Tuesday, January 31, 2006

UK Linux guru backs GPL 3

UK Linux guru backs GPL 3: "Linus Torvalds may have his doubts, but Alan Cox is supporting the next version of the GPL"

Are politics delaying the $100 laptop?

By John Markoff
The New York Times
Published: January 30, 2006, 5:42 AM PST

DAVOS, Switzerland--It sounds like a project that just about any technology-minded executive could get behind: distributing durable, cheap laptop computers in the developing world to help education.

But in the year since Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Laboratory, unveiled his prototype for a $100 laptop, he has found himself wrestling with Microsoft and the politics of software.

Negroponte has made significant progress, but he has also catalyzed the debate over the role of computing in poor nations--and ruffled a few feathers. He failed to reach an agreement with Microsoft on including its Windows software in the laptop, leading Microsoft executives to start discussing what they say is a less expensive alternative: turning a specially configured cellular phone into a computer by connecting it to a TV and a keyboard.

Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, demonstrated a mockup of his proposed cellular PC at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, and he mentioned it as a cheaper alternative to traditional PCs and laptops during a public discussion here at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Craig Mundie, a Microsoft vice president and chief technical officer, said in an interview here that the company is still developing the idea, but that both he and Gates believe that cell phones are a better way than laptops to bring computing to the masses in developing nations.

"Everyone is going to have a cell phone," Mundie said, noting that in places where TVs are already common, turning a phone into a computer could simply require adding a cheap adaptor and keyboard. Microsoft has not said how much those products would cost.

Mundie said there was no firm timing for the cell phone strategy, but that the company had encouraged such innovations in the past by building prototypes for consumer electronics manufacturers.

It is not clear to what extent Negroponte's decision to use free open-source software in the laptop instead of Windows spurred the alternative plan from Microsoft. But Gates has been privately bitter about it, and Mundie has been skeptical in public about the project's chance of success.

"I love what Nick is trying to do," Mundie said. "We have a lot of concerns about the sustainability of his approach."

This has not deterred Negroponte. At a private breakfast meeting on the digital divide at the forum on Saturday, Negroponte said that he had a commitment from Quanta Computer of Taiwan to manufacture the portable computers, which would initially use a processing chip from Advanced Micro Devices of Sunnyvale, Calif. He also said he had raised $20 million to pay for engineering and was close to a final commitment of $700 million from seven nations--Thailand, Egypt, Nigeria, India, China, Brazil and Argentina--to purchase 7 million of the laptops.

Also on Saturday, Negroponte's nonprofit group, One Laptop Per Child, signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Development Program at a news conference here, under which the two will work together to develop technology and learning resources.

Negroponte is showing only a mockup of his laptop, which will have a carrying handle, built-in stereo speakers, a wireless data connection, a hand crank to generate power and a screen that is visible even in bright sunlight. He said that he hopes to be able to hand out working laptops next year to some participants at the forum in Davos.

He also acknowledged that months of discussions with Microsoft and Apple Computer about using their operating system software for his computer had been fruitless, and that as a result, the laptops would use a version of Linux, the open-source operating system.

According to several people familiar with the discussions, Microsoft had encouraged Negroponte to consider using the Windows CE version of its software, and Microsoft had been prepared to make an open-source version of the program available.

Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, had also offered a free version of his company's OS X operating system, but Negroponte rejected that idea because the software was largely not open-source, meaning people could not get free access to software and its source code, which they could then modify. Negroponte said in an interview here that he had resolved to use Linux not because it was free but because of its quality and maintainability.

"I chose open source because it's better," he said. "I have 100 million programmers I can rely on."

At the same time, Negroponte, who is on the board of Motorola, said he is not opposed to the idea of building a low-cost computer using a cell phone. He said his research group at the MIT Media Lab had experimented with the idea of a cell phone that would project a computer display onto a wall and also project the image of a keyboard, sensing the motion of fingers over it. But the researchers decided the idea was less practical than a laptop.

Some business and development policy specialists have raised questions about Negroponte's laptop, pointing to the price of Internet connectivity, which can cost $24 to $50 a month in developing nations. But Negroponte said networking costs would not be an obstacle because the laptops would be made to connect automatically in a so-called mesh network, making it possible for up to 1,000 computers to wirelessly share just one or two land-based Internet connections.

The Media Lab researchers are also planning to approach an upcoming meeting of the international consortium overseeing GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) for cell phones about setting up a data standard that would allow low-cost and educational use of wireless network capacity.

"We call the concept 'standby bits,'" Negroponte said, explaining that the concept is similar to the way standby passengers on airlines can travel when there are empty seats. The laptops would send and receive Internet data only when higher-paying commercial data was not being transmitted.

At the Davos meeting, a number of participants raised questions about the wisdom of Negroponte's plan to persuade governments to underwrite the cost of the laptops.

Stuart Gannes, director of the Digital Vision Program at Stanford University, said a better way to bring computers into poor countries would be to put them into the hands of entrepreneurs and make them revenue generators. "We need to look at technology as a way to bring cash into the poorest communities," Gannes said.

Negroponte said that "a lot of people were apprehensive" about the project before he won the backing from Quanta, but that he believed he had put the doubts to rest. Quanta manufactures about one-third of the world's laptop computers, he said.

Source here

Flickr Widget updated

Flickr Widget updated: "Flickr recently updated their API, so the Flickr widget (FlickIt) has been updated accordingly."

Google readying its own Google OS!!

Google readying its own Google OS!!: "Google is preparing its own distribution of Linux for the desktop, in a possible bid to take on Microsoft in its core business - desktop software. A version of the increasingly popular Ubuntu desktop Linux distribution, based on Debian and the Gnome desktop, it is known internally as 'Goobuntu'."

Flickr Hacks

Flickr Hacks: Rough Cuts Version
By Jim Bumgardner, Paul Bausch
Rough Cuts Release: January 2006
Print Book Release: February 2006
Series: Hacks
ISBN: 0-596-52709-8
Retail Price: $24.99 US

Flickr Hacks expands the fun and the utility of Flickr, Yahoo!'s popular digital photo-sharing service, by customizing this cutting-edge technology to store, sort, and share photos. The book adopts the game-like appeal of the Flickr site, in individual projects ranging from easy to advanced. quick hacks show you how to post photos directly to blogs and upload photos from a cell phone. Advanced hacks teach you to use the Flickr API, make photo puzzles and collages, and geocode photos to plot on a map.

Source here

Over two million registered Flickr users and counting have discovered the ease and fun of organizing their photo libraries, showing off their favorite pictures to the world, and securely sharing their private pictures with friends, family, or ad hoc groups. But Flickr's own plethora of intuitive menus, options, and features just scratches the surface.

Flickr Hacks goes beyond the basics of storing, sorting, and sharing your photos to the much bigger playground of what's possible. Whether you're a beginner looking to manage your metadata and play with tags, or a programmer in need of a detailed reference of Flickr API methods, you'll find what you're looking for here. In addition to getting under the hood of some of the most popular third-party Flickr toys already in the wild, you'll learn how to (...) / here

$100 PC project will 'invigorate Linux desktop push'

$100 PC project will 'invigorate Linux desktop push': "Putting an open source-based laptop in the hands of millions of users around the world will help drive home the importance of non-proprietary development and applications, says Red Hat"

Monday, January 30, 2006

Arctic Monkeys Sell Thousands on First Day

Wed Jan 25, 9:24 AM ET

LONDON - The Arctic Monkeys sold almost 120,000 copies of their debut album in a single day, and it may become one of the year's top-sellers, retailers said.

The British band shot from obscurity to fame in a matter of months, thanks partly to savvy use of the Internet to market their music to fans.

A stream of adulatory media articles followed, and the group's debut singles, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and "When the Sun Goes Down," both topped the British singles chart.

The band's album, "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not," sold 118,501 copies within 24 hours of its release Monday, more than the rest of the top 20 album chart combined. If sales hold up, it will become Britain's fastest-selling debut, surpassing the 306,631 copies sold by Hear'Say's "Popstars" in 2001.

Phil Penman, head of music for retailer HMV, said Tuesday the Monkeys were "well on their way to having the first million-selling album of 2006."

Formed in 2003, the quartet from Sheffield in northern England signed last year to Domino, the independent record label that is home to Scots rockers Franz Ferdinand.

Source here

Municipal broadband deployments to double in 2006

27/01/2006 by John Tilak

There are over 400 cities worldwide currently planning to deploy municipal broadband networks, and that number will double in 2006, making community broadband initiatives a very real and significant trend, according to a report from market research firm Visiongain.

Despite legal opposition and intense lobbying from incumbent telcos and cable companies, municipal broadband is well on its way. As of the first quarter of 2006, there are over 100 city and regional wireless broadband networks operational worldwide, more than 40 of which are in the US.

