Writings and Musings

Bob Frankston (bio)

Welcome to my writings.

If you want the recent essays check out the sidebar on the left or, better, go to Further Readings for a curated list of essays.

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Some of the recent entries are also listed on the sidebar. Secondary items such as postings on other mailing lists are indented. Note that the year shown is the year the essay was updated. An essay written in 1979 might be listed under 2009 if it was updated recently.

Kodak vs the Internet — Who Owns You? 03-Oct-2005 (Updated: 19-Jan-2006 Update: Kodak is now offering a premium service which supports downloading. The idea of a Wi-Fi camera that automatically send your data to a web set where you view the pictures sounds wonderful. But there's something very wrong -- you don't really own those pictures. You have to pay and they will deign to mail you a CD if you want and can wait. And the price increases with use! Something is very wrong -- once more we have an old business that is used to exerting control and getting revenue for each transaction. Just like the carriers, just like Tellywood. As their business models become more threatened they react by trying to tighten control and petitioning Congress to make innovation illegal. You no longer own what you buy -- you cannot invest in the future. It seems as if the dynamics of the marketplace are too threatening to be tolerated any more.
[IP] Student sues over mistaken drug bust 30-Dec-2005 If the "authorities" can't distinguish between flour and cocaine can we trust them when they have all that mined data to misinterpret?
Speed is nice, connectivity is vital 27-Dec-2005 There is a temporary glut of high speed connections but we shouldn't confuse the current applications with what we can do with abundant connectivity. 30cps (300bps) was wonderful and 1200bps was faster than we could read. And we soon found that we needed more. We are still confusing fast broadband with the Internet and simply replacing the television isn't that exciting but we'll get past that. Universal connectivity is far more important than speed just as universal service was an important idea (even with a bad implementation) in the early days of telephony. We need to shift our emphasis to connectivity. The billions spent on redundant infrastructure is more than sufficient to provide 24x7 connectivity to everyone with or without a wire. The problem is that the carriers' business model presumes scarcity. Abundant connectivity means that they are no longer in a privileged position in creating services and thus can't repay the costs of that infrastructure. Ironically the only way they can compete in providing "broadband" is to emphasize speed.
[IP] more on Leap second fight brewing 26-Dec-2005 Leap Seconds again … no programming language can handle it because seconds are fungible but apparently rocket scientists are too dumb to handle correction factors.
[IP] more on Cellphone 911 calls failed in big storm: Prudence 22-Dec-2005 Once again an attempt to impose a narrow solution. Providing location information would allow the creation of new services in place of an anachronistic E911 system.
[IP] more on Talking Points: The So-Called War on Christmas - New York Times 17-Dec-2005 Those who claim that there is a "war on Christmas" are aligned with those who want to use the FCC as a Federal Speech Commission as an ally in a fight against tolerance.
Why not just save as XML? 16-Dec-2005 When I save settings from a device or a program it's typically in some inscrutable binary format. That's just dumb. Save in XML unless there is a strong reason not to. Just do it!
[IP] GOOD QUOTES IPTV quote 16-Dec-2005 Microsoft is proud that IPTV boxes are closed boxes that allow the carriers to control your browsing as well as choosing what you can watch and when you can watch it. Good this monstrosity is going to fail of its own weight. (See follow-up comments
[IP] Student-run radio station fighting for air 16-Dec-2005 Scarcity is an opportunity to impose social policy. Rather than fighting to assure everyone has a voice why don't we just make IP connectivity available and stop this nonsense?
[IP] more on Telecoms want their products to travel on a faster Internet 15-Dec-2005 Fancy words for simply pigging out on our connectivity. Also see One Percent.
Looking Back from Above 11-Dec-2005 I've found fun playing with the new bird's eye view available with Microsoft's Virtual Earth. I can look back to where I lived when I first moved to Boston.
[IP] credit card rip-off (fwd) 10-Dec-2005 And the companies doing snookering are proud -- they call them loyalty programs! Does marketing work best when sociopathic? I hope not.
[IP] credit card rip-off (fwd) 10-Dec-2005 Scam or not a scam? Where is the boundary between "clever" marketing and outright fraud? Beware clicking the "rewards" button after making a purchase -- you might find yourself getting build monthly.
[IP] more on Comcast plans 6% rate hike / Increase comes as phone firms prepare to enter cable market 07-Dec-2005 Comcast is raising it's rates at the same time that I find I can get reasonable quality using only 5% of the capacity of my Internet connection. Phone companies kept raising their rates until VoIP put an end to such nonsense.
[IP] A follow up comment about PC streaming 07-Dec-2005 In thinking about it the real problem is not that I can bypass the carriers but that while they've been guarding their castle a vibrant and larger city is growing up outside not hobbled by their business model nor DRM.
VoIP–A Life Saver! 07-Dec-2005 Once again in a disaster resilient connectivity has showed it's value. It allows anyone to contribute to the solution. Tradiitional networks create brittle dependencies because the business model requires that everything be captures and billed. Can we really afford to put ourselves in peril to conform to an obsolete business model that exists only because of a regulatorium that disserves us?
[IP] more on Google search and seizure, etc. vs. technologists 04-Dec-2005 Techies seem to view each no threat with grave concern while accepted the myriad of present threats to privacy with indifference.
[IP] more on re: 2029, A Worldwide Mesh? 04-Dec-2005 Another example of attempting to do us favors by creating a smarter network rather than giving us enabling technology. It's no surprise that people solving low level technical problems will want to present in terms of visible benefits but we must not confuse that with giving us the ability to create new solutions. The problem with these approaches is that they divert us from solving the real problems of a connected infrastructure. The current Internet doesn't support local solutions because of dependencies on mechanisms such as the DNS. Today's telecom companies are a major impediment to any improvement because they threaten those who try to solve their own problems. This is not just business as usual but malevolence and clear and present danger.
