Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Flickr becomes channel for community protest

By Marjorie Delwarde | 31 Oct 2006

A community group is using photo sharing website, Flickr, to protest against the Bury council’s decision to auction a LS Lowry painting to balance its budget deficit.

Set up only a few days ago, the Bury Lowry group has 93 members, attracting the interest of not only the locals but also people from the US, Australia, Austria, Brazil and Denmark. To date, 52 people have signed its petition.

John Wilson, an administrator of the Bury Lowry group, told Ping Wales: “This painting reflects the industrial England and its working class. Lowry is one of the best known British painters. The controversy surrounding the sale of this painting is about the identity of this area.”

Although Flickr primarily allows the management and sharing of photos, one of its main appeals is its social networking aspect.

Wilson explains: “Flickr members can comment on each others’ photos. I posted an image of Lowry’s painting, and this acted as a catalyst for the formation of the online campaign. Several people commented on the image and that’s how it all started.”

Broadband advocate, curator and artist, Wilson views this use of Flickr as a testimony that the internet is no longer just about entertainment and consumers downloading files or software, but is a place where serious conversations can also take place.

Frank Foran, former Bury resident and founder of the Bury Lowry group, adds: “[John] and I thought the global imaging community was the ideal place to showcase an endangered image, A Riverbank by LS Lowry, due to be sold at Christies on 17 November, and focus more attention on the issue.”

“Flickr is a social networking facility where strong feelings on an issue can be expressed and form the basis of useful discussion. I hope that the Bury Lowry site will be an influential forum in the ongoing debate.”

The group hopes to widen the debate and generate further awareness and as a result put further pressure on the council to reconsider its decision.

According to Foran, the council is no stranger to online protest campaigns. When the council tried to close down two large secondary schools, it was forced to change its mind after a massive and sustained campaign largely run [using tools from] Google, he says.

Commenting on the council’s response to group’s protest letter, Foran says: “We have yet to receive a reply to the letter published, though the hard copy can only just have reached the council. We sincerely hope that the council will respond to our criticism.”

A spokesman for the council told Ping Wales: “We are aware of the group however the sale is going ahead as it is a council decision. So far, we have had seven contacts regarding the Lowry sale, three of which have been in favour.”

The 1947 oil painting will be auctioned at Christie's in London on 17 November. The Bury Times reports that the council hopes it will raise £500,000 to balance the budget, and a further £421,000 to meet the overspend on the new Ramsbottom Library.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Flicking angry over sale of painting

October 25, 2006, 4.45pm • No comments yet » • 29 Views
Flicking angry over sale of painting

John is touting a meme. I’m a bit busy to look into it in any depth at the moment, but I will pass it on…

As BBC News reports, “a council planning to auction an LS Lowry painting to help balance its books may be excluded from the Museums Association, its chief has said”.

John and some other concerned social history geeks started a petition on Flickr opposing the auction; they say:

Add your voice to the Petition and make your own comment. Spread the word- invite your flickr contacts to join the Bury Lowry Petition!

That’s at www.flickr.com/groups/burylowry/

The Welsh Web 2.0

By Robert Andrews | 27 Oct 2006

Web-savvy Welsh speakers are volunteering translation skills and some digital hwyl to help stake out the new wave of Web 2.0 services for the mother tongue (...)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The future is tera-scale computing

‘The future is tera-scale computing,’ says Intel

SAN FRANCISCO — Intel is aggressively pursuing its research and development as it unveiled more prototypes of microprocessors for various applications that would have an impact into the people’s lives.

(...) Alan Crouch, director for communications technology lab, pointed out the importance of industry collaboration in developing wireless innovation. "The future of mobility is accessing anything, anywhere and when do you want to be delivered easily, reliably and securely."

"It all begins on what the user wants through ethnographic research and look at improving mobile devices and networks and leading standards and spectrum policy," said Crouch.

He believes that mobile standards will co-exist and that the challenge is seamless connectivity across all wireless devices - from 3G with overlay and seamless access to WiMax (802.16e), WiFi (802.11) and UWB.

"Our vision is complete the service transparency to the end user on any wireless network," said Crouch.

There is also a need to look at the end-to-end system implications from Internet Protocol (IP) services, network layer and radio access layer.

