Apple's reinvention of TV hitting rough spots

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/06/2012 - 13:28

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple is finding it difficult to re-imagine TV. Content providers are scared to death that Apple will be successful in creating a better TV experience. The problem is that the cable companies are deeply involved with the content providers...recall that Comcast, as one example, owns a big chunk of NBC. The cable companies have decided to go down with their own ship; they are going to cling to the sixty year old analog cable model until their last customers swim away the S.S. TitanicCableCo.

I can't really figure out what Apple has in mind that hasn't already been done. I've already ditched cable TV, and am quite content with cheap Hulu and Netflix subscriptions. Why do I need to buy a box from Apple? It's not that hard to bookmark the Netflix site and click on something in my queue. This is one area where I don't Apple really can bring some fresh new user interface experience a la the iPod or the iPhone and win.

Put down the iPad at bedtime

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/06/2012 - 12:42

Here's another report on backlit tablet devices and how they disturb your sleep cycle. The Kindle does not cause the same problems, as it uses the reflective e-ink technology.

Update: I was reminded by a reader that the Kindle Fire is backlit, so that is a device you should NOT be using at bedtime. The less expensive black and white Kindles are the e-ink models and do not have a back light.

Yet Another Update: Amazon just released a new Kindle Paperwhite and Paperwhite3G....with higher screen resolution....and...a backlight! They even have a picture of someone reading in bed in the dark using the backlight. Somehow they forgot to mention "Warning: use of the backlight before bedtime will keep you up all night."

Death of TV: Part XXXVI: Netflix and HBO to dump "TV"

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/04/2012 - 13:54

The clash of the Titans is on....Netflix and HBO are taking the gloves off in Northern Europe. Both content companies are ditching cable and satellite TV to offer their movies and "TV" shows as IP-TV offerings. No cable or satellite TV subscription required. Meanwhile there are bunches of small start ups that are negotiating "channel" line ups for a pure IP-TV offering; their plan is to offer bundles of niche channels (e.g. The Food Channel, the Golf Channel) at a very low monthly subscription price. Once subscribed, you can pick out any show you want and watch it anytime you want, much like Hulu.

A woodstove that charges phones

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/04/2012 - 13:16

Sometimes little things can have big impacts. The BioLite HomeStove has the ability to make a lot of lives better while reducing tree loss in many parts of the world. The innovative cooking device is a highly efficient "jet" or "rocket" stove that burns small amounts of wood while generating a lot of heat. There are many similar jet stoves, and because they are so good at creating lots of heat quickly, in many impoverished areas, the stoves can dramatically reduce the amount of wood needed to cook food, and make it possible to sterilize water much more easily. The stoves also reduce the amount of work needed to collect wood, which, if you are cooking for a family over an open fire, can be very significant.

But the real innovation of this device is the integrated thermocouple that powers a small fan (to make the stove more efficient) and powers a USB port that can charge small portable devices like LED flashlights and cell phones. It is an amazing innovation that has the potential make millions of lives better.

Apple's iCloud disaster

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/22/2012 - 13:37

I hope other iCloud users are having better experiences than I am. From my perspective, it's a mess that makes its mostly awful predecessor, MobileMe, look pretty good by comparison. Here are the problems I am having:

I could keep going, but you get the idea. iCloud is a big mess. The only thing I notice it does very well is keep your music in sync across several computers. I can buy a song from iTunes on my iPhone, and a few seconds later it is in my iTunes library on my laptop. Leave it to Apple to make sure the big money maker (i.e. selling music) works okay. Everything, not so much. Somebody really should be fired over this.

Danville Broadband Conference: $95 early registration

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/07/2012 - 14:02

The Danville Broadband Conference, on November 8th and 9th, is still available for the early registration price of $95. It will soon go back up to the full fee of $475, so if you are planning on going, get in on the great deal. You can register here.

Rural America still on a broadband dirt road...

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/26/2012 - 08:13

Via Eldo Telecom, there is a Calix U.S. Rural Broadband Report with depressing news about broadband cost and availability in rural America (about 70% of the U.S.). Rural residents don't even have the laughingly pathetic 4 meg down/1 meg up of the national broadband target. Most rural broadband is running between 1 and 3 megabits.