[IP] more on Amazon Phishing scam - BEWARE! 03-Dec-2005 Phishing is more of a social problem than a technical one it prays on our trust "cues". We need to develop a way to come to terms with this problems rather than looking for absolute protection.
[IP] The RBOC's next move (blocking) 03-Dec-2005 With all the concern about carriers blocking access to Internet services there has been remarkable little blocking. The real threat is far simpler -- the withholding of capacity and the lack of ubiquitous connectivity.
[IP] Telecoms required to save logs of e-mail 02-Dec-2005 The EU is requiring telecom companies to save email logs. While this may help catch some unwanted behavior it seems to be another example of an inability to come to terms with "edge-to-edge" architectures.
[IP] more on Chinese hackers 25-Nov-2005 Once again we see an attack on a supposedly vital system. We can't simply put up new walls -- we need to understand how to be effective participants in a complex ecosystems rather than hermits limited by fear.
[IP] more on Renewed Warning of Bandwidth Hoarding 25-Nov-2005 Once again we see carriers trying to demonize their best customers. Rather than responding defensively we should question the fundamental premises of the current telecom industry.
[IP] more on Coming to TV: ads about you -- 2 23-Nov-2005 Once again we have advertisers salivating over technology. Such efforts do represent a threat to privacy but the real losers may be advertisers who look backwards rather than ahead.
[IP] more on TiVo to Bring TV to iPod and PSP 22-Nov-2005 We shouldn't confuse sharing degraded or low resolution versions of content with the ability to control the bits we have.
[IP] Cisco Agrees to Buy Scientific-Atlanta for $6.9 Bln 18-Nov-2005 Cisco's purchase of Scientific-Atlanta may open the way for video content to be distributed over the IP infrastructure. The walled garden may be still be implemented using encryption but the ability to share a common infrastructure would be a major step forward. I await to see what happens.
[IP] Verizon's EVDO terms of use 10-Nov-2005 Whose network is it anyway? Verizon's EVDO policies seem to be out odds with the service they really sell. These kind of restrictive policies are endemic to the ISP model. Since they are at odds with reality enforcement is only sporadic and even perverse. The danger lies in the danger that the carriers might actually be so foolish as to impose these policies as they see their business threatened.
[IP] THEY STOOPED TO CONQUER 08-Nov-2005 A book review from the Economist -- we must be careful about mixing morality and politics..
[IP] more on The U.N. Isn't a Threat to the Net 06-Nov-2005 Beware those who want to do us good. Those whose background is social policy find it difficult to leave technology alone lest it not produce the desired results.
more on How the MPAA killed the movie theater experience: a first-hand report [ip] 05-Nov-2005 Another example of the problem of seeing all devices as unambiguous threats. Attending a movie shouldn't require giving up ones connections to the world such as the ability to be available to ones' babysitter in an emergency.
Reality vs the Regulatorium 03-Nov-2005 The discussion about SBC's whining about how the deserve to be paid just because they spent money is a reminder about how far the Regulatorium has drifted from the realities of today's marketplace. The issues are coming to a head. The Regulatorium is becoming more obviously dysfunction and as ideas like municipal Wi-Fi become accepted the carriers are going to find their "story" is no longer accepted. The new story of the utility model for connectivity is starting become too obvious to ignore.
[IP] more on Trying to Plug the Analog Hole -- An Exercise in Futility 02-Nov-2005 The increasing effort to create technical solutions are born of the attitude that one must prevent bad things from happening even if that means disallowing innovation and creativity. It is a zero-sum philosophy that encourage evasion in order to get anything done. The alternative is to find a balance and encourage users to see their self-interest lies in cooperation. Instead evading restrictions becomes illegal and necessary -- a sign of a dysfunctional kleptrocracy.
[IP] PC Makers Facing a Flop In Home Entertainment {corrected} 02-Nov-2005 No surprise that computer companies are failing to become consumer electronics companies. Instead of playing to the strengths of personal computing they are hobbling themselves by imitating old line consumer electronics while coupling it with the complexity of personal computing. At a dab of DRM and you have a perfect formula for failure.
[IP] Comments on PPOE 01-Nov-2005 PPPoE (point to point protocol over Ethernet) is a strange creation. It's a strange protocol that exists only to confirm to a particular billing regimen. It requires that the packets travel an expensive phone network rather than getting the benefits of connectivity for the first leg.
[IP] more on SBC to raise DSL pricing 25-43% (unless you bundle) 31-Oct-2005 SBC's CEO was interviewed in Business Week. Carriers seem to whine a lot about the state of affairs. It's a tactic used to gain the sympathy of Congress as they try to retain their privileged position. Normal business blame themselves when they fail to stay profitable. The carriers tend to blame their customers and see them as competition.
[IP] Don't let your ISP muck with your PC 31-Oct-2005 DSL and Cable modem providers want you to run special software as if you were buying a service rather than a utility. Their benevolence can do more harm than good.
[IP] more on IPTV deployment in major cities 29-Oct-2005 IPTV is another attempt by the Telcos to take advantage of their right of way to choose what we can watch and have us pay for it. They have counterparts in municipalities that want to share the booty. The 15mbps providing for IP connectivity is less than 1% of capacity but is enough for video. How long before Tellywood goes direct and stops letting the carriers keep most of the fees and all of the control?
[IP] more on French government bans Skype at Universities 25-Oct-2005 France is attempting to ban the use of Skype at universities with a cover story about security. Can you spell "doesn't get it"?
[IP] more on Locked In a Cell: How Cell Phone Early Termination Fees Hurt Consumers 16-Oct-2005 Responses to Gerry Faulhaber's question about why cellular companies try to lock their customers into contracts that frustrate marketplace dynamics. I go a step further in a followup discussion I point out that the fees are relatively minor compared to the larger issues including capital at risk as the CellCos lose their tight control over wireless connectivity.