Intel had a joint collaboration with British Telecom (BT) that involves building BT’s 21st century network architecture that allows mobility across multiple networks.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ofcom- Nations and Regions

Ofcom | Nations and Regions - Statement on the policy implications arising from the Communications Market: Nations and Regions research


1.1 Ofcom conducts ongoing research into the markets it regulates. In April 2006, Ofcom published a series of research reports on the Communications Market for the Nations and Regions of the UK (‘the Research Reports’).

1.2 The Research Reports examine availability, take-up and consumption of internet, telecommunications and broadcasting services. They compare findings across Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the nine English Regions among consumers and small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

1.3 The research was undertaken to address feedback from stakeholders that Ofcom’s work should take into consideration the differences between the nations and regions of the UK. The project is consistent with Ofcom’s duties under the Communications Act 2003 to secure the availability of a wide range of electronic communications services throughout the UK, having regard to the different parts of the UK and in rural and urban areas.

1.4 Most data in the Research Report was collated from research undertaken in the second half of 2005, including Ofcom’s residential tracking study, the Media Literacy Audit and operator data for mobile phone, digital subscriber line (DSL) and cable coverage.

1.5 This statement sets out the policy issues raised by the research and should be read in conjunction with those findings as published in April. The Research Reports can be found on Ofcom’s website at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/research/cm/nations/.
Purpose of this statement


Nations and Regions - Statement on the policy implications arising from the Communications Market: Nations and Regions research [12 Oct 2006]

@Wales Digital Media Initiative

@Wales bestowed international honour - first in the UK
Source: Welsh Assembly Government
Published Monday, 16 October, 2006 - 06:03

The Welsh Assembly Government’s pioneering @Wales Digital Media Initiative is the first in the United Kingdom to receive the international accreditation for its work (...)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tablet PC + WiFi to replace medical charts and patient files

openspectrum.info | From "Med Charts Over Wi-Fi, STAT," by Eric Griffith, WiFi Planet, 2 October:

"You see them on every medical TV show - doctors consulting clipboard charts, filled with reams of paperwork with delicate and critical information about the patient.

"How 20th century.

"Catalis of Austin, Texas certainly thinks so. Founded and run by Dr. Randy Lipscher, the company's goal is to get rid of all that paper by getting its software application, Accelerator 3.0, into the hands of all the healthcare workers it can. The Web-based interface - called a graphical health record (GHR) - is perfect for tablet PCs, and requires no typing. Yet Lipscher claims the software delivers an increased data input rate. That's great, but how does Accelerator share its data?

"Over wireless, of course...

" 'When we first met with Catalis months ago, they shared with us the application and what it looks like, how graphically it can show the human body to indicate to a patient their ailment, how it links with medical records,' says Dan Lowden, vice president of business development and marketing for Wayport. 'We were blown away.'

"[Catalis and Wayport] will partner on appropriate deployments. Catalis customers without Wi-Fi infrastructure in place will be pushed toward Wayport as a provider. Lowden says Wayport will be building an entire division of the company devoted to the healthcare space, suggesting the Accelerator GHR where appropriate. What's more, when Wayport installs Wi-Fi in the healthcare facility, it can extend that service to waiting patients or visitors as an amenity so they can access the Internet while waiting around. It's a model similar to what Wayport provides at McDonald's, where its Wi-Fi helps run debit card readers and the like, but also offers for-fee connections to patrons.

"Catalis spent several years doing research and development, but has already deployed Accelerator in a couple of university hospitals. The system can connect physicians with other areas of the hospital they might otherwise not be able to access directly, such as the pharmacy or radiology (finally, digital x-rays). The software takes care of coding and billing information, and even synchs with the receptionist to verify appointments and follow-up visits. Lipscher says that while similar systems exist, they can take weeks for training. He claims that Accelerator only takes two days of training for physicians to get comfortable with it. He calls it a 'Mac interface in a DOS world.'

" '[The software] makes the office safer for patient data, checks drug interactions... and the physicians make more money, as the software has built-in account capabilities,' says Lipscher. Not to mention that speeding up data entry means the docs just might get to go home earlier."