But Design Nine is changing that, one community at a time, with projects like RANA and FastRoads. Call me (540-951-4400) if you want help.

Do Not Track spat heats up

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/24/2012 - 12:50

The Do Not Track fight is heating up, with the big Web sites like Google and Facebook firmly opposed to the idea that they should not be allowed to track where consumers go and what they do online. The Federal government is threatening legislation that will require Web sites to allow an opt out option. It is a dilemma, as sites like Yahoo!, Google, Bing, and others make their money in large part by using tracking data to sell ads.

I think it is past time to let users make their own decisions about this. The idea that we can't use the Internet unless we give up all our privacy is an odd, even malicious one. Certainly business models will have to adjust, and we may have to pay for some services that were formerly free. But the problem is that right now, there is no such thing as a "free" service; it is just that the cost (giving up privacy) is obscured, tilting the business transaction in favor of the seller, rather than a more equitable balance between sellers and buyers.

Calix selected for FastRoads Gigabit to the Home network

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/23/2012 - 10:01

PETALUMA, CA – July 23, 2012 – Calix, Inc. (NYSE: CALX) today announced that New Hampshire FastRoads (NH FastRoads) has selected the Calix E7-2 Ethernet Service Access Platform (ESAP) and 700GE family of optical network terminals (ONTs) to provide point-to-point gigabit Ethernet services to underserved subscribers in 35 communities throughout the western part of the state. NH FastRoads has partnered with Network New Hampshire Now (NNHN), a 470-mile Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) awarded fiber network project funded by a $44.5 million BTOP Broadband Stimulus grant and $21.5 million in private and in-kind support, to leverage existing infrastructure to bring advanced broadband services throughout the Upper Valley and Monadnock regions, including fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) projects in Rindge and Enfield. The combined efforts of NH FastRoads and NNHN in this new project will bring one of the nation’s premiere networks to rural western New Hampshire and keep this part of the state a vibrant location for innovative businesses, citizens, and educational institutions.

“New Hampshire as a whole has been underserved by broadband for years, with large portions of our population having to rely on dial-up and wireless services,” said Carole Monroe, executive director of NH FastRoads. “This new fiber network will be a powerful tool to further the economic development of the state that began with the NNHN middle-mile project, while continuing to improve the lives of our existing residents and businesses and attract new business to the area. Calix, with its broad experience with fiber access networks and deep understanding of stimulus projects, will be a true asset in the delivery of advanced services to residents and the extension of fiber across the region.”

NH FastRoads is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) of the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation. The organization was established to bring accessible and affordable broadband to the towns of the Monadnock and Upper Valley regions of New Hampshire. NH FastRoads’ mission is to ensure that homes, businesses, and institutions of the region have the best broadband infrastructure to support jobs and sustainable economic development. The organization’s work will enable delivery of a variety of broadband services beyond high-speed data, including voice telephony, Internet Protocol television (IPTV), movies on demand, business-class videoconferencing, health care services such as in- home monitoring, home and business security, computer backup, public access television, Internet radio, and many other advanced services.

Design Nine has provided the network design and project management for the effort. Design Nine's President, Andrew Cohill said, "We evaluated equipment from many vendors, and in the end, Calix had the most capable equipment and the most attractive technical support package. We're glad to have Calix powering FastRoads’ Gigabit-to-the-Home network."

“With the construction of some middle-mile Broadband Stimulus projects already coming to a completion, we are beginning to see a natural extension of these anchor institution focused networks to target residences and businesses, just as NH FastRoads is undergoing in New Hampshire,” John Colvin, senior vice president of North American sales and marketing. “This kind of project is exactly what the Broadband Stimulus program was designed to be – a catalyst for long term broadband expansion and economic development in each region awarded. We look forward to working with NH FastRoads as they improve the lives and businesses of residents of western New Hampshire with this powerful fiber access network.”

Intelligent Community Foundation announces 2013 award program

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 08:56

The Intelligent Community Foundation has just opened its 2013 Intelligent Community Awards for nominations. This is the first step toward the Intelligent Community of the Year award, to be presented on June 7, 2013.

