call? Perhaps on Mother's Day around 11 AM - a time when many of us are calling our Moms! The fast busy means there are no voice switch connections available. Why? Because the voice switch has has been configured more lines coming in to it than available connections. Most times and days of the year this is not a problem because we are not all trying to use the phone at the same time - it's only when call volume goes way up that we typically have problems - days like Mother's Day!

Right now Verizon is calculating that BPON will be ok for 20 Mbps symmetrical service - the chances of all 32 homes on a BPON OLT all purchasing 20 Mbps symmetrical service are slim and it's even more slim that everyone subscribing to a 20 Mbps symmetrical service will all be requiring maximum bandwidth at exactly the same time - today.

So how is Verizon delivering 400 Mbps downstream and 200 Mbps upstream? BPON only supports 622 Mbps downstream and 155 Mbps upstream - there is not enough upstream bandwidth for one customer with BPON and two customers at 400 Mbps is not possible. The answer is Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology - an evolution of the BPON standard that supports higher bandwidths. GPON provides a maximum of 2.48 Gbps downstream and 1.244 Gbps upstream - enough, using the statistical methods described above, for Verizon to be seeing peak rates of 400Mbps down and sustained rates of 200Mbps in the Pennsylvania trial.

The Gizmodo piece continues:

"Virtually" every network hub built after January will be GPON-based, says Verizon. It has the network set up for easy upgrading, so to bump current hubs to GPON, technicians just have to swap out the boxes on each end of the fiber cable they've already laid. Not too much of a hassle, in other words. As each current hub hits its bandwidth limit, it too will be updated to super-fast GPON.

For those of us that can get it [ I can't :( ] we are just seeing the beginning of these Uber-Bandwidths!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Booting Your PC in 5-10 Seconds

Phoenix Technologies Ltd. is developing a product called HyperSpace, which according to an article last week at EE Times, is a basic application environment for mobile systems intended to be a kind of complement to Windows. Here’s more from the EE Times piece:

HyperSpace aims to provide access to simplified versions of applications at times when Windows is not available because the system is booting, in a deep sleep mode or stalled. It will include a simplified Web browser, media player and e-mail client as well as systems management and security utilities.

While Windows can take as long as 45 seconds to boot, the HyperSpace environment should be ready in as little as 5-10 seconds. "No matter what Windows is doing you can access programs in HyperSpace," said Gaurav Banga, chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering at Phoenix.

HyperSpace will include basic applications like a web browser, media player, email client and some management and security applications.

These quick launch, Linux based products have been quietly sneaking up on us. Recently Insyde Software launched a product called FlashMate that runs a a flash module made by Silicon Storage Technology, Inc (SST). SST has a great technology brief, press release and presentation on FlashMate linked here. Here’s a of piece from the SST press release:

FlashMate technology utilizes a fully integrated hardware, firmware and software architecture to provide alternative hybrid-drive functionality to notebooks and total access to hard disk drive content even while the CPU is off. By managing the peripherals, FlashMate enables a wide range of new applications while the main system is either in pre-boot, standby, hibernate or completely shut down. FlashMate technology provides benefits beyond that of a hybrid-drive by giving users the ability to instantly access the content on the hard disk drive without having to power on the notebook for listening to MP3 files, viewing digital pictures, accessing email and more.

FlashMate uses a hard drive with a flash drive data cache. Caching is an excellent way to minimize hard drive access and save wear and tear on the drive and also reduce the power used to access the drive. Flashmate also gives users access to data on the hard drive and applications retrieved off USB devices.

Splashtop is a similar product that allows you to boot your machine in seconds and access web based content. Spashtop is currently only available on Asus P5E3 Deluxe / WiFi AP motherboards. These boards are sold by most of the major computer retailers. You can get an idea of how these applications work by watching this 2 minute and 39 second video from Splashtop.