Small town rural deployments were the beginning of the wave, but the tide is now embracing large urban metropolises. New York, San Francisco, Rome and Paris are among the major cities planning wide-scale deployments. Major vendors, such as Motorola, Cisco, HP and IBM, are already reaping cumulative contract awards running into hundreds of millions of euros.

For a large number of reasons, municipalities are considering the concept of a municipal broadband network as the 'fifth utility.' These communities are choosing between deploying fibre or wireless broadband networks using wi-fi hotspots, mesh networks or pre-WiMAX technology.

Source here

Why New Labour Doesnt Get IT

Why New Labour Doesnt Get IT
Jan 30, 11:47 AM

UNCORK the champagne: the British Government spends 20% more on information technology (IT) than its European neighbours. Its IT spend accounts for around 1.2% of gross domestic product. That might seem a good reason for celebration but, unfortunately, it is not a large part of the Pounds 14bn a year spent by the UK government on IT vanishes into cyberspace, with taxpayers left holding the bill.

Who says so? The governments own Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Its most recent report, published in December 2005, warned of the risk of Pounds 10bn (E14.6bn, $17.7bn) of public money going to waste on IT services no-one wants and no-one may use. The government record in IT provides plenty of evidence for concern.

Consider the following. Last week an IT fiasco in the governments Rural Payments Agency meant that Englands 120,000 farmers are likely to get only part of their new subsidy payments next month. Farming minister Lord Bach admitted there had been continuing problems with the IT system chosen by the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). A select committee said it was deeply unimpressed by the failure. Payments to Accenture, the company given the job of writing the software, have doubled from Pounds 18m to Pounds 37m.

The likely cost of the governments controversial plans to introduce a digital identity cards scheme is likely to be Pounds 19.2bn, against its own estimate of Pounds 5.8bn.

Internal government e-mails recently leaked to the media claimed that the governments Pounds 6.2bn investment in National Health Service IT is in danger of being derailed because of delays in developing Choose and Book, the electronic appoinment booking system that underpins much of the broader NHS IT strategy.

A computer programme has overpaid around Pounds 2bn of UK tax credits (most of which will never be recovered). The IT contractor responsible, the US firm EDS, was then awarded a new Pounds 4bn defence contract by the government. The Treasury has spent 30 times more than its original estimate of Pounds 2.3m on computers to cope with pension changes, sending the total bill to date soaring to Pounds 68m.

And there is more. What is going wrong? First, government departments have failed to yet fully grasp, as business has done, that making an investment in IT has to be justified by financial returns within one year. Few government departments, if any, have such a discipline in place.

Second, there has been little accountability on the part of different government departments. Although this is changing, the situation is still far from satisfactory.

Ian Watmore, the man who was charged with changing all this when appointed Head of eGovernment in September 2004, accepts the criticism: He was promoted to head of the Prime Ministers Delivery Unit just before Christmas, where he says he will continue to oversee government IT strategy. In principle, Watmore agrees that business best practices have to be adopted by government with regard to IT in order to avoid future waste.

The way I believe the UK can get more from its IT is to bring the management of all the many public IT projects now running more in line with the kind of practices used in commercial organisations, said Watmore.

One key area is the proportion of the Pounds 14bn spent on new IT projects and that used to prop up older, less-efficient IT, known as legacy systems. According to Watmore, best business practice is seen as having a 60/40 split between legacy and new systems.

Across UK government IT Watmore reports that the split averages 70/30. He reckons that bringing IT spending in line with best business practice could free up an additional Pounds 1.4bn a year for new IT projects.

In his role as head of eGovernment, Watmore tried to introduce a degree of individual accountability by chairing regular meetings with IT heads of the various government departments. I called regular meetings in order to ensure expensive systems are not duplicated across the country, said Watmore. Sine his promotion,Watmores successor as Head of eGovernent has yet to been named, so even this limited degree of accountability is currently missing.

There is an alarming and rapidly growing body of evidence that much of this cash is wasted or spent in ways that are of dubious merit. The catalogue of errors ranges from IT malfunctions such as the software flaw that resulted in overpaying of Pounds 2bn of tax credits, to the commissioning of vast national IT projects that have little or no proven merit, such as the 100 or so major IT projects under way across various government departments aimed at allowing the public to access government services via the internet.

Alarm bells should have started ringing in Downing Street two years ago when giant US-based IT contractor EDS botched the introduction of Chancellor Gordon Browns flagship tax credits system.

A faulty computer program overpaid the staggering sum of Pounds 2bn in 2003/04, the first year of operation. EDS recently agreed to pay Pounds 71.25m to the government in compensation, but that is a tiny proportion of the money lost. It is still unclear as to how much of the lost billions if any will ever be recovered.

EDS is reported to have said the mistake occurred when an under- tested software went live. Despite this fiasco, EDS headed a consortium that last year landed another huge contract from the UK government. Far from being blacklisted from future tenders for having cost taxpayers dearly, EDS went on to win a highly lucrative 10-year defence contract, worth around $4bn over its lifetime.

Despite the earlier fiasco with the tax credits system, the government again chose EDS and rejected the tender made by the other consortium headed by Britains telecoms giant BT, which has successfully mutated into a global IT and communications contractor for large organisations.

EDS and Fujitsu [a member of the EDS consortium] are both strong suppliers to the MOD. But EDS has had problems with its multi- billion dollar outsourcing contract with the US Navy, which has been marred by delays and technical difficulties. EDS appears to have convinced the MOD that it has learned lessons from this contract, said Georgina OToole , a senior analyst at City-based research company Ovum.

Even today there are still ongoing IT problems with the tax credit system. In December, Whitehall unintentionally revealed details of a massive online security breakdown in the tax credit payments system. Up to 13,000 Job Centre staff had personal details, such as names, national insurance numbers and dates of birth, compromised by criminals making fraudulent claims for tax credits.

Revenue & Customs was forced to close its website temporarily for tax credit applicants on 1 December after discovering that false applications had been made. It was at first thought that only 1,500 job-centre staff might have had their personal details stolen, but it was swiftly acknowledged that the problem was far larger than initially believed.

According to the PAC, the big IT disasters, such as the tax credit payments, are only the tip of a massive iceberg of IT overspend and waste. Its report made it clear that the governments IT strategy has been a costly disaster. Its report accuses government departments of squandering billions of pounds on waste and mismanagement, but the report reserved its severest criticism for public sector IT projects.

As well as presenting detailed criticism of specific projects, the PAC highlighted a major risk of Pounds 10bn of public money going to waste on IT projects nobody wants.

In its rush to make Prime Minister Tony Blairs dream of a broadband Britain a reality, the government is supplying the UK with a complicated network of internet-based IT systems. The idea behind it is to allow British citizens to use the internet to access every level of government, although there is little evidence of any demand for such a service, as the PAC highlighted in its December report: There is also the risk that departments provide services online but the public do not use them because they see no benefit in doing so. Should this happen the significant investment in e-government would be wasted, it said.

But even this huge IT spend is a fraction of the IT spend by the Department of Education, the Department of Defence, the legal system and Britains emergency services, where there is mounting evidence that government departments are spending far more than needed in ways which will not benefit the public as they should.

The Committee catalogued other examples of IT mismanagement going back years. One is the LIBRA project, designed to provide new IT systems for Magistrates Courts. The contract for the project was renegotiated twice, each time with computing giant ICL asking for more money. As a result of the first re-negotiation, a revised contract for 14.5 years at a price of Pounds 319m was agreed in May 2000.

Within 10 months, ICL informed the government it was in financial difficulties even at the price negotiated a year before so the government reached an agreement for ICL to deliver only the infrastructure at a cost of Pounds 232m over 8.5 years. The total cost of the project was subsequently estimated at Pounds 390m for just 8.5 years of service.

Other cost overruns include the implementation of the National Probation Information Systems Strategy (NPSISS), which came in at Pounds 118m, an estimated 70% at constant prices above the expenditure forecast in the original business case.

The government is also accused of failing to implement many of the recommendations made in a previous PAC report published in June 2000. Despite being accepted by government five years ago, the PAC recommendations have yet to be fully implemented. In particular, there has been limited progress in collecting and publishing systematic information on the development of government web traffic, the take-up of electronic services by the public and the condition of government websites and crucially in developing a methodology for justifying expenditure on web provision.

Departments need to consider how information technology can be used to streamline current ways of working, reduce time-consuming procedures and improve productivity, The PAC said. Simply converting conventional processes to internet-based applications will not realise the significant improvements in efficiency that IT improvements can make possible.

While many of the projects highlighted in the PAC report may appear to be insignificant when compared with some of the headline- grabbing billion pound-plus contracts, they are just as crucial. Because of the way that IT systems are woven together within government departments, the failure of one system can have a dramatic knock-on effect giving rise to a blame culture.

For instance leaked e-mails were alleged to show that Richard Granger, director general for IT at the National health Service (NHS), had blamed a senior civil servant in the Department of Health for potentially derailing a Pounds 6.2bn programme by interfering with the execution of a new booking system.

