Thursday, August 31, 2006

Faster Than WiMax: Samsung 4G

On the heels of Sprint's announcement that they will roll out a nation-wide WiMax 802.16 network, which would be capable of download speeds up to 4 Mbps, Samsung announced their 4G would provide blazing speeds of 1 Gbps:

The bus was moving at 60kmph - which you rarely see in real life - but it was proof enough, the Korean giant boasted, as the demonstration included handover between cells. 1Gbit/s is 50 times faster than the current Mobile WiMAX specification, 802.16e. At walking pace, the demonstration moved bits at 1GB/s.
The faster, the better.

Coburn-Obama: Bringing Transparency To Everyone

More than a few blogs today have ousted Sen. Ted Stevens as placing a 'secret hold' on a bill that would publish a full account of how the government spends money. According to the AAPD:

Coburn/Obama bill requires the creation of a single, searchable website – available to the public at no cost to access – that will allow American taxpayers to search for comprehensive data about how their money is spent. The Coburn/Obama bill has already received the overwhelming support of more than 70 organizations of all ideological affiliations across the country.
Forgetting about many people's feelings for this particular Senator, I'm intrigued about what people could do with access to this online repository of information. Its obvious intention is to "democratize democracy," giving people immediate access to exactly what the government is doing.

But by publishing this information on the web, it gives people freedom to analyze it in ways most government officials would never have thought possible. Ingenuous Americans would be able to analyze all sorts of data, comparing it in ways that are useful to voters, not politicians.
Maybe that's what scares Mr. Stevens.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Singapore Gets Wireless 2.0

Singapore is about to improve their communications infrastructure, widening the gap between many nations and the United States (currently 16th in broadband penetration). As Boing Boing reports, SingTel plans to roll out nation-wide WiFi service.

Singapore already had one public hot spot for every square kilometer at the end of last year. Communication between hot spots will be augmented by mesh networking, according to the Intelligent Nation report. Commercial WiMax--a wireless standard that allows signals to travel over longer distances than those using Wi-Fi--will begin in Singapore by the end of the year, said Chang.
Clearly there is a huge amount of value that companies can generate by providing this kind of service. Though this is starting to catch on in the U.S., there's still a long way to catch up.

Tivo Series 3 - Almost Here!

Though most people will balk at the estimated $800, HD Beat brings us some good news. Thanks to Todd, we hear that,

TiVo Series 3 might be out of beta soon and is now showing up in their system. According to the computer It is scheduled to be in stock on September 17th with a Best Buy SKU of 7974418 (UPC of 400079744186 and Model TCD648250B). The price is listed at $799, but the street date field is blank. We're hoping that means we have less than 30 days to get our hands on the hottest HDTV DVR yet.
While the box and specs look great, and most people will enjoy HD recording and dual-cable card support, I'm more curious with what else Tivo will be able to do. They should take some cues from YouTube and find ways to let users send content to Tivo and the Tivo community.

Few other brands can generate as much excitement as Tivo does (I went to a packed Tivo Valentines Party earlier this year). If users could have ways to create their own applications that Tivo could run, Tivo may find that more people would be more willing to shell out $800 for their new box.

Friday, August 25, 2006

It's Crumbelievable: Colbert's Long Tail

Stephen Colbert's show, the Colbert Report, has gotten amazingly smart. The other night, he ran segments titled "It's Crumbelievable," focusing on today's pop culture and how it's much more fragmented today thanks to falling costs of production and distribution.

He talked about the commercials that used to define American culture, and how the top-rated show has fallen from 62% of all viewers (I Love Lucy, in 1950), to just 25% (CSI, today). He also discussed OK Go's phenomenal videos (Google Video), but Colbert made the point to highlight the variety of user-created content reusing them.

There's no one band we all love, no one newsman we can all trust/believe is a subversive. There's not even one video game, where we all close our eyes, we can still see the shapes falling.

The greatest danger to pop culture today is the Internets [sic]. Hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed celebrities grab for the brass ring of our attention...
Colbert's segments further proclaim the virtues of Chris Anderson's principle of the Long Tail, and how it keeps getting flatter. Now that content creators can circumvent the control of the music industry (video, publishing, games, etc.) using the newer democratic tools of production, we'll get to see a lot more creativity that people actually want to see, as clearly evidenced by the fan-created OK Go videos.