I’ve got in the habit of hibernating my Windows machines because they just seem to take an incredible amount of time to boot. I also find myself using web-based applications like Skype and Google Docs frequently - a 5-10 second boot time to these types of applications is very appealing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What You Can and Cannot Do with an iPhone on an Airplane

Traveling to Nashville on Sunday I had a chance to experiment with what the iPhone can and cannot do in airplane mode. Here’s my list in iPhone Dock (main screen) order:

SMS: I can read prior messages but cannot reply while in airplane mode. I tried queuing up a message thinking I could send the next time I got a connection. After entering my message and hitting send while still in airplane mode I got “Error Sending Message” which kicked me back to the message reply screen.

Calendar: I am not using the iPhone Dock calendar but it appears to work. Mike Q is using Gsync to two-way sync his Google calendar with iCal on his MacBook. This then syncs with the iPhone calendar. I had tried GSync before and had some issues with it and ended up using Calgoo. I believe I can do something similar with Calgoo and will work on this week when I get a few minutes. I'll also take another look at Gsync.

Photos: I can view all of my photos stored locally on the iPhone.

YouTube: Does not work and produces message “You must disable airplane mode to access data” and displays a Cancel and Disable button.

Stocks: Same response as YouTube.

Maps: Same response as YouTube. I did have a map of Nashville that was still displayed from my last connection. I could pinch zoom the map.

Weather: Same response as YouTube. I could flick through all of my city listings. They displayed the weather from the last time I had a live connection and got an update.

Clock, Calculator and Notes: All work fine.

iTunes: Does not work and requires a WiFi connection. iTunes also does not work with just an EDGE (cellular network) connection.

Phone: I can access all of my contacts, add, make changes, etc. I could also listen to voice mail.

Email: I could read messages that were stored on the iPhone the last time I had a connection. I could also reply to any messages – they went into the outbox and were sent the next time I got a connection.

Safari: If I did not power the iPhone off the web browser allowed me to view sites I had looked at and left open the last time I had a connection. The sites did go away when I powered the device off and on.

Overall Impressions
Email works great and I love the ability to listen to voice mail without having a connection. Not being able to access my favorite Mockdock applications, including Engadget, Digg, Chess, Bejeweled and especially Google Reader (that I use to read RSS feeds I subscribe to) is disappointing. I’ve got to do some research on Google Gears and determine whether I can get the feeds offline. I’m looking forward, with the release of the iPhone SDK, to applications that run off the main Dock. And… yes – I realize I could have just put the iPhone in airplane mode to run these tests – I did not have to get on an airplane!

Read Show Notes and listen to Mike Q and my latest Podcast titled Apple, Microsoft and Google Updates linked here.
Listen directly in your web browser by clicking here.
Podcasts also free on iTunes.

Friday, November 9, 2007

5 Days with the iPhone

I've been relatively quiet here about the iPhone I purchased last Saturday evening. I did mention it in a podcast with Mike Q last weekend and I did tweet I got one on my Twitter micro-blog earlier this week. Overall I have to say I am very impressed so far. Here's a quick rundown of my initial impressions:

WiFi: Performance/range is good and comparable to my MacBook.

AT&T EDGE Network: Used when out of WiFi range, I find it performs well. I don't find myself getting impatient with the slower bandwidth (EDGE runs at a maximum of around 180Kbps).

Safari Web Browser: The browsing experience on the smaller screen works well and comes very close to a larger screen experience. I'm looking forward to a Firefox version next year!

EMail: I'm using my GMail address as my primary account and have enabled IMAP. Over the course of an average day I find myself accessing email via a web browser on various machines, via Entourage on my MacBook and via Mail on my iPhone. IMAP has allowed me to better keep track of what I've done using different access devices and applications. For example, if I read and delete a message on my iPhone the message does not appear if I go to another device (like it will with POP access) and access the account.

