Nest releases home security camera

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/19/2015 - 08:39

Nest, the thermostat people, have been busy branching out by developing (or buying) other home gadgets like smoke detectors and security cameras. The company recently announced the Nest Cam, an Internet of Things (IoT) security camera.

Home security services used to be an expensive service that required steep monthly fees and a landline (and these days, the landline probably costs more than the security service). But lately, every geek with a couple of friends is hoping to catch fire in a bottle with an Internet-based security camera.

I think there is a lot of growth in this area, largely because you can now buy a good security camera with a live Internet feed for under $100. But what caught my eye in the article linked above was at the bottom of the story. Nest is owned by Google, and Nest's user agreement specifies that Nest will share data with Google. Nice. That Internet camera that seems so cool will be sending a video feed to Google, where AI software will be analyzing everything you do so Google can better target ads for you.

And don't even get me started on the hacking implications of having third party access to devices that show you what is going on in your house. There are going to be some spectacular hacks of Internet of Things devices before most people start paying attention and asking themselves if they really want to put a bunch of Internet gadgets in their home.

Popular papers are available on the WideOpen site

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 06/18/2015 - 10:50

I have put some of my most popular papers over on the WideOpen Networks site. You can access them here.

Shark jumping Part III: The wearable cloud

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/19/2015 - 09:32

If you needed still more evidence that the Internet of Things (IoT) has become silly, here is another data point: ReVault, the wearable cloud.

It is a watch thingy that you can strap to your arm and it uses Bluetooth and/or WiFi to automatically back up your smartphone and tablet. Your whole backup plan is based on something that sets off the metal detectors at the airport, so you have to take it off and risk leaving it behind at the security checkpoint.

I have a personal cloud. It is in the basement of my house, and I'm duplicating everything on a second "cloud" device at a friend's house 250 miles away. That's the way you do a personal cloud. What am I using? It's from Transporter, and it works well--no glitches or burps with more than a year of use. And I have no financial connection to the company....just a satisfied customer.

Is everything going to look like Facebook?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/19/2015 - 09:01

LinkedIn has been slowly adjusting its interface to look and behave more like Facebook, and when I checked it this morning, it had changed again. It now looks almost exactly like Facebook.

On the one had, Facebook is a familiar interface, and I had always found LinkedIn features to be obscure (and I'm trying to be generous). LinkedIn started out as a kind of professional address book, and they just kept adding more stuff willy-nilly. At least they have now tried to bring some sanity to the design.

But do we really want everything everywhere to look like Facebook? Facebook has its own interface problems, starting with the infuriating "mouse around until some hidden feature appears" approach that Apple is in love with.

There is some strange and accelerating devolution of software going on that is being driven by the design constraints of smartphone and tablets. Desktop software, even Web-based software, is steadily being dumbed down (stupified?) so that it works on a 4" screen. I have two 23" monitors on my desktop here in the office, and Apple tells me to be happy with an interface designed to work well on the iPhone.

No thanks. But I fear that things are going to get much much worse.

Internet of things: more shark jumping

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/18/2015 - 08:37

The Internet of Things continues to be more hype than substance, and the whole Internet industry is starting to feel like 1998 again, when any Red Bull-addled idea seemed to be able to attract millions in venture capital.

The latest IoT gadget nobody needs is GasWatch, a device that lets you check how much propane is left in your BBQ propane tank.....from your phone.

What?

The device costs $35, and I can buy a tank gauge that requires no batteries, wires, or any other electronics for $15, and it gives me the same information.

If you want to know how much gas is left in your propane tank, I would guess most people do what I do...lift it an inch off the ground and shake it. I don't need an app for that.

Social media and hiring

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 05/13/2015 - 07:56

The always interesting David Strom has a great piece here about the dangers of social media in the business world. He recounts a recent incident where a job applicant who received two job offers decided to ask the whole world which one she should take.

Needless to say, it did not turn out well for the young woman. One of the companies, after seeing her "pros and cons" post about each company, took offense and rescinded their offer. Which might sound sensible, but left the company looking thin-skinned and defensive.

Read the whole thing....there are lessons for both job applicants and companies.

There is still an AOL? Who knew?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/12/2015 - 09:23

I was surprised to hear that Verizon has purchased AOL. I occasionally get a message from someone who still has an AOL email account, but I can't remember the last time I actually went to aol.com...sometime in 1999?

Verizon seems to be trying to imitate the Comcast/NBC merger. Verizon says they are after the AOL OTT (Over The Top) content. Really? I have not met or heard anyone say, "Wow, that show on AOL was really great!"

Vertical integration may work in markets where Verizon/AT&T/Google/Comcast already have a de facto monopoly via their copper or fiber infrastructure, but I remain convinced that the future of entertainment is complete separation of content from infrastructure, which is the WideOpen Networks model.

The incumbents are still stuck on the notion that entertainment is the only thing their customers want, but on open networks, entertainment will be one of hundreds of services available. And on an open network, there will be many entertainment options, including lots of entertainment bundles from new content companies that are building packages specifically to meet consumer interests as opposed to building packages to tie consumers to a monopoly network.

