Gordon And Mike's ICT Podcast
Perspectives on Technology and Education from Gordon F. Snyder, Jr. & Mike Qaissaunee

Mike Intro: December 19. 2007: Broadband the AT&T and Qwest Way
In this podcast we discuss AT&T and Qwests Fiber to the Node projects.


Mike: Gordon, can you give us a little background on what AT&T is doing?

Project Lightspeed was announced as a 6 billion dollar project by AT&T in June 2004 and involves running optical fiber out to a remote terminal, or node and providing the last portion of the connection over copper wire. The project was ambitious from the start with initial plans to reach close to 19 million homes by the end of 2008. AT&T has given the product the name U-verse and at the TelcoTV conference last October, VP of converged services at AT&T Labs Research Peter Hill gave the keynote address featuring the product. Here's a few quotes from an October 26 CED Magazine post:

AT&T’s roll out of its IPTV video services has been slower than it originally anticipated, but with more than 126,000 current subscribers, the company feels as though it’s on the right track. AT&T started the year with 3,000 video subscribers, then grew that base to 16,000 and 60,000, respectively, in the first and second quarters.

“We’re past the point of last year where the question was, ‘Will IPTV scale?’,? said Peter Hill, VP of converged services at AT&T Labs Research, during the first keynote address Wednesday morning at TelcoTV. “You can’t get to that number (126,000 subscribers) without significant flow through and automation. We do have a competitive service and we can do it to scale.?


Mike: There's always been concerns about bandwidth, especially when compated to products like the Verizon Fiber to the Home, or FiOS project. How is AT&T doing with U-verse?

Bandwidth has been a major concern, with Hill commenting on the H.264 compression standard:

“The encoding rates for H.264 have come down faster than we projected,? Hill said. “We’ll be able to do more channels in the same amount of bandwidth.?

Mike: What other services will be available?

Hill says the company will be adding home DVRs that allow satellite set-top boxes to show video downloaded to the DVR box. Hill also said the company will be adding to the current 30 high-definition channels next year along with photo-sharing and a Voice over IP (VoIP) service. Here's more interesting quotes from the CED Magazine piece:

While cable executives have said there is no compelling reason to move to an IP infrastructure to deliver video services, Hill contends that IPTV is “very different from cable and satellite? because the nature of IP allows for easier integration among services while also allowing it to take advantage of Internet partners such as Amazon.......

One of those features is “Cinema Center? that allows movies to be purchased from Amazon with one click. The movie portal content would be dynamic and would allow subscribers to view trailers prior to making their purchases.

“We don’t have to create this stuff in IP because it reaches out to Web devices and incorporates them into IPTV,? Hill said.


Hill demonstrated how an iPhone could be used to remotely program a home TV and how multiple cameras at live events could be selected by the viewer. He also demonstrated a feature that used an i-Phone to remotely configure channel favorites on a home TV. The application would give four different i-Phone users the ability to program their favorite shows on their household TVs. Also discussed was a Web cam feature that would let viewers in different locations view a live performance of a sporting event or dance concert based on IP technology that uses switched digital video.


Mike: I know they had problems with the original set top box - any updates?

Also, according to CED Magazine:

During the question-and-answer segment, Hill said AT&T would continue to rely on the Motorola set-top box with the Sigma Designs processor as its main workhorse, although it’s also working with Scientific Atlanta on a box with the same signature.

Hill expected new set-top boxes with second-generation chipsets from Sigma and Broadcom to be available in 2009.


Mike: How is it selling?

The U-verse product website lists:

Subscribers: 126,000 U-verse TV and Internet subscribers in service (as of end of 3Q07)

Homes Passed: Approximately 5.5 million living units (as of end of 3Q07)

Deployment: Plans to pass approximately 8 million living units by the end of 2007Another interesting roll out to watch in 2008.
Schedule: AT&T expects to reach nearly 18 million households as part of its initial deployment by the end of 2008.


Mike: Speaking about FTTN - I know you recently blogged on Qwest and FTTN effort. Can you give us an update?

Qwest is based in Denver and provides services to 14 states in the western part of the U.S.

Earlier this week, Broadband Reports posted an interesting summary of a conference call with new (he started in August) Qwest CEO Ed Mueller. Here's a summary from the Broadband Reports post:
Qwest will spend $300 million over the next two years to bring 20Mbps VDSL to around 1.5 million customers.
- $70-100 million will be spent on FTTN this year and another $200 million next year.

Qwest hopes to see a FTTN/VDSL penetration rate of 40% by 2010.
Upgrades are going to cost the company around $175 per home. Qwest will focus on portions of around twenty un-mentioned markets.

The Denver Post also published an article yesterday outlining the call and indicated the company will not focus on IP video delivery, stating "the $300 million fiber-to-the-node project is not intended as a deployment of IPTV." Qwest currently has a video agreement with DirectTV and it looks like that agreement will stay in place.

The Post article gave a little more detail on deployment, stating the rollout "will focus on 20 markets with the project, 10 of its largest and 10 others." Also according to the article, Qwest has started to upgrade their network in Denver and Colorado Springs.

Second generation VDSL (Very High Speed Digital Subscriber Line), referred to as VDSL2, provides up to 100Mbps over standard copper telephone wires.

These will be  exciting products to watch in 2008.
Direct download: FTTN_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:22am EDT

Mike Intro: Earlier this fall we discussed DOCSIS 3.0 and how the cable companies will use this technology to deliver high bandwidth services to consumers. In this podcast we discuss the implementation and technologies the traditional telephone companies are using to deliver-high bandwidth voice, video and data services.

Mike: Gordon, I know you are very familiar with Verizon and the companies FiOS fiber to the home ((FTTH) product. How is the project coming along?

FiOS is Verizon's Fiber to the Home (FTTH), also know as Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) product offering. The service provides high-bandwidth data, voice and video services. The company has posted some interesting data on their policy blog for the third quarter of 2007. Here's a summary:

Fiber Implementation: Source: http://www.verizon.com/fiberoptics


FiOS is currently available in parts of 16 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

At the end of September 2007, Verizon had passed about 8.5 million homes and businesses – installing more than 457 million feet of fiber in parts of 16 states.