Attachments: I can view email attachments (pdf, doc, docx, etc) with the iPhone but cannot edit them. I do have iZoho - iPhone Office, an office app that runs on the iPhone, linked on my Mockdock (explained below) but have not used it yet.

Calendar: I'm accessing my Google calendar using Safari on the iPhone. The Google mobile calendar interface takes some getting used to and it is time consuming to add calendar entries. I also cannot delete Google mobile calendar entries.

Some of my favorite applications: is a website designed for the iPhone that allows you to add application buttons - the screen mimics the iPhone dock. If you don't have an iPhone you can still access Mockdock from any PC browser.

Twitter: I can tweet from my iPhone. I've got Twitter on my Mockdock.

Google Reader: Another application that runs in Safari and is also on my Mockdock.

YouTube: All I can say is WOW!

Things I don't like/need to be improved:

The Battery Indicator: I have a hard time determining how much charge I have left. Give me a button I can push quick that is big enough to see!

Cutting/copying and Pasting: Can't do it on the iPhone... yet.

Google Calendar: I already mentioned I find adding entries time consuming and items cannot be deleted. This goes for any mobile device running Google Mobile Calendar so it is a Google issue and not an Apple one. I'm sure this is a feature/function Google is working on. I have not used the Apple calendar application that comes on the phone.

Things that have surprised me:

The Virtual Keyboard: I'm getting used to it and am getting pretty fast. It is a major improvement over mechanicl keyboards forund on other devices (in my opinion).

SMS: I've never been much of a "text'er" but the interface is really slick. I've been using it.

Battery Life
: I have not killed it yet and have used it extensively for voice, iPod playing and data. I like the fact that I can plug it into the USB port on my computer and charge it that way.

If I had to estimate I'd say I can do 80-90 percent of my PC-type work effectively and efficiently with the iPhone. It also has replaced the Cell phone, digital camera and iPod (along with the different chargers) I've been lugging around for the past couple of years. Overall I am really impressed.

Read Show Notes and listen to Mike Q and my latest Podcast titled Apple, Microsoft and Google Updates linked here.
Listen directly in your web browser by clicking here.
Podcasts also free on iTunes.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Global Positioning System (GPS) Jammers

I recently bought a Bluetooth GPS receiver and software for my PDA and it has changed the way I drive. I find myself traveling to a lot of new places and I often end up renting a car when I get there. With my GPS system I can pre-load maps and location destinations (like hotels and meeting addresses) before I arrive. When I get to the rental car I turn the receiver on, put it on the dashboard and turn the PDA on. In a couple of clicks my PDA is talking to me, guiding me turn my turn to where I'm supposed to be going. The device has saved me a lot of time, stress and confusion when I'm trying to get to someplace I'm not familiar with.

GPS locations are based on positioning relative to 24 satellites orbitting 12,000 miles above the earth and generating (by the time they get to earth) relatively weak wireless signals. As a result, it does not take much signal power to jam them. GPS works on two different frequencies:1575.42 MHz for non-military public use and 1227.6 MHz used for the United States military. The military has used GPS jammers for a long time to confuse the enemy. Consider a GPS guided missile directed at a specific location - if a target location is jammed missiles will likely not be able to hit that location.

GPS jamming went mainstream with an article published in Phrack Magazine in January 2003 titled Low Cost and Portable GPS Jammer. Here's a quote from the article: "the onslaught of cheap GPS-based navigation (or hidden tracking devices) has made it necessary for the average citizen to take up the fine art of electronic warfare."

Here's a few more quotes from the Phrack article:

Several companies now sell "hidden" GPS based tracking devices which mount inside
or underneath your vehicle. Some transmit the coordinates, via cellular phone, of
your vehicle's present and/or past locations for weeks at a time without battery
changes or court orders!

Vehicle rental companies have been known to use GPS tracking devices to verify you
don't speed or abuse their rental vehicles. The unsuspecting renter is often faced
with these hidden abuse "fees" after returning the rental vehicle.