[IP] Paranoia and George Orwell 12-Oct-2005 I'm amazed how little people seem to care about their inability to own knowledge and information. The so-called Progress and Freedom Foundation seems to see freedom as something for corporations so they can give us what we want as long as we ask nicely and they see money in it. It's freedom from choice. We see Kodak taking control over your pictures only reluctantly sells them back to you. See a followup response and more
[IP] The Blackberry patent debacle is in the news again 09-Oct-2005 The patent wars over the "Blackberry" are in the news again. I followed up and looked at the patents. They demonstrate the tragedy of a system that disdains science. Doing the same old thing but over RF seems to make it patentable? Of course that ignores that 802.11 puts everything over RF and RF has been used for Ethernets for more than 30 years!
Making Connections 03-Oct-2005 Connectivity is the vital resource. Voice is just one of the applications enabled by connectivity.
Those Orifices! 03-Oct-2005 Steve Jobs described the carriers as orifices. It may not be a dignified description but we need some way to make people understand that the carriers are all about ARPU (Average Return Per User) and not about benevolence. They want to force you to pay and pay for what you already own. After all, you don’t really own it -- you are just using at their sufferance. It's their network and you should appreciate that they are nice enough to let you pay a lot of money to use it. They could simply say no instead of just pay more.
[IP] more on How we got it wrong on Calling-Number ID [RISKS] Risks Digest 24.05 03-Oct-2005 The caller ID and the DNS have many parallels - both in the degree to which we assume they work and the reality that they aren't as definitive and authoritative as we'd like to think. They also do just enough to discourage far better approaches.
Beyond the DNS and The Internet 01-Oct-2005 This is a summary of my current thinking about the need to move beyond the limitations of the current Internet which is really a first implementation of end-to-end network. The network itself is only a first step - the edge devices are dependent upon a central authority for their presence on the network. The name (the IP address) is defined by where they are on the network -- if you move to a different place you must change your name. The result is a network that is not sufficiently dynamic and subject to the whims of those who administer the network. The P2P community (Skype is an example) works around these restrictions. Such approaches will become the norm as we make it easy to develop ad-hoc communities that do not depend on "The Internet" but can use any paths available. This is a work in progress but I want to share my thinking so far.
[IP] more on Neustar to create their own DNS root and own universe to rule 30-Sep-2005 Apparently the cellular phone companies want to create their own special Internet. This seems very strange since there is no problem getting to the net and the name servers now. If the cellular carries want to create their own private Internet they may find themselves alone users migrate away and take their telephony with them. It turns that this particular implementation is likely to be used just internally within the cellular system for its own use. But it's part of their larger problem of trying to use Internet technologies without embracing the end-to-end principles which make the net what it is. The protocols are constantly evolving -- capturing an instance leaves in trapped in the past.
[IP] more on more on frequent fliers 30-Sep-2005 It's no surprise that a discussion about "privileges" that frequent fliers get brings out anger towards "the rich". It's really a form of profiling that's endemic in social policies. We see this same anger directed towards technologists and intellectuals. It's important to ask where the anger comes from. Picking on frequent flyers seems particular strange since for many of them it isn't a privilege but just a way of making their commutes tolerable. It's a zero sum mentality that seeks to limit others' gains rather than trying to create more for all.
[IP] Verizon to Police Web Customers To Protect Disney From Piracy 24-Sep-2005 As the Telcos try to become providers of video content they find themselves in an industry in which every gain comes at a high price. Verizon which once tried to defend its customers against the RIAA now seems quite eager to sell them out in return acceptance by Mickey Mouse and the rest of Disney. In a market based on control, users are just another commodity.
[IP] more on Microsoft and software engineering 23-Sep-2005 The PC industry has been around for 25 years -- far longer than the mainframes or minicomputers but it has stagnated. We are still using mainframe operating systems and designs rather than creating systems for the dynamics of personal and connected computing.
Connectivity is a Utility 22-Sep-2005 I've been talking to people about the utility model for connectivity. This essay gathers up a lot of what I've said into one place and pulls the themese together.
DVDs and IPTV -- Change is Opportunity 20-Sep-2005 Microsoft is selling IPTV to the carriers because it's not clear how to sell it to consumers. But while Tellywood fights the future it also manages to make a profit on it. Rather than selling to the past, IPTV should be part of our future, not the carriers'.
[IP] more on Adam Thierer on how draft Communications Act bill is hyper-regulatory and just plain wrong [econ] 18-Sep-2005 Just an observation that shifting the onus to "faith-based" organization has a parallel in policy, especially the FCC, where faith trumps reality.
[IP] more on query on eBay to Acquire Skype 13-Sep-2005 I'm skeptical about the eBay Skype deal. As long as they don't do anything outrageous people will continue to use Skype but that limits their ability to gain too much advantage. More comments as here
The Information Trollway 10-Sep-2005 Billing was once a means of paying for our communications infrastructure but it has become an end in itself and makes it hard for us to get the benefits of simple Internet connectivity. It has the effect of only allowing valuable applications -- it's like forcing us to pay the price of a cake when all we want to buy is flour -- it's basically a "let them eat cake" policy when we really need bread.
It's Time to Get Rid Of USB Et Al 10-Sep-2005 The USB protocol was a breakthrough in 1995. Now it's just an annoying legacy that fails to take advantage of all we've learned about networking and connectivity over the last ten years.
[IP] more on more on Blame the government...whoever that is.....; 07-Sep-2005 The real work of government gets done by a persistent bureaucracy. FEMA has been far from perfect but it seems that this administration has purposefully undermined FEMA and other organizations and made them more answerable to ideology than competence.
[IP] more on 1st Circuit rules on Councilman 06-Sep-2005 The legal system only function if we trust it as an alternative to setting disputes through direct confrontation. Unfortunately the legal system doesn't do well at tracking change be it technical or philosophical.