When approached by The Business, Granger refused to comment on allegations that he blamed senior civil servants in the Department of Health for delays in the Choose-and-Book electronic booking project that could threaten the whole Connecting for Health programme. Only around 20,000 people are estimated to have so far made use of the booking service, against a target of 250,000.

The data shows that NHS spending on IT has increased dramatically. Three years ago 1.8% of the total NHS budget was spent on centralised IT. Now around 2.8%, some Pounds 700m a year, is spent on centralised IT.

Granger says the proportion of the NHS budget spent on centralised IT is still less than the proportion of cash spent by many commercial organisations.

But he also admits to having uncovered wasteful purchasing procedures when he took over his post. He quoted the example of cash being spent on PACS, a system designed to provide computerised X- ray images. Unlike film X-rays, these can be viewed in 3D and sent between medical staff at the touch of a button. But this type of technology does not come cheap and the entire project, designed to run over 10 years, will cost the NHS around Pounds 800m.

Granger says when he took over the project, equipment for the scheme was being provided by a cosy group of suppliers who all knew each others prices. He added: We have managed to break that level of margin.

The UK government is now bent on introducing IT in areas where the potential for mistakes costing billions of pounds is even greater.

One recent example is its controversial plan to introduce biometric passports and national identity cards. The London School of Economics (LSE) predicts that the cost of a national ID scheme could be as high as Pounds 19.2bn, a figure the government refutes. The LSE report, The Identity Project: An Assessment Of The UK Identity Cards Bill And Its Implications, estimates the potential cost at more than triple the governments Pounds 5.8bn estimate, a figure supported by a report from international consultancy firm KPMG. The figure includes the physical manufacture and distribution of the cards as well as the IT.

Not surprisingly, the national ID card scheme received a severe mauling recently in the House of Lords, which voted 237 votes to 156 in favour of an amendment that would force a detailed breakdown of costs to be made public. MPs would then vote on this again once the cost breakdowns were known.

But this amendment is being opposed by government, which argues that a breakdown of costs must be kept secret in order to get the best deal from contractors. Apart from the implications for privacy, what is really worrying their Lordships is the potential for massive cost overruns on this scheme. Given the governments track record on IT to date they have good grounds for being alarmed.

Source here

Saturday, January 28, 2006

CommunityServer 2.0 beta3 released

CommunityServer 2.0 beta3 released: "Telligent releases 2.0 beta 3 for an open source .NET community server. The software package includes forums, blogs, photos galleries, rss reader, rss aggregator and a full management system for. The system is fully skinnable and used wide in many personal and business websites. (source is only provided with RTM)"

UN body backs $100 laptop for world's kids

UN body backs $100 laptop for world's kids: "The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will sign a partnership agreement with the head of the project, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Nicholas Negroponte, in the Alpine ski resort of Davos on Saturday, officials said.


Update: Lights go out at satellite broadband firm

Update: Lights go out at satellite broadband firm: "Aramiska 'disgusts' customers with just a few hours' notice...

By Will Sturgeon

Published: Friday 27 January 2006

Satellite broadband provider Aramiska today informed customers it is shutting down, giving many just a few hours to find an alternative service provider before the service ceased at 15:00(GMT).

In the case of customers in remote and rural areas Aramiska's satellite service has at times been the only option for those too far from the nearest broadband-enabled telephone exchange or cable networks.


3G finally taking off in Europe

3G finally taking off in Europe: "William Eazel, vnunet.com, Wednesday 25 January 2006 at 00:00:00

Vodafone shines as operators breathe collective sigh of relief

Vodafone Group yesterday reported an encouraging uptake in the number of 3G subscribers across its global markets. The operator reported a significant gain of 287,000 UMTS customers in the UK during..."

London loses top Wi-Fi status

London loses top Wi-Fi status: "Iain Thomson, vnunet.com, Friday 27 January 2006 at 00:00:00

Seoul takes the crown as worldwide wireless networks hit 100,000 mark

London has lost its place as the city with the most Wi-Fi hotspots, according to a recent survey. Wi-Fi mapping company JiWire found in January 2005 that London, New York..."

Science Museum recognises gaming

Science Museum recognises gaming: "After Hours: Nintendo is paying £1m to sponsor a display of gaming history and an interactive educational exhibition at the Science Museum"

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Welsh SMEs see benefit of e-commerce, broadband

More Welsh SMEs see benefit of e-commerce, broadband: "The proportion of Welsh SMEs with broadband access has more than doubled, according to the latest 'State of the Nation' report, which focuses on the adoption and the use of e-commerce by Welsh businesses."

The proportion of Welsh SMEs with broadband access has more than doubled, according to the executive summary of the latest 'State of the Nation' report produced by the eCommerce Innovation Centre.

The report focuses on the adoption and the use of e-commerce by Welsh businesses. Of the 2,537 SMEs surveyed, nearly three quarters use a computer and more than 65 per cent have an internet connection.

Classifying businesses as 'narrowband' or 'broadband' users reveals that 58 per cent of connected Welsh SMEs have a broadband internet connection - more than double the mere 25 per cent reported to have a broadband connection in the 2003/2004 report. ADSL broadband appears to be the preferred internet connection method among SMEs of all sizes.

When it comes to internet access and website implementation, medium-sized businesses are more advanced than micro- and small businesses. Likewise, SMEs based in non-Objective 1 areas perform better than SMEs based in the Objective 1 areas.

64 per cent of SMEs in the Objective 1 area have an Internet connection compared to 69.7 per cent in non-Objective 1 areas; 55 per cent of SMEs in the Objective 1 area have a company website, compared to 60 per cent in non-Objective 1 areas;

Monmouthshire and Newport feature the greatest number of connected SMEs, closely followed by Swansea and Bridgend and then Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

In terms of industry sectors, professional services indicate the highest level of internet connection (92.3 per cent), mostly broadband users. At the other end of the spectrum is the agricultural sector (22.2 per cent), with nearly two thirds of those using dial up connections.

Paradoxically, the hotels and restaurants industry, which uses the internet to accept online payments and attract customers, depends largely on dial-up internet access.

Over 40 per cent of connected businesses plan to expand their use of e-commerce. Main benefits of e-commerce perceived by SMEs include increased customer base (31 per cent), more efficient internal processes (21.2 per cent) and increased opportunities to reach overseas markets (29.6 per cent).

Other findings show that nearly half of the SMEs surveyed stated that there were no barriers to e-commerce for their business. However, less than 10 per cent of connected businesses allow customers to make payments online while just over a third make payments online themselves, suggesting that SMEs haven’t yet exploited e-commerce to its full potential.

The full report is expected to be released online via the Opportunity Wales website, though no date for publication has been provided as yet.

Half of Wales 'has no web access'

Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 18:14 GMT

Man working on a computer
Computer skills are needed for 90% of new jobs

More than half of the Welsh population has no access to the internet, leading to a £9m assembly government project for better computer literacy.

Communities@One has been set up to encourage people to learn computer skills to help bridge what has become known as the digital divide.

Computer use is lowest in some of the poorest parts of Wales, with areas like Cardiff and Swansea having high usage.

Experts predict social exclusion unless people become more computer literate.

According to a report carried out by the Welsh Consumer Council in 2005, 56% of the Welsh population has no access to the internet at home or at work.

Unless people have a degree of engagement with technology, they are going to get left behind
Alun Burge

And it is predicted that 90% of all new jobs require some knowledge of technology.

It has led to the assembly government funding a project to encourage people living in Communities First areas - some of the most deprived in Wales - to use computers.

Alun Burge, who is heading the project, said encouraging people to take up some computer skills was vital for the Welsh economy.

"Society is becoming increasingly reliant on technology and unless people have a degree of engagement with technology, they are going to get left behind," he said.

"At the moment, it's still socially acceptable to say 'I'm rubbish with computers', but you never hear someone boasting that they are illiterate or innumerate."

Debbie Holmes
Debbie Holmes said computer skills were vital for social inclusion

The three-year project aims to inform community groups about IT services available in their local areas. It will have local 'brokers' who pass on information about what services are available to community groups.

It is thought to be one of the first schemes of its kind in the UK and is expected to be a model to which others could follow.

But why are such a high percentage of people in Wales computer-illiterate?


"I think there are a lot of people who have never used computers because there are so many perceived barriers," said Debbie Holmes, who will work in north-east Wales as one of 11 brokers being employed as part of the Communities@One project.

"Many people don't see the need for using them because they haven't had to use them in their jobs so far, for example.

"And they can't see what relevance they would have on their lives by using them.

"There are also a number of other reasons - many people who have never used a computer are actually quite scared of using a computer in case they break them and they are also worried about the cost of computers."

"My husband became interested in computers when we were buying a car and because he was able to get a cheaper car on-line, it demonstrated the usefulness of it to him," added Ms Holmes.

The scheme was launched in New Tredegar by Social Justice and Regeneration Minister Edwina Hart.