Law enforcement agencies...... keep track of house arrest prisoners with simple GPS
based tracking bracelets. Some even use GPS for automatic vehicle location

Cellular phone companies, trucking companies, private investigators, toll-roads,
aircraft, those "protect your child" systems and many more services are all fully
involved with the use of GPS based tracking. The problem is, do you really want
everyone to know where you are?

I was watching local news the other evening....... a small town near where I live has installed GPS units on all of the town highway department trucks. The location of all vehicles is monitored and administrators know where their vehicles are, where workers have been and where they are going. The town justified the purchase based on the price of gas and wear and tear on the vehicles and expected a full return on the technology investment within 3 years.

Some that work for these kinds of companies and organizations don't like the idea of someone knowing exactly where they are all the time and have obtained, or are considering obtaining, GPS signal jammers. A quick search on eBay for "gps jammer" yields several battery and cigarette lighter devices starting at $76. has a video posted on YouTube demonstrating their GPS Counter Track device:

Interesting technology and the devices look like they are fun to play with. However, I don't believe I would risk my job.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Traditional and Modern Methods of Football Signal Jamming

Those of you that are football fans probably watched the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots play last Sunday. On the first play of the fourth quarter, New England Quarterback Tom Brady threw a successful 14 yard pass to receiver Randy Moss. What was interesting about this play was the crowd noise. If you watched the game on CBS you heard A LOT of noise before and during the play and a noticeable lack of noise immediately after Moss had caught the ball. Here's a clip on YouTube of the play and the catch.

In no way am I implying that the Colts cheated in any way! Crowd noise is one of the home field advantages and is an old-fashioned attempt at lowering the audio signal to noise ratio (SNR). I covered signal to noise ratio in another blog on Monday.

Here's how crowd noise reduces the audio SNR - the visiting team quarterback is calling signals and the crowd is making noise. If the signal (quarterback) strength is weak compared to the noise (crowd) the rest of the offensive team has trouble hearing the signals. The more noise the better as far as home teams are concerned - It's perfectly legal this year in the NFL with a rule change this past spring eliminating a five yard defensive penalty (rarely called in the past) for excessive crowd noise.

Let's get back to the Colts/Patriots game - was the crowd noise amplified or enhanced in some way at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis on Sunday? It appears not - the enhancement was done by CBS for the television viewers. The NFL quickly released a statement on their website, here's a piece of that release:

CBS has informed us that the unusual audio moment heard by fans during the Patriots-Colts game was the result of tape feedback in the CBS production truck and was isolated to the CBS broadcast. It was in no way related to any sound within the stadium and could not be heard in the stadium.

That takes care of the crowd noise - now let's consider the wireless communications systems used at the game. In his press conference after the game, New England coach Bill Belichick said the wireless communications system between the coaches and quarterback Tom Brady was "basically useless". Here's a quote from an AP piece published on Yahoo News:

..... Belichick said he was more concerned with communication problems he said existed between Patriots coaches and Brady.

"Basically, we didn't have a coach-to-quarterback operation, so we had to signal in all of the plays, which is unusual, but that's the way it was," he said. "What all was going on, I can't tell you, but I can tell you that, from a functional standpoint, the coach-to-quarterback was basically useless."

Here's where my mind is going...... I've written about wireless jammers over the past couple of days here and have discussed devices that are small enough to fit inside a pack of cigarettes to ones that are large enough to kill cell phones in large banquet halls. Could a fan smuggle in a jammer with some kind of directional antenna that could be aimed at the sidelines of the opposing team? I'm not accusing anyone of any kind of crime but I believe it may be theoretically possible. I also know nothing about security at NFL games and have not attended one in the past couple of years.

But...... Would a stadium security person have any idea what a jammer was?

And..... Could one be disguised and built into something like a portable TV set that I've seen fans bring to games in the past?