[IP] Australian court rules against Kazaa 05-Sep-2005 The Australian Supreme Court has ruled that Kazaa owes the record industry a zillion dollars for not working hard enough to prevent bits interpreted as copyrighted materials to pass their portals. Is it better to keep the record companies fat and happy than allow the economy to benefit from innovation?
[IP] Verizon Wireless Takes Legal Action Against Florida,California Telemarketers to Defend Customers' Privacy 02-Sep-2005 I applaud Verizon Wireless helping protect its customers but it's also a reminder that the current telephone and cellular networks are flawed and don’t' give the customers the ability to protect themselves.
[IP] more on Katrina and the folly of trusting cell phones 02-Sep-2005 Disaster stresses the traditional infrastructure. It's a reminder that we need a resilient alternative. A meshing packet network should be normal infrastructure -- the fact it is easier to repair in a disaster stems from it being a good idea not because it is designed just for the extreme case. See also the followup.
[IP] more on NZ Telecom announces forced migration to VoIP network 30-Aug-2005 NZ Telecom is going with IP telephony. The press announcement seems confused -- is it possible they are going to let users do their own telephony? Probably not but perhaps.
[IP] more on Bush administration asks for halt to .xxx domain [fs] [based on 6000 letter indeed djf] 16-Aug-2005 Once again a single person gets 6000 people to send email. This things are ignored except when they server a political agenda. Once again, censorship gets priority over other goals. I don't like the .XXX domain for technical reasons not for a narrow-minded moral agenda.
[IP] more on WSIS, DNS, WGIG, etc 16-Aug-2005 Following up the .XXX debacle is another report on how to make the DNS work as a directory. Alas …
Why Settle for Just 1%? 15-Aug-2005 The carriers have promised to give us a level playing field but they've taken 99% of the bits off the table by saying video bits don't count. It seems silly to fight over that 1% of the bits rather than demanding that that carriers play fair and put 100% of the bits onto the level playing field.
Why Are We Fighting Over The Last 1%? 15-Aug-2005 Briefly -- The carriers have taken 99% of their assets of the books. They are using the public rights of way and it should be for the public good.
Verizon – The Saga Continues 14-Aug-2005 I'm still trying to straighten out my Verizon service though I realize that the real issue is that landline telephony is a legacy business and it doesn't make sense for Verizon to invest. Their real goal is to become a video provider.
[IP] The case of the stolen Wi-Fi: What you need to know 13-Aug-2005 The attempts to create a new "crime" of stealing Wi-Fi access is part of the ongoing campaign to assure that are infrastructure is locked within billable channels. Once more the Interent is being positioned as bad because it threatens the past.
[IP] more on Say Goodbye to Offshoring? 10-Aug-2005 The old is new again. Timesharing and outsourcing are now called the moral equivalent of offshoring.
vs The Customer and Themselves 08-Aug-2005 Companies like Verizon, Comcast and Microsoft are finding it difficult to come to terms with our increased ability to do things ourselves. Rather than being more accommodating they seem to be putting themselves in the position of treating their customers as their primary competition.
Comcast vs Customers and itself! 08-Aug-2005 Comcast seems to be working hard to make simple problems hard to solve. How else can they maintain their ability to choose what we can watch and when we can watch it?
Verizon vs Customers and Itself 08-Aug-2005 I simply wanted to move a virtual phone number to VoIP. In order to do so Verizon would up sending a few trucks to my house and taking hours of time just to preserve a fiction. It's as if they fear admitting that their business is now about preserving a story rather than creating value.
Microsoft vs Customers and Itself 08-Aug-2005 Microsoft should be trying to make it easier to use their technologies and to find new applications. Instead they are acting as if it is more important to limit the customers choices in order to preserve the obscellescent business model of Tellywood.
The FCC Vs Business and Vs US 08-Aug-2005 The FCC's mission seems to be the protect the carriers from the marketplace. 19th century science has been frozen into the 20th century Regulatorium. We must not allow this travesty to continue into the 21st century.
[IP] Weekly column: Schizo FCC deregulates DSL, but regulates Net-wiretapping [priv] 08-Aug-2005 A seemingly contradictory policy may be perfectly rational within itself. The fault may lie in the premises.
[IP] more on Science is for Pansies - REAL Men believe in Genesis! 05-Aug-2005 Our schools are a mirror on our society. While we can lament its failures we need to stop back and recognize that they are doing what are asking. They teach students science to the letter and fail to convey the more important idea that failure is an essential part of learning. Entrepreneurs have figured that out -- at lest in the US. We confuse training with educating and then wonder why people fail to challenge the accepted wisdom.
[IP] Oppenheimer and other unwelcomes 04-Aug-2005 Robert Oppenheimer and others vital to our victory in World War II would not be able to participate in helping the country today -- many wouldn't even be allowed to visit the country. As we isolate ourselves from the world we become poorer and less safe. What we don't know is harming us. Once again, our enemy is fear itself
A Tiny Bit more on Leap Seconds 03-Aug-2005 Some more points about leap seconds. Perhaps we'll finally see them go away.
[IP] HDMI (HDCP) for HDTV don't get burned! 1080p sets ship 01-Aug-2005 Interference is an artifact of a bad signaling system. It's amazing how such a simple mistake can cause such damage. The legislation that stems from this mistake reads like a programmer's nightmare. In translating naïve physic into legislation we find ourselves destroying marketplaces and subverting the free speech clause in the US Constitution. Rather than locking bad ideas into legislation the FCC should be at the forefront in questioning its own legitimacy. After all, it is supposed to have some knowledge of technology in order to set the rules rather than trying to make physics conform to legislation. As far as its rules are concerned the value of pi might as well be 3.