Source here

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Half of EU set to be on 'triple play' of TV, broadband and phone by 2010

Half of EU set to be on 'triple play' of TV, broadband and phone by 2010: "More than half of European homes will be hooked up to digital television offering 'triple play' services by 2010, a new study says."

More than half of European homes will be hooked up to digital television offering "triple play" services of TV, broadband internet and telephony by the end of the decade, a new study forecast yesterday.

The study, by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton, found that the creation of the digital home will trigger €100bn (£60bn) of investment and generate 100,000 jobs, mainly among infrastructure providers such as cable and telecom operators. A further €35bn will be invested by content providers.

The consultants warned that heavy-handed regulation, blocking competition among the providers, could cut the cumulative investments by 40% to €59bn and wipe out 90% of the job creation.

The analysis came days after France Télécom, the incumbent operator in Europe's third-largest economy, confirmed it had lost 600,000 fixed-line subscribers last year - mainly to new "triple play" providers such as Neuf Cegetel and Alice. Issuing a profits and sales warning, Michel Combes, the group's finance director, said internet-based telephony (VoIP) would account for 40% of fixed-line traffic by the end of this year, compared with 15% in 2005 and 1-2% in 2004.

Thomas Künster, Booz Allen Hamilton partner, said digital TV would be available in 60% of homes in the 25 EU states by 2010 and would overtake broadband internet penetration, which would stabilise at 53%. "The long-term winners will be the players who are first to offer consumers the so-called 'triple play', access to all three services from a single source, on favourable terms and conditions."

About 20% of EU homes now have digital TV, including 11% in Germany and 57% in Britain, while 24% have broadband internet, including 23% in Britain and 44% in the Netherlands.

According to Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for the information society and media, there are more than 50m broadband connections in Europe - up 60% in the last year. The information and communications sector accounts for 5.3% of GDP, 3.4% of employment and 25% of productivity growth.

Mr Künster said telecom incumbents such as France Télécom, which is stepping up its high-speed broadband and TV offerings, could dominate the digital home market as they were already much more dominant than cable operators. But given the right regulatory framework to promote competition among infrastructure providers, cable TV operators could emerge as the only credible contenders, generating a third of new jobs.

"The pressure to consolidate in the European cable TV industry is further increasing. Moreover, we can also expect to see mergers which cut across the traditional boundaries of the industry, as the example of Virgin Mobile and NTL/Telewest shows," he said.

Ms Reding, meanwhile, said in Munich that regulators must encourage new entrants to high-speed networks and avoid unilateral national solutions in a market that was becoming more and more European. "It is absolutely crucial we all understand this is a European process and that the [European] commission cannot tolerate fragmented national approaches which may favour only the former national incumbents and could thereby block competition and the development of a true European market for electronic communications," she said.

Ms Reding singled out Germany for concern, urging the regulator to ensure that the relevant access obligations under EU rules are fully complied with. "Otherwise, the German consumer will have to pay the price in a couple of years, lose interest and then turn his back on the so promising world of the digital economy."

She coupled this with a call for a pan-European system of intellectual property rights to enable EU content providers to compete with those on other continents. A revised "television without frontiers" directive should allow for a British video-on-demand provider to deliver services to all 25 EU states on the basis of British law.

Nokia, Motorola, Intel form alliance for mobile TV

Nokia, Motorola, Intel form alliance for mobile TV: "Other firms in the alliance include Intel Corp., Motorola, Texas Instruments and Modeo, owned by Crown Castle International Corp., it said in a statement."

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Mobile phone giant Nokia has teamed up with other technology firms to promote the DVB-H technology standard for mobile TV, Nokia said on Monday.

Other firms in the alliance include Intel Corp., Motorola, Texas Instruments and Modeo, owned by Crown Castle International Corp., it said in a statement.

The tie-up, called the Mobile DTV Alliance, aims to encourage open standards for TV broadcasts to mobiles, focusing on the North American market.

DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting - Handheld) technology bypasses mobile networks and broadcasts directly to handsets from TV masts, allowing millions of phone users to access the service at the same time.

It also allows them to use interactive services and order "on-demand" programs via mobile networks, which operators hope will be a new source of income.

Mobile operators are keen to exploit the marriage of mobile phones and TV as revenues from voice calls fall because of competition and regulatory cuts to call charges.

The Mobile DTV Alliance said more than 10 DVB-H network trials are under way or have been completed, including in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and the United States.

It said most major U.S. markets are expected to have DVB-H infrastructure ready for use by 2007.

DVB-H competes with digital audio broadcast (DAB) technology, which is also under test by operators, as well as wireless firm Qualcomm's MediaFlo technology.

Firefox rated as a top 10 global brand

Firefox rated as a top 10 global brand: "Marketing professionals have rated Firefox as more influential as a brand than eBay or Sony"


The open source browser Firefox has been rated alongside Google, Apple and Starbucks as one of the most powerful brands in the world in 2005, according to a study published on Monday.

Brandchannel.com, a Web site for marketing professionals run by global branding consultancy Interbrand, asked over 2500 readers during November and December which brands had the most impact on them that year. Firefox was voted as the eighth most influential brand worldwide in 2005 — the first time that a piece of open source software has featured in the top 10 list in the five years that the survey has been carried out.

Robin Rusch, the editor-in-chief of Brandchannel.com, admitted that the readers of his Web site are not average consumers, but claimed they are good at identifying influential brands before they go mainstream.

"While it's true that our readers appear at first glance to be easily lured by shiny design, innovative technology, coffee and booze, they should not be dismissed as a bunch of hyper-caffeinated gearheads. Year after year Brandchannel voters identify brands that the mainstream world eventually catches up with; impact is felt first by these early adopters," Rusch said in a statement.

Asa Dotzler, the community coordinator at the Mozilla Foundation, said the survey showed that its marketing campaigns around Firefox are working.

"One area that I think we've done a pretty good job of during the last two years has been the development of, and marketing of, the Firefox brand. Today we get another sign that our efforts in this area are bearing fruit," said Dotzler in his blog. "Firefox has moved into the top ten most influential brands in the world. Sitting at number eight, Firefox bests eBay and Sony. Not bad :-) "

Although the Mozilla Foundation's marketing budget cannot compare to those of billion dollar corporations, it has capitalised on its large and enthusiastic user-base to carry out large scale community marketing campaigns, such as the publication of an advert for Firefox in the New York Times which was funded by community donations.

In an interview with ZDNet UK last year, Dotzler said that community marketing is more effective than corporate marketing because it's more believable.

"We have real people who wouldn't say something if our product wasn't good. It takes a lot of repetition with a banner ad online, or a jingle on the TV — they need to keep hammering it to make a sale. When it's your best friend or neighbour it doesn't take any hammering," he said.

The full results of the Brandchannel survey can be seen here.

Google News finally emerges from beta

Google News finally emerges from beta: "

Tom Sanders in California, vnunet.com, Tuesday 24 January 2006 at 00:00:00

News service takes more than three years to grow up

Google has taken Google News out of beta and added a feature that aims to present users with more stories that are relevant to their personal interests.  The personalised news...

Tom Sanders in California, vnunet.com 24 Jan 2006

Google has taken Google News out of beta and added a feature that aims to present users with more stories that are relevant to their personal interests.

The personalised news feature recommends stories based on the web pages a user has visited via the service in the past. It uses the same technology at the heart of Google Personalized Search and requires users to be signed in to a Google account.

The service also takes the preferences of other users into account, recommending stories that are popular with people who have similar interests.

Users can now add news sections to the Google News page that display stories based on custom keywords, allowing a sports fan, for example, to track a favourite team or a sales manager to monitor the competition.

The revamped service also lets users mix and match news sections, allowing, for example, users to put French business news next to German versions.

Launched in September 2002, Google's online news service has been available as a test version for over three years. It is currently available in 22 regional editions and 10 languages.

Community sites drive Internet boom

By Robin Langford
23-01-2006 02:58 PM

Community site Piczo was the most successful brand in the UK in 2005 in terms of audience growth, ahead of other fast growing brands Skype, Blogger and Wikipedia, according to research firm Nielsen//Netratings.

Piczo lets users create their own personal website, including photos, text, guest-books, chat boxes and music, without requiring html code.

The site saw a huge 9669% growth during 2005, growing from just 12,500 visitors in December 2004 to over 1.2 million in December 2005, according to Nielsen//Netratings data.

Piczo’s growth was largely driven by women under 18-years-old, accounting for almost half (45%) of its audience, making it the most likely website in the UK to be visited by that demographic.

Alex Burmaster, European Internet analyst said: “The future, it seems, is user-generated content centred around community sites that ride the rise of the Internet as a tool to communicate, exchange ideas and pictures.”

Other community sites feature in the top ten, including LimeWire, which provides file sharing software, Wikipedia, the ‘free communal encyclopaedia that anyone can edit’, Skype, Internet telephony, and Blogger, one of the original blogging guides and services, now owned by Google.