"I have seen Wi-Fi's future, and it's free"

openspectrum.info | "I have seen Wi-Fi's future, and it's free" by Victor Keegan, The Guardian, 12 October:

"A number of places in the UK have claimed to be rolling out free wireless connections for the community to encourage internet use, but only Norfolk has got it up and running. It needed to do something dramatic because, as one of the sparsest rural communities in the country, it would run the risk of missing out, not least as a magnet for industry, if it waited until the private sector came along. It is symbolically fitting that Norfolk - birthplace of Thomas Paine, acclaimed by some as the patron saint of the internet - should be thrust into this pioneering role. At present the eight-week-old experiment, funded by a £1.1m grant from the East of England Development Agency, is centred on Norwich but it will soon be extended to 22 villages.

"Is this the future? The answer is that so far, it is going pretty well despite teething problems. My laptop got through to the web first time both in the Forum, the city's fine new community area where the central library is sited, and in a Starbucks, though the signal was patchy as it is planned primarily to be used outdoors. At one stage I had to walk across the market place to get a strong connection, probably because buildings or trees were getting in the way of a signal from one of 228 small transmitters fixed high up on lamp posts each covering 200 to 300 metres. Some 165 of these are already working and the rest will be switched on by the end of the month. The bandwidth available to the general public is only 256k but public-sector worker workers get 1MB.

"Norfolk County Council claims there are already 1,000 connections a day - far higher than expected - and it is already seeing benefits including midwives getting bedside access to information from the web, a TV installer able to order spare parts from a rooftop, and freelance photographers able to transmit photos directly to agencies rather than having to return to the office. In future it will make CCTV cameras cheaper to install and there are plans to use mobile CCTV units that reduce rowdiness.

"All this is potentially revolutionary. If Wi-Fi or high-powered derivatives such as WiMax (which can transmit over tens of miles) become widespread then no one will need an internet service provider (ISP) except for premium services (such as spam filtering) because web-based email and internet access will be free.

"There will be no need either for the mobile phone companies as presently constructed because calls will be routed through the internet as long as the recipient uses the same service.

"It was partly not to upset private-sector providers (charging £5 to £6 an hour for access) that Norfolk pitched the bandwidth low for citizens. But if Wi-Fi is to take off for telephony it will have to cover whole towns as it is pointless walking around, phone in hand, paying £5 to every local provider you come across to keep connected. The Wi-Fi enabled phones I took to Norwich did not work, but this was due to the labyrinthine procedures needed to set up new access points for these early models.

"Norfolk's business model of getting public funds to finance development with the council providing infrastructure (lamp posts etc) is a good one, but the difficulty of attracting scarce public finance is likely to mean that a US model, with the private sector providing capital and local authorities infrastructure, is likely to prevail. But if private money is reluctant to take the risks then the public sector should jump in.

"As Norwich is already starting to show, the investment may be justified simply to improve the productivity of public-sector employees. And if you add in the external benefits to business, hospitals and universities and, above all, the empowerment of ordinary people, then it could become irresistible.

"Paine, the great champion of citizens' rights, would surely have approved. "

WiFi's future in UK libraries

openspectrum.info | From "Report outlines WiFi future for libraries," UK Museums, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Council news release, 22 September 2006:

"A report launched today from the MLA and WiFi specialist RegenerateIT anticipates that by 2009 half of all [UK] libraries will offer some form of WiFi (wireless technology).

"The report estimates that there are currently about 23 per cent of library services delivering WiFi with 42 per cent of library services planning to offer WiFi in the next financial year.

"Benefits of WiFi in libraries include more flexible use of space - particularly important given the limited space in many rural areas - and increased availability of library PCs, allowing a greater total number of users to benefit from IT access in the library.

"Most of the existing library WiFi services are being offered free, according to the report Review and Evaluation of WiFi in Public Libraries.

"The next steps in provision of library wireless services are the installation or expansion of hotspots to more libraries and the marketing of those hotspots to ensure a full take-up."

FCC votes to let low-power devices use empty TV channels after digital switchover

FCC votes to let low-power devices use empty TV channels after digital switchover

From "FCC lets wireless sneak between TV airwaves," Reuters (via News.com], 12 October:

"The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to permit certain wireless devices to use vacant airwaves between active television channels as long as they do not cause interference.