[IP] Leap second fight brewing 29-Jul-2005 The leap second gain - we confuse leaping over tall buildings with leaping of a small stream. Let astronomers keep their correct fact but not annoy the rest of us by making us trip over pointless hurdles.
[IP] Sen. Ensign Introduces Communications Legislation That Rewrites the '96 Act - Maybe with good intent but danger lurks 29-Jul-2005 While a number of clauses in the bill seem reasonable it seems to treat the Internet as a service and may make it difficult for municipalities to provide connectivity as a utility.
Joho and the Bell Curve 28-Jul-2005 A response to David Weinberger's comments on "Bell Curve" I generally agree with him. My goal is not to convert Iders but to give us a vocabulary that gives us insight into systems. It is important for public policy. Talking about evolution outside the realm of biology can reduce the emotional barriers that make effective debate so difficult.
DRM vs the Bathroom 28-Jul-2005 Will this attempt to lock down all bits allow commercial television to enforce a policy of requiring us to watch commercials? Is going to the bathroom a violation of a "contract" with television broadcasters?
DRM Chops off the Long Tail 27-Jul-2005 The idea of protecting rights seems so reasonable. The problem is that a strict DRM policy thwarts the dynamic of the marketplace. Not only are we denied opportunity to discover new possibilities the existing marketplace becomes stagnant and fails. Chris Anderson's long tail is a useful metaphor for those opportunities that seem worthless but are the sources of new vitality. It's evolution in action -- too bad we are so ego-centric as to think evolution only applies to biology. It makes it difficult for people to appreciate the importance of the dynamics of the marketplace. The marketplace fails if we try too hard to manage the process.
Who "Designed" the Bell Curve? 27-Jul-2005 It's easy to tell a story about what we don't have. The bell curve is beautiful and symmetric. How could the two tells coordinate to well. It's easy to posit an intelligent designer for a phenomenon which emerges out of simple principles. Intelligent Design is only the illusion of an explanation and denies us the opportunity to understand.
[IP] more on NYC to search transit riders' bags – but ... 22-Jul-2005 New York's policy of random searches has its problems but we need to recognize that these practices are based on psychology. Whether the policy is wise is harder to answer.
[IP] more on Public Broadband Hits Political Speedbumps 18-Jul-2005 Be careful about what you ask for. If you fund your Internet connectivity then those who buy content from elsewhere wind up reducing the funding for the Internet. This is like paying for E911 from phone calls -- those who use VoIP wind up defunding E911. "Broadband" should be about enabling a process to increase availability rather than a fixed goal which will become an impediment to future growth.
[IP] more on Connected: Verizon puts your privacy in precarious position 17-Jul-2005 Companies that collection personal data aren't inherently bad -- the tradeoff is whether to have a small set of information that is our "identity" or make it less defined and more difficult to "steal".
[IP] Spammers Most Likely Users of Email Authentication 13-Jul-2005 We are trying to control behavior using identity as a proxy. Such approaches can be counterproductive by giving those whose behavior we want to limit an opportunity to adopt an identity and thus escape scrutiny. Conversely those whose identity we associated with "bad" behavior trapped within a stereotype and prejudgment.
The i730 and Beyond 12-Jul-2005 I've been writing about the Samsung i730 because it's at the crossroads of telephony and computing. For now it's still a phone. In this essay I try to explore why and why not. It's about more then Verizon trying to maintain control and Microsoft missing the new face of personal computing.
An i730 Clarification and an EVDO Comment 09-Jul-2005 The i730 can indeed receive calls while you are using Wi-Fi though you do have to disable Wi-Fi. On the other hand, EVDO is not the same as being connected all the time.
The Samsung i730 – the Saga Continues 08-Jul-2005 I did buy the Samsung i730. It's a nice phone but the Bluetooth implementation is perverse. It's a tug of war between the carriers and the users and the results are far more confusing than the HP-6315 (a GSM phone vs the CDMA i730).
Evolution is Simple and Fundamental 16-May-2005 (Updated: 07-Jul-2005 PDFThe controversy over the teaching evolution pits science against religion. But the topic is too important to be lost in arguments over which set of facts to accept. Understanding evolution is really about how systems change. Biological evolution is just a special case. By teaching evolution is an arbitrary fact in biology class we trade insight for memorization. We cannot afford a retreat into comforting non-explanations. It leads us to make public policy blunders that leave us all poorer. We can see evolution in the systems all around us. Science is not arbitrary -- it's simply about learning from our mistakes and, in fact, making mistakes as we explore. If we see that we results are not what we desire then we can and must adjust and adopt. As Jared Diamond has so ably demonstrated in Collapse! we cannot afford the consequences of ignorance.
Verizon vs Users – The Samsung i730 07-Jul-2005 The Samsung i730 seems like a wonderful connected portable computing device. Why did Verizon have to go and lame it by removing capabilities that would allow me to use it to connect my devices to the world? To add insult to injury I can't even receive phone calls while I'm using Wi-Fi -- very strange. (That's what Samsung said, turns out that you really can!)
More Cellphony Dependency 07-Jul-2005 The NY Times Circuits lead column tells us that the carriers are looking at ways to deliver (AKA sell) use content? Nary a thought that maybe we can just do it ourselves like we do with PCs -- browse to sites and view or even buy things directly. But buying music is the least of what we can't do … such is the price of dependency
[IP] more on Von Mag: Funding USF through Broadband 07-Jul-2005 Once more the USF (Universal Service Fund) is an irresistible opportunity - a pile of money that can be used to sustain the status quo.
Selling Candy to Children 05-Jul-2005 SMS is seductive. Like 900 numbers it creates billable entities. Produces like ringtones and jokes are like candy to children. Seemingly innocuous but the costs add up. Messaging has so many possibilities -- too bad it's priced so that the only viable business is like selling candy to children.