Meanwhile, the Nickelodeon site provides discussion and chat facilities for children and has seen its audience grow over 250% in the last year and is now visited by almost one million surfers each month – over half of them under 18.

Burmaster adds, “The inclusion of other brands such as AmericanGreetings, whose staple is e-greetings cards, Shopzilla, the shopping directory, and OD2, the digital music distributor co-founded by musician Peter Gabriel are further proof of how online continues to provide a more effective means for meeting the needs and interests of our daily personal or business lives.”

In terms of the most popular brands overall, Google overtook Microsoft and MSN to hold the top spot and Apple entered at the expense of ISP Wanadoo. Apple experienced the biggest audience growth of the Top 10 with 56%. AOL fell two places and was the only incumbent to experience a drop in audience.

To view the top 10 fastest growing brands online, click here.

To view the most popular brands overall, click here.

Source here

Monday, January 23, 2006

Geo-caching/ The Russian spy rock

UK diplomats in Moscow spying row
Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 10:14 GMT

[photo: Russian TV image of imitation rock; caption, "Russian TV showed what it said was the spy rock"]

Russia's state security service, the FSB, has accused British diplomats of spying in Moscow.

It backed claims made in a Russian TV report which showed footage of what it said was British agents retrieving data from a fake rock planted on a street.

The programme also said a UK diplomat made regular payments to Russian non-governmental organisations.

The UK Foreign Office said it was "concerned and surprised" and denied any improper conduct with Russian NGOs.

Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed FSB spokesman as saying that "everything that was shown [in the programme] was true and based on our information".

(We reject any allegation of improper conduct in our dealing with Russian NGOs- UK Foreign Office)

The programme said four officials from the UK embassy and one Russian citizen, allegedly recruited by the British secret service, downloaded classified data from a transmitter in the rock onto palm-top computers.

According to the programme, the Russian citizen was later arrested.

Hidden camera footage appears to show individuals walking up to the rock.

One man is caught on camera carrying it away.

The programme contained a number of interviews with people claiming to be Russian intelligence officers, who made the allegations.

An unnamed FSB spokesman told AFP news agency one of the accused diplomats was a 30-year-old archivist.

A FSB officer told Rossiya television the hi-tech stone was "absolutely new spy technology".

Claim denied

The UK embassy in Moscow has refused to comment, but the UK Foreign Office in London issued a statement.

"We are concerned and surprised at these allegations. We reject any allegation of improper conduct in our dealing with Russian NGOs," it said.

The Foreign Office said it was well known that the UK government had given financial support to projects implemented by Russian NGOs in the field of human rights and civil society.

"All our assistance is given openly and aims to support the development of a healthy civil society in Russia," the statement said.

Michael Evans, defence editor of the UK Times newspaper, told the BBC Russia is still regarded as a centre of espionage.

"People will be a little bit surprised at the bizarre nature of this episode. I've no idea whether its true but clearly there is a lot of intelligence gathering that goes on."

Source here

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection

1 UK Wi-Fi Connection partnership announced
Oct. 5, 2005

There is a revolution afoot in the worlds of Wi-Fi and gaming. Nintendo UK is bringing Wi-Fi technology into play from 25th November 2005 with a new groundbreaking deal with wireless providers BT Openzone and The Cloud. The launch of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service means the UK will take an unprecedented step forward into a new era of gaming, allowing anyone to play against friends and family across the globe simply, safely and best of all - for free*.

To ensure that anyone really can play against others from all over the world with their Nintendo DS, the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection can be accessed in any one of three ways:

1. Gamers will be able to visit any one of over 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots at locations across the UK. These include McDonalds restaurants, Coffee Republic coffee houses, Hilton and Ramada Jarvis hotels, Road Chef and Welcome Break service stations, First Great Western railway stations, over 25 student unions and city centre BT Payphones and airports, football stadiums and even the British Library and Canary Wharf. By logging onto www.thecloud.net or www.btopenzone.com and entering your town or postcode; you can find the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection hotspots closest to you.
2. Nintendo UK will also be installing BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots into major video games retailers and other key outlets across the UK, meaning it really is possible to game anywhere!
3. Gamers with a broadband internet connection at home will be able to enjoy the free*, simple and safe Wi-Fi gaming service; you simply need a Wi-Fi access point or hotspot, like a Wi-Fi wireless router, and an active broadband internet connection. If you do not have a wireless access point, you can purchase a Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector (available 25th November for around £30) which plugs into a PC and automatically sets up a connection for you.

Nintendo's Wi-Fi gaming service is free* - there are no fees or subscriptions to pay. It’s incredibly easy to use - you simply turn it on and select Wi-Fi, there are no complicated menu screens and minimum configurations required and most importantly Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection service is a safe environment for players. Players have the option to select to play with just friends, or people of a similar skill level around the world without fear of harassment. Players do not have direct communication with each other when playing anonymously and therefore personal details or inappropriate comments cannot be exchanged.

The launch of Nintendo Wi-Fi coincides with the return of infamous Nintendo title Mario Kart DS. Mario Kart is the first in what looks set to be a long line of titles to fully benefit from the Nintendo Wi-Fi offering. Also launching for the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection on 18th November, and designed to take full advantage of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, is Tony Hawk's American SK8Land from Activision; the first 3D Tony Hawk game experience for a Nintendo handheld system.

* Usual broadband line rental costs apply when accessing the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection at home.

Source here

Here's the online "Find Hotspots"(- results for Cardiff)

For example The Old Library (pub):

CardiffCC The Old Library
Driving Directions
Trinity Street
Cardiff, CF10 1BH
Powered by:BT Openzone

3 More results: Caerphilly here

4 To be awkward,

I searched for Llanhennock (rural pub): the results here
reveal 3 pubs in Caerleon. Of course the Wheatsheaf pub in LLanhennock is a free house specialising in real ales- a lights-flashing ITBOX would just look sooo out of place (not to mention its size).

5 The Cloud

  • The Cloud homepage here

  • Wi-FI - How to Connect here

City-wide wi-fi rolls out in UK
Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 14:52 GMT

[Woman using laptop in a station]
Wi-fi is spreading its wings beyond stations and cafes

A UK company that has created wireless hotspots in stations, coffee shops and hotels around the UK is planning to launch city-wide wi-fi this spring.

The Cloud will bring wireless broadband to nine cities including London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Hundreds of hotzones will be rolled out across the cities, giving access to the internet for anyone using a wi-fi enabled computer or mobile phone.

More cities are expected to be announced during 2006.

The first phase will see hotzones set up in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge and three London boroughs - Islington, Kensington and Camden.

It is expected that the new wireless internet network will reach more than 4 million people.

Rival phone networks

Each hotzone will turn broadband-speed internet into radio signals to allow people to surf the net, send e-mails, play online games and make cheap phone calls over wi-fi.

"Providing ubiquitous wireless broadband access, over a network that is available to millions of wi-fi devices, and will be available to the new generation of wi-fi phones, gaming devices and other applications will have a major impact on the way people communicate, work and play in city centres," said George Polk, chief executive of The Cloud.

The hotzones will rival existing mobile phone networks.

Around 25 mobile phone handsets currently have wi-fi chips installed. Pressing a button on the phone allows users to bypass their own mobile phone network to connect to the internet and make cheap broadband phone calls.

Initially the networks will be available to people using BT Openzone, O2, SkypeZones and Nintendo WiFi but The Cloud hopes other service providers will want to join the party.

The wi-fi firm currently has around 6,000 hotspot locations throughout the UK, Sweden and Germany.

It recently launched a network in Canary Wharf which it claims to be Europe's largest wi-fi enabled financial area.

Source here

City of London to get blanket Wi-Fi
Graeme Wearden
January 20, 2006, 16:55 GMT

Workers in the City should soon be able to get wireless Internet access even when outside the office

The Corporation of London is poised to award a multi-million pound contract to build a wireless network covering the financial heart of the capital.

The Corporation's policy committee met on Thursday to assess the merits of three wireless operators — BT Openzone, The Cloud and Wicoms. According to those familiar with the process, the winning operator will be announced on Monday 23 January.

It is unclear at this stage how widespread the deal will be, but one report has claimed that the contract for constructing and managing it could be worth more than £10m.

The Corporation is following the lead of Canary Wharf, which last August awarded The Cloud a contract to deploy a Wi-Fi network over its estate. That network covered several underground retail spaces, restaurants, bars, gardens, promenades and other public spaces, but did not reach offices at 1 Canada Square, the tower at Canary Wharf.

Source here

I/OMagic bumps Gigabank up to 8GB

I/OMagic bumps Gigabank up to 8GB: "Filed under: Peripherals

I/OMagic's pocket-sized Gigbank has taken another great leap forward, and is now available in capacities of up to 8GB, for a price of $199. That's about the same price as the original 2GB version from less than two years ago, and the 6GB version announced less than a year ago, which is either a great deal, or a reason to wait a little while longer and pick up the terabyte version for the same price in about a year.