Verizon expects to continue passing some 3 million premises annually through 2010,

when the company expects to have passed about 18 million homes, or over half the homes

it serves.

Verizon will begin boosting speeds and capabilities on its all-fiber network when it begins

deploying advanced G-PON electronics in 2007. This technology can increase

downstream broadband speeds by up to four times, and upstream speeds by eight times.

Verizon is investing nearly $23 billion in the FiOS project, between 2004 and 2010.

Mike: How about broadband products?


Broadband Products: Source: http://www22.verizon.com/Content/ConsumerFiOS/


Mike: What about video?


Video: Source: http://www.verizonfios.com/tv



Mike: What's happening with bandwidth over fiber?

On November 19, Verizon announced they have completed a 100 Gbps optical communications test between Tampa and Miami, FL. The two cities are 312 miles apart. Here's a couple of quotes from the press release:

Verizon has successfully concluded the industry's first field test of 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) optical transmission, on a live, in-service 312-mile (504 kilometer) network route between Tampa, Fla., and Miami.

The test, which utilized a live video feed from Verizon's national FiOS TV network as the "payload," was successfully completed Friday (Nov. 16). The 100 Gbps transmission was conducted on a Verizon Business ultra long-haul optical system carrying other live traffic at 10 Gbps. The test demonstrated that by deploying advanced electronics, an existing network system can easily and quickly be upgraded to 100Gbps.


The test was done using existing fiber that had been installed for 10 Gbps service. Here's a couple more quotes from the press release:

Unlike other trials that used 10 separate 10 Gbps wavelengths to carry 100 Gbps, the Verizon test utilized a 100 Gbps signal on a single wavelength, demonstrating Verizon's drive to promote "true" 100 Gbps in a serial fashion on just one transmission wavelength.

Like the equipment in the company's 40 Gbps trial in June 2004, the 100 Gbps equipment used in the field trial was implemented with a "plug and play" approach. This is a key objective for future commercial implementation, and means the technology was used without any changes to the fiber, amplifiers and other embedded equipment.

Amazing bandwidth obtained using existing fiber - the trial only swapped electronics using, according to the press release, Alcatel-Lucent's 1625 LambdaXtreme Transport system.

Mike: Will companies continue to deliver assymetrical services?


On October 22, Verizon announced 20 Mbps symmetrical FIOs service in parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for as low as $64.99 a month. There are two things that I find exciting about this offering. First - it's great to see the bandwidths continue to go up. I feel this is just the start and we'll see bandwidths of over 100 Mbps within the next two years in selected areas as the telcos, like Verizon, go head-to-head with the cable companies like Comcast. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where FIOS is available you re in for a real treat regarding bandwidth.

The second exciting thing I see here is a shift to symmetrical services.

Mike: Could you explain what a symmetrical service is and how it differ from what we're used to?

Broadband products to date, including FIOS, ADSL and cable modem, have always been asymmetrical - the "A" in ADSL is even short for asymmetrical! Asymmetrical services provide more downstream bandwidth than upstream bandwidth. It's been a way for the providers to "cheat" a bit based on traditional Internet usage. Consider the way you traditionally surf the web - you enter a small amount of information in the address bar and hit enter. The address you type ends up going to a DNS (Domain Name Service) server and is looked up. The DNS server sends back the IP address of the site you want and your browser is directed to that site location. The site server then sends your browser the site contents you want to see.

Think about it - in the traditional model - a little information gets sent upstream and lots of information comes back downstream. Recognizing these patterns the providers have designed their networks to provide a little upstream bandwidth and lots of downstream bandwidth. Well...... all this has changed with this new FIOS offering from Verizon. Here's a quote from a Verizon press release:

"Verizon's new symmetric service is a smart response to the changing usage patterns of high-speed Internet subscribers," said Vince Vittore, senior analyst with Yankee Group. "We believe that as user-generated content continues to expand and telecommuting increases in popularity, upstream speed will become just as important as downstream for all users."

Mike: Thanks Gordon. We'll take a look at Fiber To The Node (FTTN) technologies next week.

Direct download: FTTH_Final.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:57pm EDT

I've had a bad case of Bronchitis and have had voice problems. It has not stopped me from blogging at www.nctt.org/blog but has causes some delays in podcasting. I am getting better (almost) and we hope to get back on our recording schedule sometime next week.
We apologize for the delay.
Gordon
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:33am EDT

In this podcast we discuss new Apple, Microsoft and Google products and services including Leopard, Vista, the iPhone and Google IMAP support.


Gordon: Mike, this past week Apple announced it had sold 2 million copies in the first weekend (last weekend).
You've got Leopard and have it installed - what are your impressions?


Leopard is the sixth major release of Mac OS X and is packed with more
than 300 new features.

"Early indications are that Leopard will be a huge hit with
customers,"
said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "Leopard's innovative features are
getting great reviews and making more people than ever think about
switching to the Mac."

Leopard has many key innovations including the Time Machine, "an
effortless way to automatically back up everything on a Mac; a
redesigned Finder that lets users quickly browse and share files
between multiple Macs*; Quick Look, a new way to instantly see files
without opening an application; Spaces, an intuitive new feature used
to create groups of applications and instantly switch between them; a
brand new desktop with Stacks, a new way to easily access files from
the Dock; and major enhancements to Mail and iChat(R)."

Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) fourth-quarter net income improved to $904
million,
or $1.01 a share, from a year-earlier profit of $542 million, or 62
cents a share.


Gordon: So - the company is doing pretty good?


Among the quarter's highlights were sales of 2.16 million Macintosh PCs and 1.11 million
iPhones. Apple had the most amazing launch of the all new iPhone, and
this holiday season could be a blockbuster for the iPhone and Apple
revenues. The latest iPod Touch could also rake in huge sales.


Gordon: How's Microsoft doing?