(Update: Thanks Chris Anderson! I'm glad you liked the segment too!)


I Want Google's Problems

Apparently Google has so much cash, it needs an SEC exemption from being classified as an Investment Bank. It's difficult to imagine what one could do with $10 Billion in liquid assets, but it makes it easier to imagine a GoogleNet!

(Thanks GMSV!)

Cooperative Companies

Increasing numbers of companies and organization are beginning to see how the value of cooperation can be far greater than direct competition. From mash-up sites and Web 2.0 to AT&T-Yahoo!, survival in the tech world is dependent on a company's ability to play nice and work with others.

Crunch (TechCrunch, MobileCrunch, CrunchNotes, CrunchBoard - they need an umbrella name) gets this. They recently launched a great jobs site for tech work, along with a couple other notable blogs 37signals and GigaOm. Michael Arrington wanted to cooperate:

The first thing we did when we decided to start building CrunchBoard was ping Jason Fried at 37 Signals to talk to him about partnering with their job board. I imagined an API for entering jobs, and an API for outputting jobs, that could be displayed anywhere. Jason didn't want to partner beyond having me post his listing on TechCrunch, so we built our own.

When I realized Om was building yet another job board I told him flat out I wanted to partner with him, offering to make CrunchBoard a new company and splitting equity with him 50/50. Hell, we could even rename it to something more neutral. Given that TechCrunch has more traffic than GigaOm right now, and that we had already built and launched the board, I thought that was a fair offer.

Om passed on my proposal, and I'’m sure he has his reasons. But in my mind, this is all a very web 1.0 way of thinking. I don'’t want to have my own garden, a sort of mini I want to be a part of an ecosystem. There's no way we can compete with the big job boards fighting individual battles. We need to partner, create a distributed system, and win virally.

Now for the consumer, it doesn't matter any longer how many of these services are out there, since it's pretty simple to subscribe to each's feed and see everyone's postings. But for them, they can provide more value to customers (the job posters) by providing access to a larger audience. And that will drive up postings, causing a positive network effect spiral, and everyone wins!

Sellaband: Music Marketing or Music Market?

The Digital Music Weblog posted about an interesting website called Sellaband, which connects music groups with potential fans, not just for marketing, but for investing. According to TechCrunch,

The way it works is this: bands upload sample music to, promote the heck out of their profile page and ask fans to chip in $10 per share of a recording that will be produced when the band raises $50,000. The fans can take their money back out at any time before the goal is met.
From Sellaband,
The music on the CD will be given away as free downloads on our download portal. All advertising revenues generated on SellaBand will be shared equally between you, the other Believers, the Artist and SellaBand. The amount of money you and the band will get paid depends on the advertising revenues and the market-share your band gains on our download portal.

This seems really interesting, but not for its goal of viral advertising/marketing for indie artists, which companies have been trying to do since MySpace launched several bands' careers. What's great about this is that it forces content-driven communities to put their money where their mouth is. Who knows if the business model would work or not, but it could be the last step of democratizing the music industry, with easier tools for bands to find financial investors.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Contango: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

NPR had a phenomenally interesting segment today on All Things Considered talking about todayÂ’s oil market. Its main premise was that todayÂ’s high oil prices are not caused by international conflicts (wars in the Middle East), or by surging demand from countries like India or China. Rather, it is due to an interesting phenomenon economists call contango, a scenario that occurs when a commodityÂ’s future price has a higher value than its current price (spot price).

Oil companies and others like to buy futures contracts to make sure they've got oil coming to them well into the future. But lately, people who have nothing to do with the oil industry are buying oil futures, holding them as can't-lose investments that can return well over 10 percent.

Investment banks from Morgan Stanley to Goldman Sachs are making so much money from oil futures that they've become a hot investment for all sorts of big-money players.

"I think if you saw all the pension funds walk away," says Ben Dell, an oil analyst at Sanford Bernstein, "you'd probably see a $20 drop in the crude price."