Motorola/Burton Audex jackets are here

Ready-to-Wear Communication and Entertainment

Motorola/Burton Audex jackets are here: "Filed under: Wearables
Just in time for Torino, Motorola and Burton are shipping their Bluetooth-enabled Audex jackets. The jackets sport a set of sleeve-mounted controls that can be used to control an audio player and respond to calls. There are also hood-mounted speakers and a mic, for full immersion. Pricing starts at $599, and colors include black, blue, red, and, for the ladies only, mocha plaid. Moto has also recruited a team of pro boarders to tour and promote the jackets; presumably they'll show off the best way to take a call while flipping the halfpipe (we assume that it involves letting voicemail take care of it).


Ready-to-Wear Communication and Entertainment: Motorola and Burton Launch the Audex(TM) Jacket Series
Friday January 20, 1:39 am ET

Motorola's newly formed TEAMMOTO showcase the ultimate winter sports jacket and latest handsets

LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. and BURLINGTON, Vt., Jan. 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Kicking off the winter sports season, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT - News) and Burton Snowboards today announce the commercial availability of the Bluetooth-enabled Audex Jacket Series.

Motorola and Burton are also expanding their global relationship with the newly formed TEAMMOTO -- a Motorola-sponsored snowboarding team comprised of Burton riders from across the globe.

The new Audex jacket allows winter sports enthusiasts to experience seamless connectivity -- at the touch of a button -- from one environment to the next. The product was jointly developed by Motorola and Burton to bring wearable technology to active consumers.*

At the center of the Audex jacket is a control panel located on the left- hand sleeve, allowing for simple and easy access to your incoming and outgoing calls, and music selections. Connect a compatible Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone** to the panel wirelessly, while hooking up your iPod® player via hidden, unobtrusive wires within the jacket. Speakers and a microphone are located in the hood for taking and making calls as well as listening to music.

The Audex jacket is the first in a line of products co-developed by Motorola and Burton. The next products, the Audex Protective Gear, are expected to be available this month. The gear includes the Audex Helmet and Audex Padded Hat, both equipped with Bluetooth stereo headphones, featuring easy-to-use control buttons for convenient and wireless on-the-go talking or music-listening.

Source here

Race kicks off for next-gen 802.11n Wi-Fi

Race kicks off for next-gen 802.11n Wi-Fi: "William Eazel, vnunet.com, Sunday 22 January 2006 at 00:00:00

Vendors off starting blocks

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has finally voted to accept the proposed next-generation 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, which has been developed by the Enhanced Wireless Consortium....

> Read the full article


EMEA outpaces US as biggest PC market

EMEA outpaces US as biggest PC market: "William Eazel, vnunet.com, Sunday 22 January 2006 at 00:00:00

Europe Middle East and Africa account for a third of global PC sales during 2005

For the first time the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region surpassed the US as the world’s largest PC market, based on 2005 shipments....

> Read the full article


Internet shopping reaches 10% of retail sales

Internet shopping reaches 10% of retail sales: "Figures show the growing power of the internet in the retail sector."


Internet shopping reaches 10% of retail sales
Ashley Seager
Friday January 20, 2006
The Guardian

The value of goods sold over the internet rose by 50% this Christmas compared with last year, figures out today show, in a sign of the growing power of the internet in the retail sector.

The figures, from trade body the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), confirm a prediction the group made before Christmas and show goods worth £19.2bn were sold through the internet in Britain last year, an increase of 34% over the previous year and up from just £800m in 2000. Of the £19.2bn, leisure travel booked over the internet totalled £2.5bn.

"We are forecasting that internet sales will rise by another 36% this year to around £26bn," said IMRG spokesman James Roper, adding that web sales now accounted for about 10% of all retail sales.

Sales over the internet in the 10 weeks to Christmas day were around £5bn, according to the IMRG, half as much again as the £3.33bn recorded in the same period of 2004.

The group said, though, that its figures did not yet include music downloads or anything sold on ebay. But they did count things such as air tickets bought from easyjet or Ryanair.

The explosive nature of the recent growth in internet sales, covering everything from supermarket groceries to ticket bookings, has made it hard for statisticians to measure. The IMRG is working with the Office for National Statistics, the Bank of England, Mastercard, Visa and ebay to come up with common definitions.

The ONS said yesterday it was confident it was picking up the vast bulk of internet sales because most were by traditional retailers over their websites. Its figures also include sales through the big web retailers such as Amazon.

It acknowledged, however, that it was struggling to pick up purchases of goods from businesses in other countries, services such as adult entertainment or online gambling - although these were probably showing up as outflows of money in the quarterly balance of payments figures.

As for ebay, it said it treated it as an auction site rather than a retailer. The fees and commissions charged by the website would show up in quarterly GDP data as household spending, while sales by retailers on the site should be captured by its monthly retail sales survey.

But it has not had overall web sales data since 2004, when it recorded £18.1bn, a rise of 67% from the year before and equivalent to a surprisingly low 2.5% of all household spending, of which retail sales make up about a third. It said that as of July last year, 55% of all UK households had access to the internet, up from 32% five years earlier.

It also said it was expanding the scope of its price collection so that it could feed the prices of goods sold on the internet into its cost of living calculations - a move some economists think could reduce the inflation figures.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The COOK Report on Internet/ Closed and Open Morphing of Capitalism

The COOK Report on Internet
January - February 2006 (14.10 -14.11)
Morphing of Capitalism from Closed and Mercantilist in the US to Open and Collaborative Abroad
Thoughts on What these Changes Mean for Telecommunications and Innovation in the US and in the Global Economy


How to purchase this issue. $325 or $1100 group. The January - February 2006 issue looks at telco attempts to monitize eveything thier customers do and examines local attempts to build infrastructure: Villages Branches in Quebec and Champaign Urbana Community Wireless Network. Our Symposium members continue to dissect IMS and comment on the telco's innability to innovate. They pick appart the self-serving nature of the LEC's network neutrality bandwagon. Regulatory issues of common carriage, FCC Voip 911 shenanigans, the sale of Skype to eBay, and Google's dark fiber plans are scrutinized. We include an interview with JP Rangaswami of DRKW.


January 17, 2006 Ewing, NJ -- Capitalism in the United States in the 21st century has not moved forward with the rest of the world. We are still embedded in the post World War II mindset of America as the great economic power at the peak of the industrial age. While many of our giant corporations are shrinking in size, in 2005 in American telecom there were two major exceptions to a trend in the technology area of downsizing driven by increasing commoditization as companies try to become more nimble in order to compete in a globalized economy.


How ironic that the US created the Internet, forced it on the rest of the world along with telcom liberalization and then used the first five years of the new century to march backwards undoing within its borders the new Internet and delivering to the telcos and cable companies the ability to create a "faux" Internet that not only has no open access but preserves their way of charging for everything --“Internet.” This pseudo “Internet” is one that is to be operated in such a way that the local citizens will be stuck with an architecture and terms of service that will prevent them from running the kind of infrastructure found in the home-based business or the SME shops that predominate in East Asia and are revolutionizing the economy of that part of the world. The Bell's insistence that their interests come first are forcing American small business to compete globally with its hands tied behind its back.

The Ownership Society is Closed Capitalism and Mercantilism

The bottom line is stark and simple. The “ownership society” in the US is about closed capitalism where in the outmoded 20th century manner, infrastructure vital to this nation’s future is divided up and then resold to the highest bidder. It is about a patent system run amuck and a copyright system gone wild. It is about the 20th century ideas of content creation where the studios turn out a handful of good films in the face of dozens that are variations on 30 years old themes of mindless violence ­ and the studios wonder why attendance is declining!


Public Infrastructure Betrayed

Meanwhile in the US, the term national or public interest has been effectively destroyed by the “conservative” ascendancy of the last 35 years. Americans have become largely convinced that government, by definition of simply being government, is incompetent. The unfortunate outcome of this is that, especially under the current Bush administration, private interests rule, and as the current scandals are beginning to show, all too often capture public funds which are then used for personal benefit. Because there no longer is any viable “public good,” giant, antiquated, backward looking private corporations have been given, over the past 5 years free reign over broadband in the US ­ this while the rest of the world moves forward with national broadband infrastructures that are far superior to ours.

Consequently the telcos and cable cos are fighting over backward versions of something that is the 21st century equivalent of our 20th century interstate highway system ­ something without which we cannot compete in a global economy. They are telling the entire nation that they will have it their way or not at all as they use their billions to take to courts any local group of citizens that dares to develop local initiatives to build their own infrastructure.

They use their cash to manipulate the political and regulatory process. They have paid for creation of an environment favorable to themselves. They have made it clear that will have it their way and will build us a rutted toll road or nothing at all

Just how stark that manipulation has been is shown in a new book by Bruce Kushnick, 200 Billion Dollar Broadband Scandal to be published as an E-book at the New Networks web site by January 30, 2006. Bruce makes the point that we are on the razor’s edge. We have essentially lost the broadband Internet needed to be competitive in the global economy. Whether we can gain it back depends on whether public interest groups like Bob McChesney’s FreePress and John Podesta’s CAP can join with bloggers and the regular press to drum sufficient outrage into the public at large and have that spill over into a Congress that currently is basically anesthetized by Bell contributions.