VON: Connectivity is a Utility 04-Jul-2005 It's easy to understand the desire to keep businesses alive long past their expiration dates. Such policies are considered "pro business" when they are just the opposite -- they show distrust for the marketplace and its ability to reinvent itself. One might justify the policy if it preserves jobs and meets other needs but the tele/com industry is costing us jobs and frustrating the creation of new industries that can create new jobs and value. Connectivity is another utility like garbage collection, electricity, public roads etc. The value comes from the availability of connectivity but policies that require capturing the value of each service don’t permit innovation because nascent services typically don't seem valuable at first. The utility model is a business model. Providing connectivity as a utility is the real pro-business policy.
Comment on networked washing machine 28-Jun-2005 A brief comment on an "Engadget" story about a washer/dryer that allow remote viewing of their status. The idea itself is not bad but it shouldn't be implemented as a special closed system.
Cost of receiving a text message going up 400%! 28-Jun-2005 Verizon is jacking up the price of receiving a text message by 400%. A tight orifice is more powerful than Moore's law!
[IP] More insecurity 22-Jun-2005 Another example of BofA sending mail from an untrusted domain.
[IP] Bank of America vs security 22-Jun-2005 It's bad enough that Bank of America sends its email through intermediaries that we don't know whether to trust, it's another thing for them to send alarmist messages in response to innocuous queries. As an aside, I scrape screens because the bank web sites that are touted as the alternatives to paper documents are seriously flawed in that the data is only available at their whim and once you close an account all history is lost!
[IP] more on Pod Slurping Dangerous To Enterprises 22-Jun-2005 A bit of hype -- the problem of being able to slurp data and take it with you has been around for a long time but attributing quotes and capabilities to well known figures is a common phenomenon. Also helps make a feature story seem like news.
[IP] more on In-flight cellphone proposal hits static [the real issue!] 17-Jun-2005 Even I fell into the trap of thinking the cell phone ban was about cell phones. This is what makes it so hard to explain to people that the "orifices" have limited the value of the devices we have and the infrastructure by convincing people to accept their definitions of "services" rather than allowing others' to create their own value. Telephony, in this case cellular telephony, is just an application. What is really important is the connectivity afforded by their devices and the ability to use technology as our agent. Mindless fear of "wireless signals" is compounded by those who fear what might go wrong. It's a reminder of the importance of the US Constitution which helps assure we have the opportunity to innovate without having to assure only "good" outcomes.
[IP] In-flight cellphone proposal hits static [rewritten] 16-Jun-2005 The willingness to allow the user of cell phones in flight is an admission that the ban has been based on factors other than technology. Those who want to preserve the ban seem to be motivated more by imposing their values on others because change spooks them.
[IP] Tellywood and the Cable Orifices 12-Jun-2005 Another reminder that your "Set Top Box" owes its allegiance to Tellywood rather than you the viewer.
[IP] more on "NCLB: The Implausible Dream" 12-Jun-2005 In the effort to "solve" the problem of education we need to blame someone. Yet if the education is failing today's students why do we assume it was successful with their parents? Education is not just for the children.
[IP] "unused" portion of their DSL lines to broadcast video signals. 11-Jun-2005 TV programming is now being delivered over DSL connections in Spain using standard Internet protocols. Currently this is carrier-provided video but there's no reason the user can't take advantage of the capacity rather than just accepting the choices provided by the carriers.
Phoney Economics - The Telco pricing model is losing credibility 08-Jun-2005 VoIP (and ENUM) make it difficult for the carriers to sustain the illusion that their prices has anything to do with real costs.
[IP] more on E911 with no Opt Out? 07-Jun-2005 Fast response is a key element in providing medical services but a policy that focus on a particular technology may not be the bet way to achieve this goal
[IP] more on Editors comment on the number of items re ex-ex-ex 03-Jun-2005 The creation of the .XXX TLD (Top Level Domain) is a consequence of a basic failure to understand the nature of the end-to-end principle. All the more reason to reinvent the Internet from the edge.
[IP] more on U.S. shuts down network that leaked 'Star Wars' 28-May-2005 Shutting down a directory is not the same thing as shutting down a network. One more example of the conceptual gap between those innovating and those attempting to set the rules.
Enter Walled Garden Here (through the orifice) 26-May-2005 A short IM conversation with commentary from David Berlind building Steve Jobs' description of the carriers are orifices.
[IP] The software industry is learning from the RIAA? 19-May-2005 Reports about software (or music) "piracy" often rely on inflated figures. We shouldn't presume all of those "lost" sales would become real sales.
Another anti-spam Naïveté – VRFY isn’t Authoritative 17-May-2005 I’ve run into yet another naïve attempt to control spam – systems that try to verify the mail sender using the SMTP VRFY command. The problem is that a system that relays mail might report the address as invalid because it is not a local address even though it really is valid when relayed.
Books: A Bibliography 16-May-2005 This is a catalog of books with comments and recommendations. This is an ongoing project and pretty sparse in its initial version
[IP] Read it and prepare to stand on LONG LONG lines – Senate Backs Measure to Tighten ID Requirements 11-May-2005 We need Niemöller but we get Andre Maginot and a nation of bubble babies who think that the one authentic truth will save protect them from risk. What’s next, banning the first and last car of trains to prevent accidents? It’s depressing that we have a tradition of journalism which reports just the “facts” as if the spin were a “fact”.
Spam Evolving? 09-May-2005 I notice that the email addresses on my sites have not been harvested in a long time. I generate a new one on each visit and including the IP address as well as the date and time. Spam messages tend to arrive in batches with very similar messages and the made-up names tend to be valid English words without an appreciation for the meaning. It's important to understand spam and see it in perspective. It's too easy to give into our fears and see spam as another reason to be afraid of free speech.