On October 25, 2007, Microsoft reported 27% revenue growth (over last
year) on sales of $13.76 billion for the quarter ended September 30,
2007, and the "fastest first quarter since 1999". 

"This fiscal year is off to an outstanding start with the fastest
revenue growth of any first quarter since 1999," said Chris Liddell,
chief financial officer at Microsoft in the press release. "Operating
income growth of over 30% also reflects our ability to translate
revenue into profits while making strategic investments for the
future."

Microsoft's businesses of Client, Microsoft Business Division, and
Server and Tools grew combined revenue in excess of 20%, and
experienced robust demand for Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office
system, Windows Server, and SQL Server.

"Customer demand for Windows Vista this quarter continued to build
with double-digit growth in multi-year agreements by businesses and with
the vast majority of consumers purchasing premium editions," said Kevin
Johnson, president of the Platform and Services Division at Microsoft.

During the quarter, Microsoft's two consumer focused divisions passed
milestones with the successful close of the company's largest ever
acquisition, aQuantive, and Halo 3 achieving the biggest entertainment
launch day in history. (Halo 3 launch eclipsed all previous video
games and movie launches)


Mike: Gordon, you just bought an iPhone - how about your  impressions?

Gordon's impressions.

1. Easy setup
2. iTunes - easy
3. IMAP Google email - very nice
4. Google calendar - very nice
5. Address book/SIM card conversion very simple.


Gordon: Any recommendations on anything I should look at/setup today?

Mike's comments.
Direct download: Apple_Microsoft_Google_FIN.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:53am EDT

Title: The Next Generation Cable Network: DOCSIS 3.0

Intro: The first DOCSIS standard, short for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications, standard was released by the company Cable Labs in 1997. In this podcast we take a look at the history of these standards and discuss DOCSIS 3.0 – the emerging standard in the cable industry.

Mike: Gordon, can you give us a brief history of the first DOCSIS standards?

Gordon – just covers up to 2.0

Mike: What are “tiered services??

Tiered services is business jargon for providing a service (such as telecom connectivity or cable channel service) according to separate, incrementally distinct quality and pay levels, or "tiers." We’re seeing this term used a lot recently in political debate regarding “net neutrality?.

Mike: Can you tell us a little more about DOCSIS 3.0?

Sure – in a nutshell it’s bigger, better, faster… It’s a needed response to products from competitors like Verizon with FIOs FTTH product and AT&T with the FTTN Lightspeed product. It’s triple play broadband – voice video and data.

DOCSIS 3.0:

- Much higher bandwidth through channel bonding

- Starts at 160 Mbps Downstream, 60 Mbps Upstream and goes up from there

   - TI just rolled out their Puma 5 chip set a couple of weeks ago for cable modems. The chipset supports new DOCSIS 3.0 features, such as channel bonding, enable ultra high downstream bandwidth rates of at least 160 Mbps in the residential data and voice services configuration and 320 Mbps in video and business services configuration. In addition Puma 5 also supports greater quality of service with IPv6 and security with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

- Multiple 6 MHz (or 8 MHz) channels are bound, treating them logically as one

  • Channel bonding in both upstream and downstream

- IPv6 for advanced networking capabilities

- Expanded address space (2128 or 3.4 dodecillion)

  • Improved operational capabilities

Mike: How will IPv6 be rolled out?

There’s a lot of speculation now but it looks like it will be in to phases. John T. Chapman and Shalabh Goel from Cisco Systems have an interesting piece we’ve got linked in the shownotes (http://www.cable360.net/ct/sections/features/20942.html )

The initial deployment phase allows the cable operator to set up an IPv6 control and management plane for managing the cable modems, set-top boxes, and multimedia terminal adapters (MTAs) with a cost-effective upgrade. In a subsequent deployment phase, cable operators can offer IPv6 directly to the home network. Many new devices are already IPv6 capable, and cable operators could soon be running the largest IPV6 networks in the world.?

Mike: What are some other key features of DOCSIS 3.0?

Other key related DOCSIS 3.0 features, which may be migrated over time, include:

Enhanced security, including advanced encryption standard (AES), security provisioning and theft of service features;

An upstream frequency range extension to 85 MHz and a downstream frequency extension to 1 GHz that allows an operator to add existing capacity with plant upgrades at a later date;

Enhanced plant diagnostic features, including a cable modem diagnostic log, enhanced signal quality monitoring, extension of IP data record (IPDR) usage and capacity management.

Mike: How about the commercial services?

(from: http://www.cable360.net/ct/sections/features/20942.html)

DOCSIS 3.0 specifications define two technologies for business services over DOCSIS: layer 2 virtual private networks (VPNs) and T-1 circuit emulation.

Business users will be able to videoconference from their PCs and PDAs and tap into corporate networks through VPNs; residential customers will subscribe to video-on-demand (VOD) and IP telephony services with low latency and minimum packet loss; and users everywhere will be able to upload and download files at much greater broadband speeds.

Mike: When will it be available?

  • Comcast demo’ed 150 Mbps at the May 14, 2007 Cable Show in Las Vegas.

  • The Associated Press described a demo in which a 30-second, 300MB television commercial was downloaded in a few seconds, while a standard cable modem took 16 minutes?.

  • Also downloaded, in less than four minutes, was the full 32-volume Encyclopedia Britannica 2007 and Merriam-Webster’s visual dictionary. With a standard cable modem, that download would have taken three hours and 12 minutes (dialup would have taken 2 weeks)?.

  • Comcast is currently trialing this in the Boston area. In one trial, the cable operator will set up an IP video headend to experiment with carrying voice, video and data over a single IP connection?.

According to FierceIPTV (http://www.fierceiptv.com/story/comcast-to-trial-docsis-3.0-iptv/2007-05-08 ):

Comcast's planned converged-services trial will take place in a system that serves 50,000 homes, and will include an IP-video headend and DOCSIS 3.0 STBs, as well as the Slingbox from Sling Media, dual mode WiFi-cellular handsets and mobile phones capable of playing video.?