Source here


Moore's Lore blog
January 21, 2006

Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: The following entry is being mirrored at the new Infrastructure Held Hostage blog.

We live in an uneasy relationship with the past. (Photograph courtesy RPI.)

The whole past is available to us, there to teach us lessons, to give us Clues that can help us avoid yesterday’s mistakes.

We can find multiple analogies within it. While our politics may seem, to some, analogous to those of the early years of the Cold War, in terms of technology they’re far more like those of the early Progressive Era, the early 1900s.

So imagine if the railroads of that time controlled all the roads.

That’s precisely what AT&T and Verizon, aka Bell East and Bell West (making Qwest and BellSouth into Bell North and, what do you know?) are doing to the Internet right now.

Jay Gould should have been so clever.

They’ve gotten away with it (so far) because the Internet uses the old phone network (cars using the old railroad tracks) for transport. As with railroad tracks and cars, the phone network brings irrelevant, even obnoxious, artifacts with it.

Take out the frequencies used for phone calls (which you can easily do with VOIP) and your DSL line could handle up to 7 Mbps down, no problem, without changing out the underlying technology.

Still don’t believe me? If you have a home LAN (and millions do) you’re assigning IP addresses to each PC on the network, creating your own private Internet.

Your transport to the Internet backbone could be delivered just as easily with a cable modem as with the phone.

* When the cable company offers you phone service they’re not rebuilding the old infrastructure, just modeling it on data.
* Internet transport could be delivered over power lines, and where my inlaws live, in Flatonia, Texas, it is.
* Internet transport could even be delivered using radios, through a Wireless ISP (WISP) using the shared unlicensed WiFi frequencies your home network (and garage door opener, and cordless phone) use.

Whether that WiFi cloud is owned by your city or a private company is irrelevant – it would work.

Many large companies create their own networks, linking to the Internet only at competitive peering locations where they can get the best prices on fiber transport. Long distance fiber remains a competitive market (for now). Their fear is that, with so much of the U.S. transport market now held by the Bells, their prices could be squeezed just as yours are.

Given that the cable operators have powerful lobbies, and cable does not cover everyone, the phone companies are, in their own lobbying for privilege, allowing them to exist. It’s also convenient. Their current efforts at “improvement” are aimed solely at delivering TV to homes, as cable does, not at improving Internet service.

By allowing this dual-monopoly on consumer Internet transport, or duopoly, the cable and phone monopolies mask reality. Having a choice between only cable and a Bell for ISP service is like having a choice between only Coke and Pepsi for the liquid you need to live. It’s a false choice.

In his book $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, Bruce Kushnick details how we got from the open, competitive market of 10 years ago to today’s duopoly. But I’m more interested in how we get out of this, and what a truly competitive Internet market might look like.

The first Clue is for you to understand that the Bells don’t need to exist. If the Bells went under, and their networks sold to the highest bidders, people would operate it. They would get together and interconnect their networks. They would provide service, with the current capital written down to its real value.

The second Clue for you to understand is that the alternative to monopoly isn’t communism, but competition. If the Bells had to wholesale their networks, as they did under the 1996 Telecommunications Act, that would be fine. If a federal law allowed cities to build their own Internets, that would be enough. If the Bells were only required to share their poles with Wireless ISPs and other competitors, even at a small profit over cost, that would work, too.

The third Clue for you to understand is that the present system is not tenable. Despite their success in creating an Internet duopoly, Verizon and AT&T are each worth about 40% less than they were just five years ago. The old phone network, based on wires, poles, and switches that must be written off over 20 years or more, cannot survive in a world of Moore’s Law where cheap radios and shared fiber can do the same thing. The only way they can survive is through laws that mandate you pay them whatever they demand, for whatever they choose to give you. It’s almost like the government forcing you to buy cigarettes.

Imagine if cars could have been forced to run on rails 100 years ago, and pay monopoly rail rates for the privilege. Any nation which had merely built roads would have buried us long ago. All the economic progress of the last century would have been impossible.

That is just what is happening. The Internet is the new road network. Your PC, your laptop, your PDA, your cell phone, that’s a car.

Don’t let it be crippled. Let the Bells die a natural death. Make them, by refusing to allow continued government life support, by pulling that plug of coercion that keeps them alive.

Free the Internet for competition.

Source here


Infrastructure Held Hostage blog

Wi-fi slow to enthuse consumers

Wi-fi slow to enthuse consumers: "Most people are not taking advantage of the freedom offered by wireless net access in laptops, a study has found."

Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 10:54 GMT
Wi-fi slow to enthuse consumers

[Toshiba notebook
Laptops are no longer being used just for work]

Most people are not taking advantage of the freedom offered by laptops with wi-fi built-in, a study has found.

According to a survey for electronics giant Toshiba, only a handful of people use a laptop to go online when they are outside of the home.

Just 11% used laptops in hotels, 7% on trains and 3% in coffee shops, compared to 55% who used them mostly at home.

There are over 10,000 wi-fi hotspots in the UK but not everyone is aware of them.

The survey found that 15% thought there were not enough wireless locations for them to use the technology.

Technology confusion

"Many users appear to be failing to capitalise on the opportunities presented to them through mobility," said Steve Crawley, head of mobile strategy at Toshiba.

[The storage of music and photo collection has moved from the shelves of living rooms onto laptops,
Steve Crawley, Toshiba]

"Consumers who are only using their devices in the home are missing out on huge opportunities to benefit from technologies which can dramatically improve their working lives," he said.

The survey also found that a core of users are still reticent about the technology.

Just under 20% of laptop owners said they did not know how to use its wireless functions and one in four said they did not want to pay to use a wi-fi hotspot.

Nearly 90% said the big disadvantage of wireless working was that it meant they worked longer hours.

The majority said their laptops meant they worked an extra hour or two each week but a fifth said their extra hours were as high as 10 per week.

Security concerns are still a worry for 19% of people, who cited this as the reason for not using wi-fi.

Digital store

Increasingly laptops are becoming multimedia devices, the survey found.

Almost 80% used their laptop for managing their music, photos and video collections.

Just under 40% stored pictures on their laptops, while 21% used them for downloading and storing music and 19% for watching films.

"As more people own digital devices such as cameras and MP3 players, the storage of their music and photo collection has moved from the shelves of their living room onto their laptops," said Mr Crawley.

Google embraces open IM standards

Google embraces open IM standards: "Users of Google Talk can now communicate with other instant messaging services that support the XMPP protocol"

First WiMax products certified

First WiMax products certified: "Four vendors now have certified kit for sale, but has WiMax missed its chance?"

First WiMax products certified
Graeme Wearden
January 20, 2006, 17:20 GMT

Four vendors now have certified kit for sale, but has WiMax missed its chance?

The WiMax Forum has awarded its first certification marks for products that use the 802.16-2004 wireless standard.

The products were manufactured by Aperto Networks, Redline Communications, Sequans and Wavesat. They were tested at the Forum's certification lab in Spain, which opened in July 2005. According to the Forum, another 26 manufacturers have reserved testing slots at the lab.

The 802.16-2004 standard covers fixed WiMax which will support high-speed wireless access over long distances.

"This is a crucial step in the process of developing and certifying both fixed and mobile WiMax networks," said Lindsay Schroth, senior analyst for broadband access technologies at the Yankee Group, in a statement released by the Forum.

Customers who buy certified products can be sure that they will work with other certified kit. However, many equipment vendors were not prepared to wait for the certification process, and have already launched their own pre-certification equipment.

WiMax has been one of the most talked about and anticipated emerging technologies in the computing sector over the last couple of years. However, because of delays and infighting there is now growing concern that it may not live up to its early promise. A standard has still to be agreed for mobile WiMax, 802.16e, for example. This gives rival wireless technologies, such as HSDPA, a good opportunity to seize market share at WiMax's expense.

More details of the first certified products can be seen here.

Tesco goes for mass market VoIP

Tesco goes for mass market VoIP: "Iain Thomson, vnunet.com, Friday 20 January 2006 at 00:00:00

Plans to undercut BT on international calls

High street supermarket chain Tesco is launching its own VoIP service for UK broadband users aiming to 'slash' fixed line call costs....

> Read the full article


Why we're all logging on to shell out

Why we're all logging on to shell out: "THE amount spent online by Welsh consumers will top £1,000 per person for the first time this year, it was predicted yesterday."

Radio frequency to ease Superdrug growth

Radio frequency to ease Superdrug growth: "Miya Knights, Computing, Thursday 19 January 2006 at 00:00:00

Communications, reporting and RF terminals among IT priorities

Retailer Superdrug is to introduce a range of new IT projects to support a £14.6m store expansion programme. The beauty and pharmacy retailer last week announced plans to double the...

