Friday, July 07, 2006

Homework

Alexander Cameron of Digital TX has written an neat analysis of why he thinks the big media companies are heading for a fall. Interestingly enough this is one of the few pieces I have read about this topic that doesn't start from a copyright and DRM = bad, peer2peer = good point of view, or the other way round. It is a cool look at the forces acting to negate the old saying 'content is king'. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in this issue, although I wouldn't unreservedly endorse his conclusions.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/24/iptv_vod_content/

One of the main bodies that will affect the future of the Internet in the USA is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). CNet's News.Com has just published an interview with Democrat FCC commissioner Michael Copps. The interview makes for interesting reading about the way in which he thinks about Internet regulatory issues. With the debate on 'Net neutrality' hotting up in Washington, the interview is well worth looking over, if you can take the vomit yellow design of the CNet site.

http://ct.news.com.com/clicks?t=2762772-18a32f6148453f76b7d88f6b914d69a0-bf&s=5&fs=0

And a couple of pieces for the programmers out there from the 'acmqueue' online magazine.

The first is a fascinating mini-history of the Object Management Group's CORBA technology (for the non-techies, it's a method of getting programs on different machines to talk to one another). I haven't personally ever had to use CORBA but I knew programmers didn't like CORBA. However, I had no idea what the genesis of the problems was. As a discussion on how not to create standards this is a must read. Recommended.

http://www.acmqueue.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=396

The second piece is called 'The Fallacy of Premature Optimization' by Randall Hyde. Basically it is a re-look at the whole issue of optimization in the light of how people have taken Sir Tony Hoare's famous quote, 'premature optimization is the root of all evil' as an excuse to eschew all optimization. As with all polemics, it goes a little overboard in the opposite direction, but it is nevertheless a timely reminder that optimization does have a role and it is worth thinking about at the design stage.

http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/views/v7i24_fallacy.html


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
July 2, 2006

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Google Launches Payment System

And so to the news of the week - Google launches its long awaited online payment processing system. Just for once they are launching with the production version, not an early beta version :) This is definitely a first! Actually, there's not a lot to say about it, other than that it will probably give PayPal a run for its money.

Personally I wouldn't trust either PayPal or Google to collect money for me, not unless they came under the same regulation as banks do - and even then I would still be a little leery about it.

I want my money handled by boring men in grey suits whose mission in life is to look after money and make sure none of it goes astray, not dot com throwbacks for whom the company's chef is, like, where it's at, man. I'm the creative one - I don't want other people being creative with my money!

http://ct.techrepublic.com.com/clicks?t=2749085-18a32f6148453f76b7d88f6b914d69a0-bf&s=5&fs=0


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
July 2, 2006

SCO v IBM

Ah yes! SCO v IBM and the rest of the world. The end is (nearly) nigh. The judge has dismissed nearly two thirds of the items in SCO's case on the grounds that it had failed to provide sufficient evidence to allow them be part of the case. Groklaw's transcript of the judges ruling makes for fascinating reading (see the URL at the end of this item) - you can see her frustration with the tactics of SCO in the case.

I thought the best bit was where she demolished the argument of SCO's technical expert using his (the expert's) own published textbook on Unix programming! It's my nomination for the best read of the week :)

http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20060628203537917


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
July 2, 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Vista Hardware Requirements

Hands up those of you that sloped off to the Windows Vista web site to try running the evaluation tool on your current computer? Lots of you? Yes! I though so. And most of you came away having been told that your kit would run Vista, no doubt. Forget it sunshine. The tool merely checks that your kit meets what Microsoft defines at the 'minimum' requirements.

To give you some perspective, the Microsoft minimum for XP Pro is a 233Mhz Pentium, 64MB of RAM and 4GB of hard drive. XP Pro runs like a dog on my laptop with a 2.1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a 7GB hard drive. If you really want to know what it takes to run Vista, then you need to get hold of the documents Microsoft produces for hardware manufacturers. It's called the 'Windows Logo Program Requirements' and you can find it at http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/winlogo/hwrequirements.mspx.

Unsurprisingly enough the requirements shown in the Excel spreadsheet and the three Word documents are considerably more than those of all but the most cutting edge machines available at the moment. The truth is that Windows Vista - which comes in seven different flavours - is realistically only going to be available on new, high performance, and expensive, machines. And that's a lot of money to pay for extra eye candy - especially when you take into account the loss of facilities in current machines as the built in DRM facilities to allow the big media companies to spy on you!