I do think if I was an NFL coach I'd go back to wired headsets and hand signals to my quarterback until these issues get resolved.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

WiFi Jamming and Defense

The most popular WiFi standards today, 802.11b and 802.11g, both operate in the 2.4 GHz (Giga Hertz) frequency band and are susceptible to interference from other products operating in the 2.4 GHz band including microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, baby monitors and cordless telephones. 802.11n, currently in Draft 2.0 standard (with projected standard approval in the fall of 2008), can use both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies.

WiFi signal jamming can be intentional using jamming or unintentional using devices that use the same frequency band. For example, if you live in an apartment or condominium with neighbors close by you could be unintentionally jamming their WiFi network every time you use your 2.4 GHz wireless phone.

Dedicated WiFi Jammers are extremely easy to find on the Internet and also relatively easy for someone with electronics and soldering experience to make. One of the more popular home-made jammers is called the Wave Bubble, a self-tuning, wide-bandwidth portable RF (Radio Frequency) jammer that is small enough to fit inside a pack of cigarettes. The Wave Bubble (also refered to as Wavebubble) is tunable and can be used to jam two-band systems such as cell and single-band systems like cordless phones, GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth devices.

Wave Bubble jamming frequency tuning is done by plugging the device into the USB port on a computer and entering the frequencies that are to be blocked. The user can even enter more than one frequency range and the device will advance to the next frequency in memory each time it is powered off and on. Wave Bubble output power is relatively low at .1 Watt for the high frequency bands and .3 Watts for the low frequency bands. Even at these low power levels, with a properly tuned external antenna, the effective range is about a 20 foot radius. With just the internal antenna range is significantly less.

Some of you are probably asking why I'm writing about this stuff - in my opinion it is no secret (try Googling "wireless jammers")....... and....... I have always believed that in any situation, in order to properly defend against an attack, it is important to understand as much as possible about the method of attack.

Now - regarding defense - the Daily Cup of Tech has a good list of tips to help defend against someone jamming your WiFi network. Here it is:

  1. Always wire your access points. This way, you cannot be jammed from the server.
  2. Wire access points directly back to the central switch and try to avoid bridging your connections. This will help prevent a cascade effect.
  3. Do periodic audits of your “air space”.
  4. Don’t broadcast that you are using wireless technology. Turn off your SSID on your wireless systems.
  5. Do not place server rooms on an external wall. This could allow someone to jam your wireless link without even entering your office.
  6. Catalog and label all server room hardware. Periodically audit your hardware lists.
  7. Tightly restrict physical access to your server rooms.
  8. Train all employees to immediately questions unaccompanied strangers in the office.
Once again - remember - these devices are illegal in the United States.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Jamming Cell Phones

Jamming cell phone signals is illegal in the United States but not illegal in other countries. As a result, people in the United States are finding and buying these devices on the Internet. The New York Times ran an interesting piece on November 2 titled Devices Enforce Silence of Cellphones, Illegally. The piece starts with the following:

One afternoon in early September, an architect boarded his commuter train and became a cellphone vigilante. He sat down next to a 20-something woman who he said was “blabbing away” into her phone.

“She was using the word ‘like’ all the time. She sounded like a Valley Girl,” said the architect, Andrew, who declined to give his last name because what he did next was illegal.

Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chatterer’s cellphone transmission — and any others in a 30-foot radius. “She kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end,” he said.

I've written about wireless signal jamming in the past - specifically when I wrote about the New England Patriots video taping scandal that included rumors of wireless communications signal jamming. I have to admit, while watching the Colts/Patriots game yesterday and seeing Tom Brady struggle hearing plays using his helmet headset, jamming was on my mind. It got to the point plays were being relayed in the old fashioned way - was it crowd noise or could it have been signal jamming?