The Apple Watch jumps the shark

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/05/2015 - 07:56

The Washington Post is running online ads touting that you can read the newspaper on the Apple Watch. Really? Really? If there is ONE THING that I have never ever wished for, it has to be this: "I wish I could read a newspaper on my watch."

Does it work something like this?

Today in

(scroll)

Washington

(scroll)

the

(scroll)

President

(scroll)

announced

(scroll)

that he

(scroll)

was.....

Have we completely lost our minds over these gadgets?

Why fiber? The work from home problem

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/27/2015 - 11:00

We get asked all the time, "Why do I need a fiber connection at home? My Netflix works fine."

I was trying to do some work from home over the weekend, and I needed to move some relatively small files back and forth between my computer at home and a remote server. I was getting dial up speeds consistently for several hours. File transfers that would finish in a second or two at the office were taking many minutes--long enough that I had time to go do other things and then become more and more annoyed as I would check back and see the file transfer was still not complete.

Why so slow? I have a theory. It rained all weekend, and I think of lot of people (kids?) were streaming video, which can drag down the overall bandwidth and network responsiveness. Or it could be throttling of file transfers by the cable company in an effort to get me to pay extra for "business class" service.

Want to work from home? Want to run a business from home? We're designing and building networks that can deliver real business class services anywhere, making everyone more productive.

Apple Watch strap is ugly

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/24/2015 - 08:04

It's Friday, and I am delinquent in writing about hardware and gadgets. I am mildly interested in the Apple Watch, but I do wonder if anyone besides me thinks that the cheesy plastic strap provided with the entry level models is not only ugly but unpleasant. I have worn watches with a plastic strap, and have found them profoundly uncomfortable, especially in the summer or when exercising. Perspiration builds up under the plastic and the band and watch gets hot and, and how do I put it....sweaty.

I just watched a couple of Apple videos about the Watch, and most of the people depicted in the ads are exercising. I really have trouble with the idea that I have spend hundreds of dollars more just to get a more comfortable leather band. It does appear that it is possible to buy a third party watch strap for the Watch, and maybe this whole cheap strap thing is similar to Apple's similarly inexplicable strategy of providing the world's worst earbuds with iPods. Who knows?

Comcast-TimeWarner merger is over

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/24/2015 - 07:53

Comcast has announced that it will give up trying to merge with TimeWarner Cable. The company has said that scrutiny from the Feds was a factor.

I never thought this was going to be important no matter how it turned out, because cable TV is dead. The body is still warm, but the rapid acceleration of Over The Top (OTT) alternatives to cable makes cable TV irrelevant. The cable giants already seem to understand this, and have been switching revenue streams to their Internet service for several years. Just like how my cable TV fees went up year after year by a few dollars, now my cable-delivered Internet goes up by a few dollars every year, even while the cost per Meg for Internet goes down (a primary expense for cable-delivered Internet).

TV is getting ever more interesting, and Netflix is leading the way. While HBO plowed new ground with non-network TV shows many years ago, Netflix is now producing some of the most interesting shows--Lillyhammer is just one example of the success of Netflix in producing high quality programming.

But despite the efforts of the cable network operators to increase Internet download bandwidth to their customers, their Achilles heel is the highly asymmetric service they offer that makes their "entertainment" service profoundly unsuitable for work from home and business from home activities.

The single biggest complaint we hear now is that "I can't work from home with my cable Internet connection." Whether we like the "always connected" business culture or not, the reality is that many of us are trying to get some work done from home at least part of the time, and the trend is accelerating. Meaningful business work from home requires symmetric bandwidth, and it is fiber that can deliver business class services. WideOpen Networks, our sister company, is now rolling out true community-owned Gigabit networks in the U.S. Want more information? Give Dave Sobotta a call at WideOpen: (540-552-2150).

Is home-based work over-rated?

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 04/10/2015 - 08:52

There is a conversation over on LinkedIn about whether or not home-based tele-commuting is a real thing or not. I don't think the concept of working from home is "wrong," but I would agree that it is over-hyped.

We are not all going to work from home in the future. I first started using IP-based videoconferencing in 1994, and use it now on a daily basis. It is a tool, and nothing more than that. It is not some magic device that eliminates the need for face to face interaction.

Having said that, we have done more than two dozen county-wide and city-wide surveys in the past six or seven years involving thousands of respondents, and it is very clear that there is a floor of ten percent for full time home-based workers and businesses. If you add in respondents who are working part time from home, we see as many as 40% trying to work from home part time--while most of this is routine nights/weekends type stuff, on top of that 10% full time workers, there is another 5-10% who actually work one day or more from home. So there is a baseline of around 15-20% of workers who are trying to be productive from home.