According to Chapman and Goel: The industry consensus is that fully compliant DOCSIS 3.0 CMTS* implementations will be available in 2008 to 2009. Many cable operators will require the most critical DOCSIS 3.0 features, such as downstream channel bonding and IPv6, far earlier. To meet this demand, many vendors’ CMTS products now include early implementations of such a subset of DOCSIS 3.0 features.

* CMTS: A cable modem termination system or CMTS is equipment typically found in a cable company's headend, or at cable company hubsite and is used to provide high speed data services, such as cable internet or Voice over IP, to cable subscribers.

In order to provide these high speed data services, a cable company will connect its headend to the Internet via very high capacity data links, also known as a circuit (canonical form of telecommunication circuit), to a network service provider. On the subscriber side of the headend, the CMTS enables the communication with subscribers' cable modems. Different CMTSs are capable of serving different cable modem population sizes - ranging from 4,000 cable modems to 150,000 or more. A given headend may have between half a dozen to a dozen or more CMTSs to service the cable modem population served by that headend.

One way to think of a CMTS is to imagine a router with Ethernet interfaces (connections) on one side and coax RF interfaces on the other side. The RF/coax interfaces carry RF signals to and from the subscriber's cable modem. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CMTS )

Direct download: DOCSIS_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:46am EDT

Title: Sept 16, 2007 - Micro-blogging

Intro: You may be thinking about starting a blog but feel you don't have the time or maybe won't know what to write about. You may already have a blog and are looking for ways to provide interesting content in real time. Micro-blogging may be a great solution. In this session we discuss micro-blogging and take a look at a few of the many free micro-blogging applications.

Mike: Gordon, I know you've really got into micro-blogging recently - could you describe what it is?

Wikipedia defines micro-blogging as:

"a form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates (usually less than 200 characters) and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, MP3 or the web."

Gordon: I think we've both developed a recent addiction to micro-blogging. Your recently wrote a blog describing Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce. Many are calling these social networks, or micro-blogs. Can you describe what this means?

In Twitter and Jaiku you provide information about your thoughts, activities and/or whereabouts. Some users update so often, that it's almost like real-time updates. Pownce works similarly, but allows users to easily share links, files and events. Twitter is still the most popular of the three, but Pownce - by invitation only - seems to be gaining quickly. I'm not sure I understand the attraction of these sites - maybe it's generational, but they're very popular and seem to be addictive.

Gordon: You wrote about a real-world use of Twitter by the Los Angeles Fire Department. Can you tell us about that?

Members of the fire department provide real-time updates (known as tweets) of LAFD activities and operations. Anyone interested can subscribe or follow this Twitter. Imagine the uses at a college or university - we could provide updates on availability of writing or math labs or even our testing center. We could also provide registration information in real-time, such as number of seats, new sections, cancellations etc. To think of it, you could also use these tools to manage your office hours - in real-time!

Mike: You've been tweeting on Twitter frequently. What kind of content are you posting?

I find myself doing a lot of web surfing and I like to tweet the links I'm reading for future reference. I had been tagging using digg (I still do) but have found Twitter to be a little easier to use. I've also got my Twitter micro-blog displayed on my full blog page. I like tagging using Twitter because my tags are easier for others to find. If you watch what I tag - I'm frequently tagging something one day and then writing a full blog on it the next. I find this a very easy method.

Mike: How are you posting to twitter? Are you using any browser plugins or add-ons?


I've been using a Firefox add-on called Twitterbar. It's linked on the mozilla site - here's the download link: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4664 It's from Tony Farndon (tones) at http://spatialviews.com

From mozilla: The twitterbar extension allows you to post to twitter from the firefox addressbar. A small unobtrusive grey icon sits to the right of your addressbar, clicking on it will post your tweet, mouseover will tell you how many characters you have left. You can also post by typing ' --post' or hit the grey arrow when visiting a webpage to carry out a URL tweet (i.e it adds 'Currently Browsing: ' in front of the url). Options for the extension include safe/secure mode, open twitter in new tab after posting and the ability to change the URL tweet 'Currently browsing' text.

There are a number of other plugins/add-ons. Mashable.com has a great post titled 8 Awesome Firefox Plugins for Twitter

Mike: Have you started posting using your cell phone yet?


Not yet. You can receive updates from those you're following (or just some people) on your phone and you can send updates using text messaging. Twitter doesn't charge anything for this, but you want to make sure you have a text messaging plan with your cellular carrier. You can shut text messages from Twitter off at anytime by replying with "off" (and back on by sending "on"). And you can even specify that it turn off automatically at night.
In addition you can tweet from you instant messenger client. Right now Twitter supports AIM, GTalk, Jabber, .Mac and LiveJournal.

Gordon: Mike - how about some of the others. You sent me an invite for Pownce which I signed up for but have not spent a lot of time with. How does that work?

Pownce was co-founded by Kevin Rose - the 30-year old brains behind hugely successful news/social networking site digg.com. Digg allows user to post links to interesting news or websites and other users to either "digg" or "bury" the article. Stories with the most diggs rise to the top, while others disappear - it's a great way to let the community filter news.

From NY Times article linkd in my blog: With Pownce You can send text messages to individual friends or groups of friends on Pownce as well as post microblogs, or short announcements, to the larger Pownce community. This function is very similar to messaging services like Twitter or Jaiku, and is found on social networks like Facebook and MySpace (although Pownce’s messages cannot, at least for now, be sent to mobile phones). You can also send your friends links, invitations to events, or files like photos, music or videos. Of course, you can already do that on a multitude of file-sharing Web sites. It is the combination of private messaging and file-sharing that makes Pownce so novel.

Gordon: Jaiku - can you tell us about that?

From Wikipedia: Jaiku.com is a social networking and micro-blogging service comparable to Twitter[1]. Jaiku was founded in July, 2006 by Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen from Finland.

Mike: Are there any others?


Sure. Read/WriteWeb.com recently published a piece called
Let's run down the list as quoted in the Read/WriteWeb piece.

****
Tumblr is a very clean, slick micro-blogging platform. Its focus is on simplicity and elegance. Similar to Pownce, users can share a variety of things, including text, photos, quotes, links, chats, or even videos.