Why is this return not quickly arbitraged away? It shouldn’t be too unusual for future prices to be higher than today’s prices (especially considering inflation). According to Wikipedia, “The contango should equal the cost of carry (opportunity cost + warehousing/storage), because producers and consumers can compare the futures contract price against the spot price plus storage, and choose the better one. Arbitrageurs can sell one and buy the other for a risk-free profit too.”

Clearly I’m not a financial markets expert, but this whole contango argument seems to violate my favorite principle of economics: there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (really, follow the link – I love Wikipedia!) Some possible arguments for what could be causing this market failure:

  • International uncertainty
  • Limited supply of oil
  • Too many middlemen: All these i-banks buy the oil from Chevron, then sell futures back to Chevron. They make their high return, then Chevron can apply their standard margin back to the future oil. The margin on the higher prices just generates more revenue for the company.

Thoughts? Maybe someone understands the theory behind this and can help everyone out! I've never asked for comments before, but this one needs some input!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Do We Need More Service Providers?

Crunch - well, both TechCrunch and CrunchGear - reported today (Good Morning Silicon Valley has a great article as well) that Cisco Systems has recently acquired Arroyo Systems and Scientific Atlanta in order to develop Video-On-Demand services.

Cisco, a networking giant that makes very unsexy gear, also acquired Scientific-Atlanta and is working on both software and hardware for the series of tubes that will soon carry on-demand PR()N to all of our homes and businesses.

The major problems we’re facing right now are bandwidth issues and compression speed. Cisco’s efforts should streamline the process a bit and actually build a lot of the heavy lifting right into the hardware.

On the surface, this seems like just another major tech company trying to get into the on-demand game. Cisco seems to be in a very unique position to do this, but what kind of part would they play? It wouldn't seem like they would be a service provider, actually providing content to consumers.

Hopefully, content providers could spring up to take advantage of Cisco's VoD platform. Netflix/Tivo would not want to create the hardware involved with VoD delivery, and could potentially use what Cisco creates. Or maybe companies like YouTube could push their content (and communities) to the boxes!

The Next Cell Phones

Business Week has a great article on their website about what the next generation of cell phone will look like. Their big ideas:

  • Cell phones will be a key fashion accessory
  • People will choose phones that cater to their personal interests
  • Niche (read: Long-Tail ) phones will become more prevalent
  • "Communications Device" will replace "Cell Phones"

The big change the article predicts, however, is that new phones will be designed for a better user experience. And that can't come at a better time. With a few exceptions (like Treo/Blackberry), most of today's mobile devices are built on the same idea as a normal telephone. There's a dialing pad and a screen to see what you're working on. Additional features, like a camera and web browser, were built on top of that. As we get closer to "Wireless 2.0 ," however, new available features and usage will outstrip the current design, which could take many forms:

On Aug. 21, designer Pilotfish and sensor maker Synaptics are releasing a prototype of a cell phone, and the funny thing is, it doesn't have any buttons. Instead, the Onyx device understands signs and gestures, thanks to the sensitive touch pad covering most of its surface. It opens and closes applications when swiped by one or two fingers. The phone recognizes shapes and body parts. Lift Onyx to your cheek and it will pick up a call. "The goal of this concept was to show people a completely different way of designing and making a phone," says Mariel Vantatenhove, senior product line director at Synaptics . "We think that the market is ready for some sort of change."

New technologies drive many of the new designs. One example: Synaptics ClearPad, a new type of touch screen that will become commercially available later this year. Unlike today's touch screens, which aren't entirely transparent and often not very sensitive—we've all had to endlessly tap one with a stylus to get a response—ClearPad is clear, so it can be used as a sensitive overlay to a cell-phone display. Another innovation likely to change the cell-phone's appearance: flexible displays. An electronic ink screen prototype, developed by Koninklijke Philips Electronics and startup E-Ink, is thin and flexible like paper so it can be worn wrapped around a cell phone. Users can unwrap it to view a map on a larger screen. Eventually, the display could be used to watch video.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Google's web-based text editor, Writely , seems pretty decent, at first glance. It has all the basic things you would want with a good text editor - bullets, numbered lists, cut and paste, and hyperlinks. Spell check is nice, taking ideas from Word and underlining "misspelled" words (though I'm curious why "Writely" and "blgo" aren't pre-loaded into the dictionary). Ctrl-functions (cut, copy, paste) work well, though I would like to be able to drag highlighted text. Saving as PDF is especially nice.