A Failure to Connect 09-May-2005 What is connectivity? I’ve been thinking about it in terms of networking but that’s only a small part of the problem. It’s really about relationships and operations that involve cooperation or connections between two “things”. In DIY, Not Connectivity, I emphasized that it was about marketplace economics rather than just a lower cable TV bill. I wanted to hand out copies of that essay at the IP Policy Summit and got a case study in the real problem. … Why just watch when I can participate. Connectivity is about enabling opportunities for new kinds of relationships between device as well as people.
DIY, not just Connectivity! 08-May-2005 PDFIt's wrong to think of the Internet as the successor to the telecommunications industry because of surface similarities. But the dynamics of the two industries are very different. There is no transition -- the new opportunities that that the Internet thrives on must not be sacrificed to get us what we think we want. And they need not be since we the marketplace process continues to serve us well. We don't want to look back and lament that we asked for the Internet and all they gave us was more television.
Stop Shouting and Start Communicating! 01-Apr-2005 (Updated: 05-May-2005 Imagine if we didn't have to use wires - we could just send a signal from anyplace to any other place. By 1864 James Clerk Maxwell described radio waves. By 1895 Marconi was sending "Hertzian Waves" several kilometers. Oscillating waves were a familiar concept. Alexander Graham Bell worked on the same principle in trying to put multiple signals on a single telegraph line but the mechanical tuning fork wasn't up to the task
[IP] more on Setting history straight: So, who really did invent the Internet? 02-May-2005 Before we can ask "who invented the Internet" we need to figure out what we mean by the term. The impact is a result of the marketplace dynamics of TCP vs IP and not networking as such.
[IP] more on IP-Based TV Will Revolutionize Entertainment 29-Apr-2005 With all the talk about IPTV we need to be wary -- the Telcos want to be a CableCo. We won't get real change until we can buy directly rather than paying a transport "tax". If we buy directly, then owning the transport is a liability. This has stark implications for today's "telecom" industry.
[IP] More Baggage Taboos, but Little Security Enhancement 27-Apr-2005 Petty consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds and, apparently the TSA. Should the TSA be making sure that pilots cannot take control of airplanes?
Acela – A Casualty of Risk Aversion? 26-Apr-2005 The Acela is twice as heavy as corresponding trains in Europe. This led to the current problems with the brakes on the trains. Could that danger be a result over design due to risk aversion?
[IP] more on Bush Administration Punishes some who donated to Kerry 25-Apr-2005 Apparently the Bush Administration requires loyalty over expertise and anyone who has made a donation to Kerry is not allowed to serve on international technical committees. It's equivalent of requiring bribes in order to consider scientific facts. Having a difference of opinion is regarded as heresy. At a time when the rest of the world is moving ahead we are trying to roll back the renaissance! Another victory for terrorists!
[IP] more on P2P Fuels Global Bandwidth Binge 24-Apr-2005 I'm trying to understand why people seem to focus on doling out scarcity as opposed to working towards abundance. The word "Binge" has a negative overtone and "P2P' is too easily associated with "bad" activities. Once again we should demand more capacity rather than accusing the most avid users of abusing a "privilege". It's a right not a privilege! The consequences are serious -- the US is in real danger of opting out of a vibrant world economy!
[IP] more on Credit Information Stolen From DSW Stores 19-Apr-2005 Amex offered use-once numbers but they were too clunky to use and offered no obvious benefits to most users. Too bad, the concept is useful but one needs to do more and help users manage their transactions as well.
[IP] more on (don't expect good cell service says) Verizon CEO sounds off on Wi-Fi, customer gripes 17-Apr-2005 CellCo benevolence must not come at the price of denying us the ability to create our own solutions.
[IP] Civil War V2 15-Apr-2005 Frist is upping the ante in the senate. Giving faith a privileged position in the judiciary is very dangerous. The separation of church and state is an agreement to disagree - violating that agreement is very dangerous.
It's not "Identity Theft"! 13-Apr-2005 It's not about stealing your soul's sole identity. It's about a weak system of establishing a relationship for the purpose of some transactions. Whether accepting a weak system and then protecting your magic numbers, we should step back and think about the purpose of these tokens of identity and address that problem rather than accepting blame when our "identity" is "stolen".
RIAA Plans to Sue Hearing Aid Manufacturers 12-Apr-2005 The RIAA continues its campaign do whatever it takes to make sure they maintain contorl. What's next, suing hearing aid manufacturers because they don’t enforce DRM rules? Will the MPAA require eyeglasses honor the broadcast bit?
Comcast and Disney vs the Internet 11-Apr-2005 Comcast and Disney are offering an Internet services only available to Comcast subscribers. Comcast/Disney -- the Anti-Internet!
EV-DO - a Taste of Connectivity 09-Apr-2005 EV-DO is wonderful. I can be connected anywhere (at least in major cities). But it's also the end of a generation. The next generation will be IP based. We should embrace the present but not make it the enemy of the future.
Using EV-DO 08-Apr-2005 My experience in using EV-DO to get ubiquitous connectivity.
[IP] Spend $2 Bill, Go To Jail 08-Apr-2005 It's amazing how something as innocuous as a $2 bill can scare people so much.
[IP] more on Law would put 'In God We Trust' in schools 07-Apr-2005 The version of the Pledge of Allegiance that was set to music did not contain "In God We Trust"
Another attempt to do me good 07-Apr-2005 Embedded computing doesn't necessarily empower the user.
The Filibuster vs the Tyranny of the Faux Majority 06-Apr-2005 Both the Presidency and Congress are aligned in pushing a moralistic agenda The normal checks and balances are undermined by those who seek to impose a narrow moralistic agenda on the country. The tyranny of the majority threatens the normal resilience of our democracy. The majority in Congress doesn't reflect a majority of the people -- it's more of an artifact of an all-or-nothing electoral process. The filibuster is considered obstructionist but it is also a way to protect the country from those who view constitutional protections with disdain and seek solace protection from science. There is a real danger in embodying that ideology into law and the enforcing it with a judiciary select for loyalty to that ideology.