MySay is what it says. Instead of text updates, users call MySay and say how they are doing today. Then, friends or family can listen via phone, e-mail, or the web.

Hictu is a service for video microbloggers. A webcam and a mouse-click are all that is needed to create a videopost. This streamlined solution saves time and effort for traditional vloggers.

Moodmill is a way to express your mood or current state of being. A sliding scale facilitates this process, while a quick text update completes the personalized service.

Frazr is also very similar to Twitter. The main difference is one of language. Frazr is focused primarily on the French and German markets.

IRateMyDay allows you the ability to (yes, you guessed it) rate your day on a scale of 'Worst' to 'Great'. Users can also provide a short text update to accompany the rating.

Emotionr is a way to gauge your happiness on a scale of 1-10 (decimals included). As the name touts, it is a way to express and share your emotions and feelings with those around you.

****
Completely off topic - rumor has it Google Presently will be coming out this week!
Also discuss the gPhone and Robert Cringley's blog on Google.
Direct download: Micro_blogging_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:32am EDT

Intro: On Wednesday, September 5, Apple announced a new product, the iPod touch. In this podcast we take a look at the itouch.
Mike: Gordon, the itouch is not available yet - you've done a little research - if you had to describe the device in a few words how would you describe?

The iPod touch is basically an iPhone without the phone. It comes in two storage sizes – there is a 8 Gigabyte version for $299 and a 16 Gigabyte version for $399. I’ve written about the iPhone and storage capacity in the past - as a rough guideline, 1 Gigabyte of storage space will hold approximately 250 songs or 45 minutes of video.

The iPhone requires a 2 year AT&T contract while the iPod touch idoes not require any cellular contracts. You buy it and use it as you would a classic iPod.


Gordon: Mike - the products appear to be similar and you have an iPhone - can you describe wireless connectivity?

In addition to allowing you to listen to music and watch video the iPod touch has built in wireless WiFi functionality and can be used for Internet access in any area where there is WiFi availability. Places that provide free WiFi access include most college campuses, libraries, some coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Many of you probably have WiFi in your homes now, with services provided by companies like Verizon and Comcast


Gordon: How about web browsing?

The iPod touch has a similar 3.5-inch widescreen display that the iPhone has allowing you to surf the web, watch videos, TV shows and view photos. The iPod touch’s screen appears to be of a slightly higher quality than the iPhone, with 163 pixels per inch to the iPhone’s 160 pixels per inch.

For web browsing, and like the iPhone, it comes with the Safari web browser. If you have not had a chance to “surf? the web with an iPhone (or iPod touch) the next time you are in the mall stop in the Apple store and give it a try with one of the display models. I think you will be very impressed.


Mike: I know you are impressed with the user interface - can you describe?

If you currently own an iPod you are familiar with the click wheel interface that you use to select, play, fast forward, etc. The iPod touch does not have a click wheel, it has the same multi-touch screen interface as the iPhone. It does not take long to get used to the multi-touch interface. You can do all the things you can do with the click wheel and also use simple hand motions like pinching, flicking and flipping to do things like zoom in on websites, scroll though music lists and flip through album covers. Once I tried multi-touch I was hooked.


Gordon: How about some differences when compared to the iPhone?

Source: http://www.iphoneatlas.com/2007/09/05/differences-between-the-iphone-and-ipod-touch/
  • There is no email client on the iPod Touch
  • There is no Maps application on the iPod Touch
  • There are no Stocks or Weather widgets on the iPod Touch
  • There is no built-in camera for the iPod Touch
  • There are no Blutooth capabilities for the iPod Touch
  • The iPod Touch has a differently styled “Dock,? with a reflective surface — akin to the Dock that will debut with Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)
  • While the iPod Touch is sleeping, the user can tap the home button twice to bring up touch controls on the screen — a feature the iPhone currently lacks
  • The iPod Touch has a separate Contacts app — it’s built into the Phone application on the iPhone
  • The iPod Touch has separate Video and Music apps, whereas the iPhone has a single “iPod? app that contains these functions
  • There is apparently (and obviously) no microphone on the iPod Touch, though it will be interesting to see if such audio-in capabilities could be enabled via a third-party device.
  • The iPod touch’s headphone jack is on the bottom of the device
  • The iPod touch lacks a built-in external speaker


Mike: And how about iTunes - any news on where Apple is going with it?

Also if you own an iPod you are familiar with the process of purchasing songs and video from the iTunes store. The songs are purchased from the store using your computer. The iPod is then connected to your computer with a cable and the purchases are downloaded to the iPod. When the downloads are complete you disconnect the cable and can now listen to and watch the music and videos you purchased on your iPod. I’ve always found this process cumbersome but it looks like it will get easier soon. Later this month Apple plans to launch a Wi-Fi version of the iTunes store. This means you will be able to purchase and download music directly from the iTunes music store using an iPhone or iPod touch. You will be able to find what you’re looking for, preview it, buy it and download it directly to the to either of these devices. If you own a classic iPod (with a click wheel) you will still have to use the computer and cable to make purchases and downloads.

Direct download: iPod_touch_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:07pm EDT

Intro: Business and Industry continues to implement Web 2.0 technologies to make things run faster and more efficiently. In this podcast we discuss the use of these technologies by various corporations.


Gordon: Mike - you've been doing some reading and poking around in this area over the summer - can you give us a list of some of your favorite references?


Mike: I've been reading Wikinomics by by Don Tapscott (Author), Anthony D. Williams (Author)


Gordon: Mike - can you give any info on specific companies implementing these technologies?

Mike:

At Procter & Gamble, The Good And Bad Of Web 2.0 Tools




Business technology execs at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston June 18-21 to explore integrating Web 2.0 technologies into their enterprises. A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, is pushing improved internal and external collaboration primarily to develop new products faster. Leading this effort is Joe Schueller, innovation manager in P&G's Global Business Services. Schueller makes an interesting observation that email is the biggest barrier to employee use of more interactive and effective tools.