The awards program salutes the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology. Nominations are encouraged from communities large and small, urban and rural, in developing and industrialized nations. The evaluation system compensates for population-related factors and lets the ICF compare large, midsize and small communities worldwide on a level playing field.

The 2013 theme is "Innovation and Employment." A special section of the questionnaire will examine how Intelligent Communities balance the positive and negative impacts of innovation, which both creates new employment and destroys jobs as it makes old processes obsolete. Look for the announcement later this month on the publication of an ICF white paper on Innovation and Employment.

The deadline for nominations is September 21, 2012. The award criteria and nomination form (consisting of just 6 questions) are available here. The ICF also invites communities to take our online self-test to get a feel for how they will be evaluated.

The ICF will announce the next Smart21 Communities of the Year in October at a ceremony in Riverside, California, USA, the 2012 Intelligent Community of the Year.

Disclaimer: I serve as a juror for the awards evaluation.

BT roles out open access

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 07:27

British Telecom climbed aboard the clue train and has rolled out open access (they call it OpenReach) on their fiber network, inviting service providers to sell to BT-connected homes and businesses.

Broadband drives economic growth

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:51

CNBC reports on a UNESCO Broadband Commission report that says every 10 percent increase in the availability of broadband will add 1.3% to economic growth. Don't think that sounds like much? Run that compounded growth out over ten years, and communities with widespread availability of affordable, high performance broadband are going to be enjoying double digit economic performance compared to communities that sat back and waited for the incumbents to deliver their anemic, overpriced offerings.

Fiber capacity keeps up with demand

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:47

While the cellular wireless networks are groaning under the massive growth in bandwidth use by their mobile customers, fiber capacity just keeps growing and growing. The optical transmission manufacturer Huawei has announced that they have been able to transmit 2 Terabits (2 Tbps) on a single WDM (Wave Division Multiplexing) channel. A single fiber can have many individual channels. A terabit is one thousand gigabits, so Huawei is shoving two thousand gigabits down a single wavelength of light, and they are saying they can boost the capacity of a single fiber to 56 terabits.

It's like I've been saying for a long time...fiber future-proofs your community. If you still think wireless is a viable alternative to fiber, ask yourself why cellular rates keep increasing while the cost per megabit for fiber keeps decreasing. It's all about physics, supply and demand, and fiber has plenty of supply because the PHYSICS ARE DIFFERENT.

Hanging out online is a mental disorder

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 08:02

Well, that explains a lot. If you think the world is going to heck in a handbasket, it is apparently because we are all glued to the computer all day long. I tend not to take these studies too seriously, as they often cannot discern cause and effect. That is, do people who are already prone to depression tend to make that problem worse by hanging out online? And this particular study was only looking at college age kids, who don't have full time jobs and family obligations, and therefore have more time than many of us to engage in unhealthy behaviors.

The sleep disorder problem is a real one, and is becoming a bigger problem as more people use tablet devices and smartphones just before bedtime. The blue light from the backlit screens tricks our brain into thinking it is daytime, and we then have more trouble going to sleep and staying asleep. And if you leave a bunch of devices plugged in near your bed, all those little glowing LEDs is probably making the problem worse. Sleep in the dark, and don't use any CRT or backlit device for at least an hour before bedtime. And get all the chargers, laptops, tablets, and anything else with an ON light out of your bedroom.

Danville to be site of broadband and economic development conference

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/12/2012 - 12:55

The city of Danville, Virginia has implemented a long-term comeback strategy. Danville's early investment in an open access fiber network has helped transform Danville's economy after this former tobacco and textile town lost its traditional economic base. At one time Danville had the highest unemployment in the state of Virginia. Today it is attracting new jobs and new industries - and its open access fiber network plays a key role in business attraction and retention. It will be held on November 8th and 9th, 2012.