USB Power! 06-Apr-2005 USB is become the universal power source for small devices.
At the Movies in 2005 06-Apr-2005 Today's digital projector uses essentially the same technology we use at home. The theaters aren't just for Tellywood anymore.
Airport Foibles 06-Apr-2005 Passing through Logan Airpot on my way to DCA I had chance to be entertained by observing how things can go wrong
Glossary 01-Jan-1999 (Updated: 05-Apr-2005 Definitions for some of the terms I use in my writings.
[IP] more on Teacher, student suspended for bypassing school filters [fs] 05-Apr-2005 Science is about testing limits, yet we find ourselves increasingly up against an attitude that sees the purpose of government as enforcing rules rather than creating opportunity.
1920 x 1080 05-Apr-2005 Nice for movies but some of us like to read (and write)
[IP] A clear and present danger? 04-Apr-2005 I used to think of the filibuster as an obstructionist tactic. Now that I'm on the 'other" side I recognize that it plays an essential rule to protecting us from the tyranny of the majority.
[IP] Not all municipal connectivity is "good" 30-Mar-2005 I want connectivity everywhere but often all I get is municipal cable TV which sets up the wrong incentives.
Why are reservation sites so lame? 29-Mar-2005 We shouldn't be stuck in the "page" model of the web.
How Spam Makes Email Safer 26-Mar-2005 Email isn't really reliable -- the flurry of spam reminds us not to be complacent.
[IP] more on FCC: we don't need no steenkin line sharing 26-Mar-2005 Why battle over old policies when we need to be looking ahead?
Phones Need Simplicity Before Cool Stuff, CEOs Say 26-Mar-2005 What's really strange is that we are calling 64MB computers with 1 GB of SD storage PDAs. The PDA is a function or an application.
Gratuitous Complexity for Fun for Profit 19-Mar-2005 Reading a story in the Boston Globe about how wonderful it is that I can now send picture messages from Verizon to Cingular cell phones I decided to look into the protocols and understand a bit more about how such messages could cost 25 cents each. Not only is it difficult to do things for ourselves -- we must pay a high price and be thankful for the little we are allowed to do. Another case of being limited to solutions and being given little opportunity.
Connectivity in Days in Washington 08-Mar-2005 March 2005 will be connectivity month. The Grokster and Brand X cases will be heard by the Supreme Court March 29th and David Isenberg's Freedom To Connect starts the next day.
X-Box Live. . . and more 01-Mar-2005 X-Box live is a vibrant part of the VoIP world.
more on "Identity Theft for Dummies"? 27-Feb-2005 The attention to "stolen" records that can be used to "steal" "identities" is misguided. I put the words in quotes because they are used in distorted ways. The real problem is that all it takes to steal an "identity" is persons name phone number and social security number and maybe a tidbit or two. And once you lose your "identity" why is it so hard to reestablish relationships? Of course this is not you identity, just the persona that the is used by banks and others in lieu of the real "you". Focusing on protecting the records will comes at a high social cost while not solving the real problem.
Connected to the World Out There, not Just People 24-Feb-2005 It's wonderful to fly while using my GPS to compare what I see in maps with what's on the ground. I'm no longer confined to the tiny metal cage in the air. It also makes me think about the all the press about blogs and blogs talking about blogs -- blogcest. There's a big world at there, the blogs are about more than just reporting, they are also a means of participating.
More on House Passes Bill to Raise Indecency 18-Feb-2005 The complexities of the Regulatorium create a layer of FUD that shields the most outrageous policies from critical analysis. FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
House Passes Bill to Raise Indecency 16-Feb-2005 $500,000/word is the cost of free speech as defined by Congress and interpreted by the Federal Speech Commission.
More on Powell: Don't Rewrite Telecom Act 15-Feb-2005 Some comments from the Silicon-Flatirons conference on the future of Telecom policy.
More on Consumer Electronics vs Computers 10-Feb-2005 As I try to "capture" the contents of my video tapes I run into more reminders of how different the worlds of CE (Consumer Electronics) and CS (Computer Systems) are.
More on Digital TV: Congress vs. Consumers 08-Feb-2005 Congress has mandated that TV broadcasting shift from using the analog broadcast bands to digital bands. It's important to examine the reasons for this industrial policy. It's all about preserving Tellywood and limiting consumer choice.
Tellywood and the Home Theater 07-Feb-2005 The home theater epitomizes the fusion of Television and Hollywood -- Tellywood. Articles on home theaters can be entertaining but a newsmagazine should do more than write about fantasies circa 1969. In the age of the Internet and computers a television is simply a combination of screens and video sources. It's more than just a piece of furniture used to display the content of plastic discs.
Camera-phone mania 01-Feb-2005 Camera or Phone? Floor Wax or Dessert Topping.
Single Frequency Signaling and Single Hop Signaling 27-Jan-2005 Coddling obsolescent technology comes at a high price. Century old, fragile communications technologies require that we restrict necessary innovation. The confusion between transport and meaning leads to blatant violations of the US constitution.
More on Firms formulate guidelines for employee cellphone use 27-Jan-2005 Legal decisions based on "weird science" put us at risk. When the law acts more like a lottery our ability to benefit form technology is at risk.
More on NewSci: Net noise threat to emergency radio 24-Jan-2005 SFS (Single Frequency Signaling) and SHC (Single Hop Communications) are outdated and their limitations shouldn't be used to frustrate innovation
The Pragmatist 01-Nov-2004 (Updated: 19-Jan-2005 I'm pragmatic. It's silly to argue about policy issues when we just have a fixable design flaw in today's Internet
Is VoIP a carrier's best friend? 01-Jan-2005 Carries may die by VoIP but they also live by VoIP
Bob Frankston
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