As a sender of an e-mail, I control the agenda of everyone around me. E-mailers decide who has permission to read a message, and the Reply To All button ensures that peripheral participants will be prompted long after they have lost all interest. Blogs, in contrast, beg for comments from those most interested.

P&G provides a study of how Enterprise 2.0 will take shape given the scope of its project and the way it draws on tools from startups as well as big-name vendors.

Video from conference -  Open/Download MP4

PPT from conference -  Open/Download PPT


 

Gordon: What kinds of tools and applications are they using?

Mike: Starting in 2005, P&G began a Microsoft-centric collaboration initiative, with

  • instant messaging,
  • unified communications, and
  • presence;
  • Web conferencing; and
  • content management and collaboration. 
About 80,000 employees use Microsoft IM, and 20,000 have moved to Outlook. P&G has a few SharePoint sites running, and the major rollout started in August.

Now moving to offer employees a more diverse toolset.


Gordon: Are they doing any blogging?

Mike: Movable Type blogging software, which employees have used to create hundreds of blogs, including ones

  • by the VP of design
  • by the public relations department on how to discuss company issues externally; and
  • by Schueller, read mostly by IT folks.

Gordon: How about social networking?


Mike: Plans to launch social networking intended to make it easier to find people with needed expertise.

Gordon: Have they tried any of the integrated platforms? For example, the first one that comes to my mind is Microsoft's Community Server - a product that integrates many of the Web 2.0 based tools into a single platform.

Mike: Companies are finding monolithic solutions/platforms from big players like Microsoft and IBM inadequate, even as they add support for blogs, wikis, and calendar sharing, instead their focus is on modular, flexible solutions and even the openness to IT also needs to learn how to incorporate tools employees bring in themselves, he says.


Gordon: How about enterprise search - Google has their appliance - how is that working?


Mike: Enterprise search - such as Google's search appliance - is another tool companies are using to find and share information - unfortunately, P&G has found this sort of keyword-based search limited. The solution - sharing bookmarks and tagging articles, pages, and documents with descriptive words, using a product from Connectbeam that works with Google's search appliance - integrating tags and bookmarks  with Google search results.

Gordon: What else are they doing with their web portal?

Mike: Additionally, their Web portal is being redesigned to include news and business RSS feeds and allow employees to personalize the portal - future plans include the ability to suggest feeds for employees based on their roles and their Web history.


Gordon: We know on the academic side it can be a hard sell to some employees who are pretty fixed in their ways. How are big companies encouraging their employees to use these applications?

Mike: The challenge - getting people to use these tools, that many view as extra work - employees who see anything other than e-mail as an addition to their workloads. The approach is to try to integrate these tools into employees existing workflow, with the goal of simplifying the process.


Gordon: P&G is one big company! Are there others moving in the same direction?

Mike: P&G is not alone - others jumping on the Enterprise 2.0 bandwagon include Bank of America, Boeing, the Central Intelligence Agency, FedEx, Morgan Stanley, and Pfizer. As part of an initiative called Intranet 2.0, Motorola has 4,400 blogs, 4,200 wiki pages, and 2,600 people actively doing content tagging and social bookmarking.

Motorola employees also can more easily find people with experience in specific areas using social networking software from Visible Path or checking author pages on wikis. "It actually lets people see new relationships--to see maps of what smart people and like people have done," says Toby Redshaw, Motorola's VP in charge of Enterprise 2.0 technologies. The result is that the company is building knowledge centers around particular problems and products.

That's the end goal for Schueller--that employees and partners searching for information on the intranet, creating profiles, tagging documents, and sharing bookmarks make the content more valuable.
 

Direct download: Enterprise2_0_Sept_3_2007.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT

Intro: You may think Google and Yahoo have a lock on search but it may be time to starting thinking a little differently. In this podcast we take a look at some niche search sites.

Mike: Gordon, we love Google products and services - is there a the problem?

It may be Google does too good of a job! Have you ever tried Google searching on a persons name? A simple Google search on my first and last name gives over 1.9 million results!

Today, three companies control almost 90% of online search:

- over 50% of all searches are done using Google

- over 25% on Yahoo

- and over 13% using Microsoft

There are some problems though – these search engines primarily give results based on the number of sites linking to a page and the prominence of search terms on a page. Because they work this way there is room for niche.

Mike: With this kind of lock on search it would be almost impossible for a startup to launch a successful general search product - right?

Yes - it would be almost impossible but we are seeing some acrivirt in the niche areas. Areas like travel and finance are niches that have already been filled but today there seems to be some room in the people search area.

Mike: Are there companies in this market we should be looking at?

One of the startups to watch is Spock at www.spock.com. Spock is scheduled for their public launch the first week of August. Among other places on the web, Spock scans social networking websites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Search results give summary information (age, address, etc) about the person along with a list of website links that refer to the person.

According to Spock 30% of the 7 billion searches done on the web every month are related to individuals. Spock says about half of those searches concern celebrities with the other half including business and personal lookups. According to Spock, a common problem that we face is that there are many people with the same name. Given that, how do we distinguish a document about Michael Jackson the singer from Michael Jackson the football player?

With billions of documents and people on the web, we need to identify and cluster web documents accurately to the people they are related to. Mapping these named entities from documents to the correct person is what Spock is all about and they’re coming at the problem in an interesting way.

Mike: I've looked at Spock - what is the Spock Challenge?

They’ve launched what they call the Spock Challenge – more formally referred to as the SPOCK Entity Resolution Problem linked here: http://challenge.spock.com/pages/learn_more

If you go to the site you can download a couple of data sets – one called a training set (approx 25,000 documents) and the other called a test set (approx 75,000 documents).

Along with the document sets they include a set of target names. You assume that each document contains only one of the target names (even though most documents contain many names). The challenge is to partition all the documents relevant to a target name by their referent.

Mike: When does the contest begin and end?

It has already begun on 4/16/07. It will end on 11/16/07. On 11/16/07, Spock will run the final round of the competition and announce the winner.
Here are the dates off the website:

4/16 Registration started
5/1- 8/15 Proposal submissions accepted
7/1 Leader board live
11/1 Finalists announced
11/16 Final round at Spock, winner announced

Mike: What languages and tools be used?