> Read the full article


IEEE gives up on UWB standard

IEEE gives up on UWB standard: "Iain Thomson, vnunet.com, Friday 20 January 2006 at 00:00:00

Let the market decide

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has given up trying to formulate an ultra wide band (UWB) standard and has left it to the producers to sort things...

> Read the full article


O2 bids on eBay to boost i-mode traffic

Users offered secure access to auction site's features
William Eazel, vnunet.com 21 Jan 2006

UK mobile operator O2 this week announced that it has made auction website eBay available to users of its i-mode mobile internet service.

Users of the service will be able to securely access all standard eBay features such as 'My eBay', 'items I am watching', 'items I am bidding on', 'items I am selling' and 'items I have won', the company said.

Michiel van Eldik, director of i-mode, global content and applications at O2, said: "We expect this service to become hugely popular…underpinning further research showing that seven out of 10 people who buy i-mode handsets use the service, compared to just three that use the available WAP services on their handset."

Earlier this week Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto had highlighted the strength of the online auction place, maintaining a rating of “outperform” on eBay, saying the online auction company is at its best position in a year.

“We believe eBay continues to represent the best business model within the internet sector, as it remains relatively insulated from the heightened competition within e-commerce," wrote Noto in a recent note to investors.

Source here

AOL targets local loop in £50m rollout

ISP goes head to head with BT
William Eazel, vnunet.com 21 Jan 2006

AOL has this week announced plans to go head to head against BT in the UK, by jumping on the local loop unbundling (LLU) bandwagon.

By targeting the local loop in a £50m project, AOL intends to deliver internet, telephony and other broadband related services, such as video on demand, television over broadband and advanced gaming services, directly to consumers.

The ISP said its decision to invest in telecoms infrastructure in the UK follows Ofcom's recent mandates on BT opening up the local loop. The company added it would focus on ADSL 2+ compatible technologies, paving the way for future offerings at 8Mbps speeds.

The initial phase of the programme, costing around £50m, will take place during the first half of 2006 and reach up to 300 exchanges in the UK or 20 per cent of UK households. AOL said it may extend this rollout to up to 1,000 exchanges, or 50 per cent of households, and an estimated additional investment of £70m. AOL's investment in this area is being funded by parent company Time Warner.

The company said it has completed beta testing of the LLU process in two London exchanges, Battersea and Ealing, and has created a team of more than 100 people in the UK to carry out a large-scale LLU rollout.

Karen Thomson, chief executive and chairman of AOL UK Limited, said: "The opportunity to compete on a level playing field with the incumbent will encourage substantial investment in digital services and content in the UK. This will allow the UK to catch up with leading European countries, where unbundling is already delivering higher value services to consumers."

Source here

Friday, January 20, 2006

City of London to get blanket Wi-Fi

City of London to get blanket Wi-Fi: "Workers in the City should soon be able to get wireless Internet access even when outside the office


City of London to get blanket Wi-Fi
Graeme Wearden
January 20, 2006, 16:55 GM

Workers in the City should soon be able to get wireless Internet access even when outside the office

The Corporation of London is poised to award a multi-million pound contract to build a wireless network covering the financial heart of the capital.

The Corporation's policy committee met on Thursday to assess the merits of three wireless operators — BT Openzone, The Cloud and Wicoms. According to those familiar with the process, the winning operator will be announced on Monday 23 January.

It is unclear at this stage how widespread the deal will be, but one report has claimed that the contract for constructing and managing it could be worth more than £10m.

The Corporation is following the lead of Canary Wharf, which last August awarded The Cloud a contract to deploy a Wi-Fi network over its estate. That network covered several underground retail spaces, restaurants, bars, gardens, promenades and other public spaces, but did not reach offices at 1 Canada Square, the tower at Canary Wharf.

MPs demand wi-fi access in Houses of Parliament

'I can work at Caffè Nero but not here'

By Steve Ranger
Published: Tuesday 10 January 2006

Wireless internet access should be installed in parts of the Houses of Parliament to allow MPs access to information on the move.

A report by the House of Commons Administration Committee is calling for secure wireless access after it found that some new MPs struggled to work before they were given office space.

The report said: "We recommend that wireless internet access should be provided in those areas likely to be of most use to members."

"I used to spend afternoons sitting on the steps outside Portcullis House so that I could get a signal from what I think is Caffè Nero next door."-- Adam Afriyie, Tory MP

It added: "We appreciate the security and viability issues around wireless internet access but believe that it should be possible to overcome these difficulties."

The report examines how the House of Commons services responded to the influx of 123 new MPs following last year's election.

And while MPs can have calls forwarded from their parliamentary phone number to a mobile, the report said wireless internet access is lacking: "The Parliamentary Data and Video Network is a wires-only network to which only computers matching a centrally specified standard can be connected."

Laptops supplied to MPs have both wireless and Bluetooth disabled, and the report warned this "significantly limited" the extent to which an MP without an office could work within the parliamentary estate.

As new Tory MP Adam Afriyie told the committee: "I can work anywhere in the country - in coffee shops, in any building, most Conservative associations, if there is a coffee shop next door with a wireless LAN. The only place I was unable to work is here... I used to spend afternoons sitting on the steps outside Portcullis House so that I could get a signal from what I think is Caffè Nero next door."

Former MPs also complained their email is switched off too early with no automatic reply option to warn constituents of the change. The report said: "An email automatic response service for former members should be provided as a matter of course in future for a period of several months after a general election."

Source here

UK digital divide is widening

By Marjorie Delwarde | 20 Jan 2006

The UK digital divide in broadband uptake is widening, according to recent research carried out by research company Point Topic.

In terms of broadband density, London and the Home Counties perform best with 25 (both DSL and cable) broadband lines per 100 people in Wandsworth, south London, to 20 in South Buckinghamshire.

At the other end of the spectrum are the rural areas of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well as West Somerset, with figures as low as 6.3 lines per 100 in Dumfries and Galloway and 4.9 for Eilean Siar, aka the Western Isles.

South Wales, which in previous Point Topic research was reported as doing well in household broadband take-up, now shows signs of a less rosy future. Demand for DSL has now overtaken cable broadband, which in the past propelled the region to a leading position in broadband density.

Despite broadband availability, some rural areas still fail to adopt broadband, highlighting lack of interest and social background as significant factors in the deepening of the broadband digital divide.

John Wilson, member of the Wales Broadband Stakeholder Group, comments on the map used to indicate take-up, saying Wales appears as a big white desert. But he questions whether it is a realistic indication of Welsh internet access. "Maybe people are accessing the internet through other means, like mobile."

He adds: “BT may have enabled its exchanges, but people living six miles away from the exchange are unlikely to get broadband access. Companies provide broadband access where it is commercially viable.”

Broadband Wales, the Welsh Assembly Government initiative to drive broadband take-up, was not available for comment at the time of publishing.

Wilson believes the Welsh government is not to be blamed for the slow broadband uptake in the region. “The Welsh government has not only focused on infrastructure but has also developed a pro-active marketing strategy to educate and inform people about the benefits of broadband and generate take-up,” he says. “In fact, its spending has been twenty times higher per capita than the government in London."

Rhodri Williams, Ofcom Wales, agrees that efforts are being made by the Welsh Assembly to promote broadband and also the roll-out availability to those areas where there isn’t current availability and predicts they are going to have an impact.

He says: “I don’t think that the slight shortfall in the broadband uptake in Wales is particularly worrying. Cable penetration has been high in those areas where cable is available. DSL is becoming more and more popular so we can expect to catch up with the UK average in the near future.”

Williams also expects that the introduction of alternative suppliers will lead to an increasingly competitive market and cut down prices, making broadband more desirable.

He explains: “One of the issues is that people need to see what exactly it is going to be used for. There was a tendency for people in the past to see only faster internet access but that’s not a compelling proposition for customers. As we see more services developed especially for the broadband platform, such as VoIP services, broadband uptake will increase.”

Wilson suggests that lack of relevant content may account for the digital divide in Wales, questioning the presence of valid content online for Welsh speakers, ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas.

“In rural areas, market towns are vibrant places, where people meet, conduct their business and communicate. The challenge is to recreate this community experience online. There is a need for the government policy to address the content. Infrastructure is just a means to an end to enable people to communicate with each other.”

Use of broadband at work or school might make people realise they need it at home too. However broadband affordability might be an issue. Although prices have decreased, Wilson remarks that most of Wales falls into the European Objective 1 classification, in need of regeneration, and the digital divide in Wales may be a socio-economic issue too.

Williams comments: “As a predominantly rural area and a poorer area of the UK, I think it’s only natural that we are a couple of percentage points behind the UK average.

He adds: “We still don’t have universal roll-out of DSL, but DSL is one of theses technologies that clearly started in metropolitan areas. If you look at Cardiff, there is a good take-up of broadband services. We are clearly moving in the right direction.”

Source here