One thing I really like is the way Writely merges typical word processing with web publishing. Posting documents to a blog is fairly easy, and I hope Google finds a way to reuse their Writely functionality with other text-entry applications, like Gmail and Blogspot. Users can modify the HTML code backing their page, and the hyperlink feature is pretty nice too - rather than simply entering a URL, it provides options for displaying text & flyover text, email links, and other documents.

Overall, I think this is a strong application, and may become a good blog editor for those blogs that have several people working on them. It won't replace Word (though you can save Writely documents into Word), but it's a good tool nonetheless.

ps - titles don't carry over for blog posts...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes, Delivered

As a very off-topic post, I went to see Snakes On a Plane last night. Expecting a boring, low-production movie, it was very surprising to be so entertained. It's clearly not an action movie, or a horror movie. It's pure comedy with a few jumps - and even the New York Times recommends it!

The film doesn't get off to a good start. We see an Asian Mafia coming after poor surfer dude, and poor surfer dude making the tough life decision to go testify against them. The fun starts about 20 minutes in, though, when the snakes are released. Any time you think "Is this movie really going to do that?" they do. They follow through, they deliver in every moment that you want them to. Samuel L is Samuel L, and it's always good to see a little Juliana Marguiles every now and then.

See the movie, and have a good time.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Long Tail of Google Searches?

Ars Technica has a great article today about the "googlearchy," citing a study that refutes the idea that the more popular something is (the higher in the search results), the more popular it will become (the more sites will link to it).

Using data regarding page rankings from Yahoo and traffic figures from Alexa, the authors tested whether this expectation held up against real-world data. They plotted the traffic vs. inbound links in such a way that the slope of the line should reveal whether page rankings increased traffic. For sites that received anywhere from about 100 to 1,000,000 inbound links, traffic and links retained a linear relationship, but the slope was nothing like predictions. Traffic increased far less than would be expected if search engines were enhancing popularity. It actually increased less than would be predicted if traffic were directly proportional to inbound links. In the end, it appears that each inbound link only increases traffic by a factor of 0.8. The results suggest that the reliance of web users on search engines is actually suppressing the impact of popularity.

This becomes even more clear when the data outside this range is examined: both at the high and low end, the curves go flat. At the low end, this suggests that low-popularity sites are retaining traffic at a rate disproportionate to the number of places that link to them. Meanwhile, at the high end, sites seem to reach saturation; regardless of their inbound links and page ranks, they cannot expand their (already considerable) audience.

Chris Anderson will love this! Google obviously makes things easily searchable, and every website is equally accessible by its users. So it makes sense that the long tail of websites should be flatter than some people expect - and the perfect example of the long tail phenomenon!

Google Music Trends

This is the first music chart (Google Music Trends) I've seen where I really agree with people. That encourages me since it means that other Google Talk users (who in my mind are the tech-elite, since Google has the lowest usage stats and only the "elite" would have turned on this service already) have great music taste. I'll be checking in here pretty often to get tips for new tunes, like Muse, Thome Yorke, and Coldplay which seem to dominate so far.

One problem is that there no "all genre" group - so you can't tell which is more popular - Muse or Hum Tum, topping the Alternative and Hindi genres, respectively...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cell Carriers Frustrate All

Crippling devices is a cornerstone of differentiated pricing. Printer manufacturers are known to install chips to slow down printers - they can make one model, but charge different prices for different speeds. This makes a lot of sense, because consumers can pay for what they want in the market. What is frustrating is when a communications company cripples devices for control. I have high hopes for the future of "Wireless 2.0," where platforms that allow for open cooperation beat the pants off of those that try and control how users interact with the network.

Robert Cooper of O'Reilly On Java notes,

If you buy a V300 or RAZR or whatever from any major carrier, it comes crippled. They only want you to use ringtones, wallpaper and –god forbid– applications that they sell you. Lots of phones in the carrier specific versions are crippled beyond belief. I don’t think the fault is J2ME’s so much as the way we use cell phone networks.