You can use any language and any non-commercial libraries, tools and data to develop the solution. There is one catch - the winner grants Spock non-exclusive right to use the software and data. As an FYI, much of Google is actualy written in Python with the Search Engine Core written in C++. Python provied scripting support for the search engine. and some apps like google code are done in python

Mike: Can you give us and example of how this works?

From their website: Consider the following two documents with the target name "Michael Jackson":

Michael Jackson - The King of Pop or Wacko Jacko?

Michael Jackson statistics - pro-football-reference.com

The referents of these articles are the pop star and football player, respectively. They’ve also included the ground truth for the training set so you have something to compare against.

Once you're done training, you can run your algorithm on the test set and submit your results on this site. Spock will provide instant feedback in the form of a percentage rank score. This way you can see how you stack up against the other teams.

So they provide you with a lot of well constructed data, and the ground truth about that data. “Ground truth? data is real results and you use this information to validate your search algorithm results.

This data is documents about people, and the challenge is to determine all the unique people described in the data set. This data can be your training set. Once you have got your basic algorithm working against the training set, they let you further tune your code by running it against a second test data set and give you instant accuracy feedback in the form of a score. The score depends on how many correct unique people you can identify in the data. This way you can continue to refine your work, and see how you are doing, and how well others are doing.

This looks like a great academic challenge. At the end of the contest time, you submit your code, a 3 page description of your approach, pre-built binary executables that can run in isolation on Spock servers, and your results (the “Software Entry?). Spock will select the finalists based upon submissions, and fly the finalists to visit the judges. The winner will win $50,000, 2nd place wins $5000 and 3rd place wins $2000.


Mike: How doe people enter?

You may enter the Contest by registering online at www.spock.com/contestregistration . You may register as an individual or as a team. During the registration process, you must provide your name, your age, your email address, and the country you are from. If you are entering on behalf of an organization, a school or a company, you must identify its name. If you are registering as a team, you must provide the same information for each member of your team as well as the identity of a team leader. You will also provide a name for your team or for yourself by which you or your team will be known to other participants in the Contest. Spock may change the name if it feels the name you select is not appropriate for any reason.

Mike: What are the differences between the Spock Challenge and the Netflix Challenge?

From Netflix website: The Netflix Prize (http://www.netflixprize.com ) seeks to substantially improve the accuracy of predictions about how much someone is going to love a movie based on their movie preferences. Improve it enough and you win one (or more) Prizes.
Winning the Netflix Prize improves Netflix ability to connect people to the movies they love.

Netflix provides you with a lot of anonymous rating data, and a prediction accuracy bar that is 10% better than what Cinematch can do on the same training data set. (Accuracy is a measurement of how closely predicted ratings of movies match subsequent actual ratings.) If you develop a system that Netflix judges  beats that bar on the qualifying test set they provide, you get serious money and the bragging rights. But (and you knew there would be a catch, right?) only if you share your method with Netflix and describe to the world how you did it and why it works.
In addition to the Grand Prize, we’re also offering a $50,000 Progress Prize each year the contest runs. It goes to the team whose system we judge shows the most improvement over the previous year’s best accuracy bar on the same qualifying test set. No improvement, no prize. And like the Grand Prize, to win you’ll need to share your method with us and describe it for the world.
The Netflix contest started October 2, 2006 and continues through at least October 2, 2011.

So..... back to your question - The Netflix Challenge will run another 4 years; Spock Challenge has every intention to give out the grand prize to a team with a reasonable solution at the end of the 6 months.
Netflix Chellenge sets an absolute standard for winning the grand prize; Spock Challenge intends to award to the best reasonable solution.

Mike: How about some other companies?

Wink – www.wink.com Similar to Spock – launched a few months ago. Claim that Wink People Search now searches over two hundred million people profiles. Searches people across numerous social networks including MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, Bebo, Live Spaces, Yahoo!360, Xanga, Twitter and more. Also included in the results are Web sources such as Wikipedia and IMDB with more coming all the time.

Zoominfo – www.zoominfo.com Specializes in executive searches. Claim 37,131,140 People and 3,518,329 Companies indexed. You can currently search on three categories – people, jobs and companies.

Searchwikia - http://search.wikia.com Jimmy Wales and his open-source search protocol and human collaboration project. From Press release:

"Last week Wikia acquired Grub, the original visionary distributed search project, from LookSmart and released it under an open source license for the first time in four years. Grub operates under a model of users donating their personal computing resources towards a common goal, and is available today for download and testing at: http://www.grub.org/ .

Grub, now open source, is designed with modularity so that developers can quickly and easily extend and add functionality, improving the quality and performance of the entire system. By combining Grub, which is building a massive, distributed user-contributed processing network, with the power of a wiki to form social consensus, the open source Search Wikia project has taken the next major step towards a future where search is open and transparent".

Direct download: niche_search_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:36pm EDT



In this show we take a look at some previous blog postings.


NCTT 10th Annual Summer Worskshop discussion.

Thanks to all that attended and special thanks to our presenters and Juniper Networks and Apple as sponsors.

Thursday, July 12, 2007 Blog

Skype Everywhere

There have been a couple of interesting Skype product upgrades/releases over the past few days.

The first is SoonR Talk, an AJAX enabled application that allows Skype to run on the iPhone and other mobile devices.

The second is the release of Skype on the Nokia N800 Internet tablet. The small hand-held device connects to available Wi-Fi networks that we're all finding just about everywhere these days.

Here's a Yahoo News quote from Gartner analyst Elroy Jopling:

"We will see more Skype and similar free Wi-Fi phone services moving into mobile devices in the U.S. and Europe, he said, although Europe could adopt it more quickly. However, he said he expects to see "mobile operators put up as many roadblocks as they can" in both places".

Both of these products allow free Skype voice calls from anywhere to anywhere with Wi-Fi access.