THIS IS THE FIRST conference of its kind in this country - an event devoted entirely to the relationship between a community's economic vitality and the presence of advanced broadband networks. Nations around the world have recognized this powerful linkage and responded to it - as have a growing number of communities in the United States. Each event in this new conference series will be held in a city with an advanced broadband system. Each event will have an impressive array of speakers whose mission will be to help attendees evaluate the options and opportunities and develop the optimal, affordable solution for their communities. The first conference is in Danville, Virginia - the Comeback City that bounced back from devastation with a visionary broadband strategy that's creating jobs and attracting the businesses and industries of tomorrow.

Learn how once-struggling towns and cities like Danville are successfully deploying fiber networks that serve their citizens today and position their communities for tomorrow while others struggle against seemingly intractable forces and financial challenges.

Topics and Themes Include:

Conference Chairman: Jim Baller

The conference will be chaired by Jim Baller, President of the Baller Herbst Law Group and widely recognized for his expertise in communications and economic development. The FTTH Council called Baller "the nation's most experienced and knowledgeable attorney on public broadband matters."

Open Access Chairman and Conference Advisor: Andrew Cohill

Dr. Andrew Michael Cohill is president and CEO of Design Nine, a company specializing in municipal and community broadband planning and build outs. Dr. Cohill was director of the world-renowned Blacksburg Electronic Village at Virginia Tech, known as "the most wired community in the world." Design Nine has assisted dozens of communities with broadband planning, and the firm has more open access network experience than any other firm in the country.

Produced by Broadband Communities Magazine in partnership with the City of Danville.

Register now!
http://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1106024

Speedtests and why they mostly document imaginary bandwidth speeds

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:42

Here is an excellent article from MuniNetworks that provides an excellent overview of the problems with broadband speed tests. It is easy for service providers to spoof speed tests into reporting higher upload and download speeds than anyone actually gets on a daily basis.

Speed tests are a bit of a problem for community-owned networks, as they generally don't show the dramatic performance improvements of the local network, because the speed test servers are located somewhere else on the Internet. So it is hard to show just how much better the local network is compared to an incumbent network. The solution is for the community network to install a speed test server on the local network, where the full bandwidth can be shown without the latency of the public Internet.

Virtual grocery shopping

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:37

Shop for groceries at the bus station? That's something you can already do in South Korea, where the traditional grocery store is being nudged out of the way by an interesting new approach to shopping that combines a large "aisle" display and QR codes. A kiosk shows a typical array of products that would be found on one aisle of a grocery store. You hold up your smartphone, scan the QR code of the product you want, and that item gets added to your virtual shopping cart. The groceries are delivered later in the day, after commuters are home from work.

Fiber keeps bringing jobs and development to Danville

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/09/2012 - 07:31

Danville's keen focus on a comprehensive plan to revitalize the downtown area started with creation of a City-owned open access fiber network five years ago. Downtown Danville continues to attract new development; the City just announced a $14 million redevelopment of a historic building that will bring 40+ jobs into the historic River District area of Danville, close to Main Street, shopping, and the Dan River.

Weather report: Stormy weather in the cloud?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/03/2012 - 08:01

The storm last Friday night on the East Coast caused such widespread power outages that it took down some cloud-based services, including Netflix. Some of the outages lasted as long as twenty-four hours, but in general, the cloud hosting providers got things back online quickly.

Here is the real problem: suppose your business is located in one of the areas where power won't be restored for a week. Your office has no power....for at least five business days.

Sitting in McDonald's and trying to run your business off laptops, along with sixty other business people, is not a plan.

Twitter was down? Who knew?

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/22/2012 - 07:44

Twitter was apparently down for some time on Thursday. According to this article, Twitter addicts were devastated: "...my life is over." Really? Your life is over. Here's a clue: You don't have a life.

Twitter is a marvelous service, and it has proven to be extraordinarily useful in unexpected ways, like providing information during weather emergencies, earthquakes, and other kinds of crises. It's been interesting to watch how Twitter has changed the political landscape as well. But Twitter is a kind of information fire hose. I'm baffled by the amount of time some people apparently spend just reading and responding to tweets. I have a job, and I have a life outside work that does not involve tweeting in any significant way. Maybe the comments like "...my life has no meaning any more" are really ironic hipster jokes. I sure hope so, or as a society, we are doomed.

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