I hate to bring the whole political aspect into this, but this is directly on point with the network neutrality debate and the Trusted Computing/Paladium issue: the hardware and the network should be there for what you want to use them for, not some highly managed, highly structured regime. One of the reasons I, personally, consider the NetNeutral intitiative important is I donÂ’t want my Cable Modem service to end up looking like the cell phone networks.

Google WiFi now Available!

I've been excited about this one for a long time. Google's been trying to stick it to the anti-Net Neutrality camp for a while, and now they're starting to do it.

As Engadget reported, Google's officially out of beta and launched their free WiFi service in Mountain View. It's the first step towards a ubiquitous, ever-present Internet that everyone can access, all the time. My guess is that even if this isn't free for long (or everywhere), a service like this will be incredibly valuable not only for consumers, but for entrepreneurs finding new ways to take advantage of being able to connect to the Internet no matter where you are.

To make it even better, Google's apparently been busy buying "dark fiber." Maybe this will be their end-run around the Telco's monopoly on the Internet. Hopefully Google won't be evil, and live by the Net Neutrality principles they've been pushing for so hard!

Skype For Pocket PC

CrunchGear just posted about the Skype PocketPC 2.1 with a better UI tailored for the mobile platform. I love how Skype has been addressing how their technology can be easily used by wireless devices over the past several months, and partnering with other companies to help promote the Skype platform.

Skype is a perfect example of an excellent "Wireless 2.0" company. By partnering and cooperating with other players in the market, they can build a better, open platform for IP communications. Allowing a plethora of devices to access their service gives manufacturers and consumers complete flexibility to meet their needs as they want.

Tesla Car - Sweet Green, or Ticking Time Bomb?

August's issue of Wired has a great article about a new high-performance electric car. Besides looking totally sweet (it was designed by Lotus engineers), it boasts 0-60 in 4 seconds, and runs completely on Lithium-Ion batteries, giving it a fuel efficiency of a couple cents per mile. That's a 10X improvement over my Accord's 13 cents per mile.

Now Engadget is reporting that the first 100 are sold out to the Silicon Valley studs like Larry and Sergei, and Jeff Skoll. I'm sure George Clooney is also one of the lucky few who can shell out the $100,000 deposit to pick one of these bad boys up.

I think this is a terrific innovation, and we clearly need to see much more of this kind of thinking, but I still have one major concern before I rush out to buy one of these myself. Lithium-Ion batteries aren't turning out to be the safest power source ever. I just had to send away for my own battery replacement to avoid losing some fingers while I'm working. From Consumer Reports:

It all started as Thomas Forqueran and a friend, Rod Riddle, were packing up after a two-day fishing trip at Lake Mead National Forest in Nevada, on July 13, 2006.

Forqueran put his Dell Inspiron laptop on the floor of the passenger side of his truck as the two men started packing. Riddle heard a popping noise coming from the cab while loading equipment but was not alarmed until Forqueran smelled smoke.

"Flames were shooting about three feet out the window," the 62-year-old Forqueran said. "I ran to the driver's side door and the flames were rushing at me and the three
boxes of bullets in the glove compartment. It was extremely accelerated. It was like someone was firing napalm"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wireless 2.0

We’ve all been hearing tons about how wireless broadband is going to take over the country/world. Some examples:

If “Wireless 1.0” is the world we live in today (cell phones and wi-fi hotspots), where carriers cripple the features on our devices, what’s the next step going to be? Could having so many new standards open the door for “Wireless 2.0?” Here’s what I mean:

  • Ever-Present Internet Transition seamlessly between routers like a cell phone, but access the entire Internet at broadband speeds.
  • Open Protocols for Open Development Carriers will not have control over what sent over the air. Service/content providers will be King.
  • Device Interoperability Any device will be able to take advantage the Ever-Present Internet

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hello World

I want to have a blog. For some reason, people often listen to me, and that's pretty fun. So by combining my interests with just having some fun, maybe this will be worth something. Or maybe it won't, but at the end of the day, I'll have a good idea what I'm trying to say!