Saturday, July 14, 2007 Blog

Some Interesting Skype Alternatives

Network Computing recently published a piece evaluating 6 Skype Alternatives here. Each alternative adds enhanced features that Skype currelty does not offer. Here's the list:

Grand Central - This product allows you to select one phone number and link up to six phone numbers you enter into your user profile. For example, you can set your Grand Central account to ring both your office phone and your cell phone. The one you pick up is the one that connects the call.
Grand Central was acquired by Google a few days ago (Mike Q was the first to tip me off) and is currently taking number reservations on their website.

TalkPlus - TalkPlus is sort of the opposite of Grand Central - it allows you to have several phone numbers that all ring to one phone. TalkPlus is inexpensive but not free. They currently offer number in 32 different countries and especially looks like a great product if someone has relatives in other parts of the world.

Jajah - I've blogged on Jajah in the past - see link here. Jajah provides a paid service that allows calls to be routed to landline/cell to landline/cell in many parts of the world without long distance fees. Here's how it works: Let's say I'm a Jajah customer and I want to call my brother who is living in London. I log into my Jajah account at jajah.com, enter my brother's landline or cell number and my landline or cell number. Jajah makes the connection and rings my phone and then my brothers phone over connections that are local to each of us.

Talkster - Talkster's paid service provides calls from phones to to voice-enabled instant-messaging services like GoogleTalk and Yahoo IM. One of the neat things about Talkster is that it allows you to see your friends presence (whether or not they are on IM) using you mobile phone browser.

Jangl - Jangl is a currently free service (even for international calls) that works similar to Jajah - it connects phone network end-points. The difference is Jangl does not require that you know the number you want to call. Jangl uses semi-permanent phone numbers and allows people to call you that don't know your permanent number.

Jaxtr - Jaxtr is similar to Jangl with a flashier user interface. It is also currently a free service for domestic and international calls. Both Jangl and Jaxtr's anonymity features cater to the "social networker" market.

Each of these products offer features and functionality beyond current Skype offerings - it will be very interesting to see what Google does with Grand Central.


Now Skype is not without competion, right?

T-Mobile HotSpot @Home service   For $10 a month, on top of your regular plan, you can eliminate the problem of poor wireless coverage in your home and make unlimited calls without using voice-plan minutes. All it takes is a broadband connection, a Wi-Fi network, and one of two Wi-Fi-ready handsets sold by T-Mobile. T-Mobile's product is based on  Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) - we'll have to do a separate podcast on this technology.

Thursday, July 19, 2007 Blog

Goodbye Copper?

There’s been some recent press about Verizon and their FIOS product installation. FIOS is a fiber optic network service that delivers voice, video and data services. You may also see it referred to as a Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) or Fiber to the Home (FTTH) service that Verizon is selling and installing in select markets in 16 different states.

Most who have the service installed are extremely happy with the bandwidth and cost when compared to lower bandwidth DSL and Cable Modem services. The product has become so popular that it is even being used as a selling point by real estate agents when marketing homes.

A few are complaining though. It appears Verizon, when installing the FIOS service, is cutting out the existing copper lines leaving the customer with only one option – fiber and FIOS. There are a couple of good reasons from a business perspective for Verizon to do this. The first is the existing copper wiring is old and requires a significant amount of maintenance – Verizon spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year just maintaining the existing “copper plant? and it makes sense to remove it when it is replaced. The second reason is the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which requires the telephone companies (like Verizon) share their existing copper lines with competitors. There is no current legal requirement for Verizon to share new fiber optic lines with anyone.

In fairness to Verizon, there is a three step notification process for people who sign up for the FIOS service. According to the International Herald Tribune, customers are told by the Verizon sales person, it is indicated in the sales contract and the customer is told by the technician that the copper will be cut out. Currently, Verizon is publicly stating they will replace removed copper if a FIOS customer wished to revert back to copper service.

Also according to the International Herald Tribune, Verizon has filed more than 100 notices with the Federal Communications Commission to retire portions of copper throughout its network.

I can understand the customer concerns about lack of choice and some technical issues like battery back-up and also Verizon’s concerns about having to maintain two separate networks.

Friday, July 20, 2007 Blog

Casual Gaming = Big Business

The Hollywood Reporter has reported that Nickelodeon will make an investment of $100 million in the development of casual games. Casual games are games that are typically played for a few minutes at a time - examples include puzzle and card games. This announcement was made by Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group President Cyma Zarghami at the Casual Connect Gaming Conference yesterday in Seattle. Zarghami is quoted:

"Particularly in the kids' space, with more than 86% of kids 8 to 14 gaming online, we see great momentum for online casual gaming,"

Also, according to The Reporter:

"Included in the Nickelodeon initiative is myNoggin, a preschool educational game in the form of a subscription service; an expansion of the Nicktropolis multiplayer games franchise; Nick Gaming Club, Nickelodeon's first subscription offering featuring multiplayer games with 3-D avatars; the-NGames.com, a casual gaming site geared toward female teens; and the transformation of the site Neopets.com to NeoStudios, a property centering on the creation of new online virtual world experiences".

In addition, the Casual Game Association (CGA) has released some preliminary data from their Casual Games 2007 Report. Here's a few preliminary data highlights from a MCV press release:

The number of games being submitted to major online portals has doubled over the past two years, suggesting an increase in new publishers developing more titles.

In 2006 the most popular casual games were Mystery Case Files, Diner Dash, Cake Mania, Bejeweled and Slingo.

Women still make up the majority (74%) of all paying players online with men now represent about half of the much-larger non-paying player universe.

The number of games being submitted to major online portals has doubled over the past two years, suggesting an increase in new publishers developing more titles.

The rapid growth of the casual games market has prompted companies to create games for more audiences and also for more platforms, including the Internet, PC and Macintosh computers, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Wii and even mobile phones and PDAs.

The full CGA report will be released in the fall - if you are interested in receiving a copy watch the CGA website at http://www.casualgamesassociation.org or send an email to datastudy@casualgamesassociation.org



Direct download: July_21_FINAL.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:23pm EDT