Let's take a basic look at the technology. Communications technicians and engineers are constantly aware of something called the signal-to-noise ratio, commonly abbreviated as SNR. The noise we are typically dealing with in unjammed situations is commonly referred to as Johnson or White Noise and it's always there. If systems are designed properly and when in range, communications signals are stronger than the noise and the noise is less significant because the SNR is high (think divide signal strength by noise strength). Basically, if a wanted communications signal is stronger than the noise then communications happens. If the noise is stronger than the communications signal then communications does not happen. We've all experience this in our cars while driving and listening to a radio station. As we get closer to a station signal source (antenna), the signal gets stronger and we hear the station clearer.

Now back to jammers - in simplest terms, jammers work by sending out strong signals that overpower the wanted communications signals between a cell phone and cellular antenna towers. Basically they generate the equivalent of noise at specific cell frequencies. Phones end up not communicating with the towers and users see a "No Service" type message on their phones.

A quick search of the Internet brings up a number of off-shore companies selling signal jammers.
One of the more popular companies is London based sells lots of different jamming devices ranging from a $149 portable jammer that runs on 9V batteries and has a range of 5m to
a $3995 ultra high power phone jammer which is described as the most sophisticated digital cell phone jammer of its class, with tough die-cast aluminum casing and dual inter cooler, ideal for large hall type rooms or outdoor locations. It comes with a high gain base station type antenna.

The New York Times quotes's site operator as follows:

"Victor McCormack, the site’s operator, says he ships roughly 400 jammers a month into the United States, up from 300 a year ago. Orders for holiday gifts, he said, have exceeded 2,000."

I'll write more about different kinds of wireless signal jamming this week. Remember - the devices are illegal in the United States.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Verizon FiOS Progress Update

Following my post a couple days ago on AT&T's Project Lightspeed progress update, let's take a look at what Verizon is doing with FiOS. FiOS is Verizon's Fiber to the Home (FTTH), also know as Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) product offerring. The service provides high-bandwdtih data, voice and video services. The company has posted some interesting data on their policy blog for the third quarter of 2007. Here's a summary:

Fiber Implementation:

FiOS is currently available in parts of 16 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

At the end of September 2007, Verizon had passed about 8.5 million homes and businesses – installing more than 457 million feet of fiber in parts of 16 states.

Verizon expects to continue passing some 3 million premises annually through 2010,

when the company expects to have passed about 18 million homes, or over half the homes

it serves.

Verizon will begin boosting speeds and capabilities on its all-fiber network when it begins

deploying advanced G-PON electronics in 2007. This technology can increase

downstream broadband speeds by up to four times, and upstream speeds by eight times.

Verizon is investing nearly $23 billion in the FiOS project, between 2004 and 2010.

Broadband Products:

At the end of September 2007, Verizon was marketing its industry-leading, high-speed FiOS Internet service – with downstream speeds of up to 50 Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20 Mbps – in over 2,000 communities in all 16 states where the company is building its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network.

As of September 30, 2007, Verizon has more than 1.3 million FiOS Internet customers, an

increase of 202,000 during the third quarter of 2007 – or about 3,600 new FiOS Internet

customers every business day.

Verizon expects to attract up to 7 million FiOS Internet customers by year-end 2010 – a

penetration rate of 35 percent to 40 percent.


At the end of September 2007, Verizon’s all-digital FiOS TV service was available to over

4.7 million premises in 12 of the states where the company is building FTTP: California,

Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.

As of September 30, 2007, Verizon has over 717,000 FiOS TV customers. During just the

third quarter of 2007, Verizon added a net of 202,000 new FiOS TV customers -- or about

3,200 new customers every business day.

Verizon's FiOS TV delivers hundreds of digital video and music channels, high-definition

programming, video-on-demand content, a robust interactive media guide and other

customer-friendly features.

Verizon expects to attract from 3 million to 4 million FiOS TV customers by 2010, which

would be a market penetration of 20 percent to 25 percent.

As of September 2007, Verizon had 862 local video franchises covering about 11.2 million households.

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.