We interviewed a Fortune 50 company recently who had a goal of giving 20% of their workforce the option of working full time from home as a quality of life issue (e.g. young children at home, an elderly relative who needs care, etc.). They wanted a symmetric, non-blocking 50 meg connection between every home-based worker and the corporate network. They wanted to be able to support a minimum of 4-way uncompressed HD videoconferencing for each home-based worker.

I've been saying for fifteen years now that neighborhoods are business districts, and from a broadband infrastructure perspective, you need to design and build networks that can deliver business class services anywhere. The concept that you can put inferior fiber networks in neighborhoods to shove entertainment down a largely one way pipe is an antiquated business model

Apple Watch reviews starting to appear

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 04/08/2015 - 12:45

Some early reviews of the new Apple Watch are starting to appear. This review discusses battery life. I had to chuckle at this comment:


Geoffrey Fowler, The Wall Street Journal:
"The battery lives up to its all-day billing, but sometimes just barely. It’s often nearly drained at bedtime, especially if I’ve used the watch for exercise. There’s a power-reserve mode that can make it last a few hours longer, but then it only shows the time."

Oh, no! "...it only shows the time..." Goodness...imagine that. A watch that only shows the time....oh, the horror!

No broadband = No tourist dollars

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:22

The "slow or non-existent" broadband service in and around Loch Ness in Scotland is driving tourists away, who flee in horror, not from Nessie, the once and future Loch Ness Monster, but from un-usable broadband.

Broadband is basic infrastructure for community and economic development.

No broadband? I'm selling the house!

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:00

This is a hair-raising story that highlights how broadband is changing economic development....no one wants to live in an area with poor broadband.

Just months after buying a new home, the owner is putting the house on the market because everyone told him he could get broadband service once he moved in, and that just turned out not to be true.

If you want to keep young people in your community and you want to attract businesses and entrepreneurs, broadband--not "little broadband," but "big broadband" is now essential economic development infrastructure.

The Local Transport Provider: A new way of talking about open access

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/26/2015 - 13:15

I wrote this paper to help clarify what local open access networks actually do.

I have found that people continually confuse the local open access network with “service provider,” and thought that coming up with a new term might help.

Design Nine and WideOpen Networks will be at the Broadband Communities Annual Summit in Austin, Texas in April. Be sure to stop by our booth and say hello.

Best regards,
Andrew

The Local Transport Provider: A new way of talking about open access

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/26/2015 - 13:14

I wrote this paper to help clarify what local open access networks actually do.

I have found that people continually confuse the local open access network with “service provider,” and thought that coming up with a new term might help.

Design Nine and WideOpen Networks will be at the Broadband Communities Annual Summit in Austin, Texas in April. Be sure to stop by our booth and say hello.

Best regards,
Andrew

http://www.bbpmag.com/

The Internet of Things has jumped the shark

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/24/2015 - 08:14

Someone has come out with a Bluetooth-enabled baby bottle. As someone who has spent plenty of time feeding babies, I never thought even once, "I wish this baby bottle sent alerts to my phone." In concept, I kind of understand the notion that a "smart bottle" can help train a new parent about issues like letting the child suck too much air (bottle held at wrong angle), or lumps in the milk (did not mix powdered formula enough), but these are things you figure out very quickly on your own. I wonder how on earth you sterilize the "smart" part of the cap. For me, this falls in the same category as most other kitchen and household gadgets that seem interesting but end up stuffed in the back of the utensil drawer. Someone once gave me a long-handled barbecue fork for the grill with a built in meat thermometer. I left it outside by the grill once, it rained, the batteries leaked and corroded the battery contacts, and that was the end of that. I suspect this will do well for a while, as people are always looking for baby shower gifts, and this fits the bill perfectly. But most new parents are likely to end up using "old fashioned" glass baby bottles or the bottles that use the one use plastic inserts (which pretty much solve the sucking air problem).

Death of TV: Part LXXII: 40% of homes now stream video over the Internet

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/12/2015 - 12:38

A new report from Nielsen, the TV tracking firm, shows that 40% of American homes are streaming video over the Internet. This represents a 10% year to year increase. At that rate, there will be few subscribers left on cable and satellite in five more years.

But wait! There's more! The amount of TV being watched live, unsurprisingly, is also down, which makes sense. If you have a Netflix and Hulu subscription, why worry about watching something at a particular time?

What does it mean for communities? Fiber is going to be very important as more and more programming comes over the Internet. Fiber in a community is not just about economic development--it is also about quality of life, and young professionals want to live in a place with great connectivity, not old-fashioned copper networks.

How much "broadband" does a business need?

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 03/09/2015 - 14:06

The Blandin Foundation has a must-read letter from a relatively small business that illustrates very clearly the problem that "not enough broadband" has on economic development.

The whole letter lays out numerous problems, but this is one of the most striking:


"I find many candidates that are excited to raise a family in a rural community, but they do not want to live in the digital equivalence of the 1980’s."

This is the challenge rural communities face in a single sentence. How do you continue to attract and retain young workers as your broadband capacity falls farther and farther behind? Read the whole thing.

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