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/06/15/windows_vista_hardware/


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
June 18, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006

Homework: VoIP and Games

Those of my readers who play multi-player games (and possibly others who don't) will be interested by an article from my old friend Richard Bartle on gamegirladvance.com. Richard, for those of you who don't know, wrote the original MUD way way back in the 1980s. It was the first MUD ever, and it was the first online game I ever played. You could only play it late at night, because it ran on university computers, and it had a limited number of access lines, so you had to be there as soon as it was open to get in!

Richard's article is about the game design implications of including voice chat in multi-player games. To cut to the chase, he is opposed to it, given the current level of technology. Why? Because it will break the spell. It's difficult to remain immersed in a virtual world when you can hear the real voice of the person you're talking to!

I don't totally agree with Richard, but I think most of his argument is valid. In any case it's well worth a read.

http://www.gamegirladvance.com/archives/2003/07/28/not_yet_you_fools.html


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
June 11, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ad Subbing Upsets Media Companies

Now here's a major punch-up in the offing - one that's going to be well worth keeping an eye on. US company Flying J Inc is using technology to strip out commercials from major broadcast and cable companies, and replace those commercials with its own local commercials, and all in real time. The technique is called 'ad subbing', and is being applied to the big screens you see at truck stops round the US.

The media companies are, not unnaturally, furious, and are crying 'foul', and threatening legal action. But what legal action can they take? As Flying J points out, its technology is more like a remote control that allows users to switch away from programming. Its technology doesn't copy, modify, or redistribute the incoming signal, and thus does not constitute copyright infringement.

That's true, very true. So, watcha gonna do about it, Mr Big Media?

http://www.physorg.com/news68999198.html

From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
June 11, 2006

Friday, June 02, 2006

Geek Toys: Solid State Disk Drive

Watch this one very carefully - it is the shape of things to come. Samsung are about to launch a laptop PC with a 32-Gigabyte NAND flash based solid state disk drive. This is a first for laptops, and points out the way forward. It's not just that the drive is solid state rather than the conventional electro-mechanical, it's also that it's up to 300 per cent faster than a conventional drive, and it's silent. The last point makes it suitable for using in lectures, presentations and libraries. It also uses less battery power than a conventional drive.

The demise of conventional drives at the hands of solid state drives has been predicted for many years, but this is the first time I can recall that solid state drives have really been in the running. I want one!

http://www.physorg.com/news67620189.html


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
May 28, 2006

Homework: Computers and Foreign Languages

Here's a hard problem to deal with: what would you do with a country of a billion people, 1,652 languages, and in which three quarters of the workforce are in agriculture? That is the problem facing India today. Only about 10 per cent of the population speak English, which effectively limits the number of PCs to about 60 million.

The problems with using the major languages - Hindi, Urdu, and Gujarati, to name but three - on a computer are manifold. It looks, though, as if HP India have a possible solution in the form of a tablet and stylus system that might just work. The idea is intriguing and you can read all about it in an interesting piece by ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwin.

http://newsletters.zdnetuk.cneteu.net/t/118634/921984/188435/0/



From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
May 28, 2006

Homework: Amazon Interview

Still in ACM's output, take a look at the ACM Queue interview with Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. Currently Google is getting all the limelight as it takes on the Microsoft behemoth, but I've personally felt for a while that the spotlight is misdirected. I think the Amazon platform is more likely to be the challenge that Microsoft fears. OK, so it's not a general computing platform, but I think that it is already moving towards domination in the ultra-important e-commerce market, and that that market will prove to be decisive in the long run. Well worth a read by those interested in exactly what Amazon is up to at the moment.

http://www.acmqueue.com/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=388


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
May 28, 2006

Monday, May 29, 2006

Homework: Net Neutrality

The latest edition of the ACM's online magazine, Ubiquity, has an interesting commentary by Dr M E Kabay on the 'net-neutrality' debate, which has been simmering for quite a while, but has recently gained a high profile because of a number of bills being considered in Congress. The analysis makes an interesting read, arguing that regulation is not needed because the market will ensure that ISPs maintain their neutrality.

If the ISPs start favouring organisations that pay extra, the argument runs, then the customers will move to ISPs that don't discriminate. Unfortunately there is a fundamental flaw in the argument. It assumes that customers have a choice of suppliers. A lot don't, they have access to only one ISP, so they have no choice if they want to remain connected to the net.

This is always a problem with industries that are utilities, and the problem is not going to go away any time soon as consolidations and take-overs continue in the industry.

http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/views/v7i20_neutrality.html


From Winding Down
by Alan Lenton
May 28, 2006