"Companies such as computer chipmaker Intel have pushed the FCC to make those airwaves available for use without a license for services like high-speed wireless Internet. But broadcasters have worried about possible signal disruptions.

" 'Allowing low-power wireless devices to operate in the unused portions of the television bands could be an efficient and effective use of this unused spectrum,' FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said at the agency's monthly open meeting.

"The FCC agreed to permit the use of fixed, low-powered, wireless equipment on some unused channel frequencies and said it would conduct testing to assess interference and encouraged others to submit their findings.

"The FCC said it expected to have the laboratory test results on interference by July and would set final technical requirements for the devices by October 2007.

"The National Association of Broadcasters said it looked forward to working with the agency.

"Marketing of the devices would only be allowed when television broadcasters switch to airing their digital signals and return their old analog airwaves to the government in February 2009, the FCC said.

" 'I think it strikes the right balance by promoting the development of new technologies while ensuring that over-the-air television is not subject to harmful interference,' said FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein.

"Signals from the airwaves at issue -- frequencies below 900 megahertz -- can easily penetrate walls, trees and other obstructions, unlike the higher frequencies.

"Intel attorney Marjorie Dickman said the company welcomed the FCC's decision because it wanted additional airwaves available for other uses than television service. Intel 'commends Chairman Martin for moving forward with the proceeding and looks forward to continuing to work with the FCC to make additional airwaves available for fixed-wireless, high-speed, Internet services in rural areas and for personal, home and office networking purposes,' she said...

"Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved."

Official FCC news release, 12 October 2006: "FCC Takes Steps to Allow New Low Power Devices on Vacant TV Channels"

"Separate Statement of Commissioner Michael J. Copps": "...Then there is the question of whether the white spaces should be used on a licensed or unlicensed basis. The Commission's assumption has always been unlicensed - indeed, the caption of our 2004 NPRM (and today's item) is Unlicensed Operation in the TV Broadcast Bands. I have long supported freeing up additional unlicensed spectrum. In many contexts - as with the enormously successful bands that support today's Wi-Fi networks - unlicensed uses most closely approach the ideal of the people's airwaves, to be used in direct service of the public interest. With our recent AWS auction and the upcoming 700 Mhz auction, we are opening up a huge swath of prime spectrum to licensed use - and it seems to me, on the present record, that the appropriate balance is to open up the TV white spaces to unlicensed use..."

"Statement of Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein": "...Wherever I travel, I hear the calls for more unlicensed spectrum from operators who need more capacity to drive broadband deployment deeper and farther into all corners of the country. In this item, we are rightly exploring the latest and most exciting cognitive radio and spectrum sensing technologies that are available to see how they can enable spectrum facilitation in the television bands. Of course, broadcasters have used the public spectrum for many years to serve rural and urban areas alike in providing news, civic information, education and entertainment. I fully support our request for comment on how best to ensure that harmful interference is not caused by the operation of unlicensed devices. The American people care a lot about the quality of their television reception. We will hear an earful from consumers if this is not done right. I am particularly pleased with our decision today to allow channels 14-20 and 2-4 to remain 'on the table' for further testing to determine their suitability for possible unlicensed services in the future... Finally, while the item does provide a balanced view of the benefits and challenges of unlicensed versus licensed operations in the white spaces bands, I want to specifically express my preference for use of this spectrum on an unlicensed basis. Unlicensed services, with their low barriers to entry, present such a great opportunity for the deployment of broadband offerings in communities across the country no matter their size or financial status. Considering the favorable propagation characteristics for wireless broadband services in the 700 MHz band and the important obligation to protect existing television operations from harmful interference, I believe that unlicensed operations present the best use of the spectrum for this country."

"Statement of Commissioner Robert M. McDowell": "I am excited about this item because it starts a chain of events that will lead to an explosion of entrepreneurial brilliance. I am also delighted that it provides tremendous opportunities for further unlicensed use of these slices of the spectrum..."

Rural county among top in UK for high-speed net use

Oct 10 2006
David Williamson, Western Mail

MONMOUTHSHIRE is fast becoming Wales' answer to Silicon Valley, with one of the highest levels of high-speed internet usage in the United Kingdom.

The mainly rural county is ranked six in the country by BT, with more than 18,000 homes and businesses now using ADSL broadband.

When all other forms of internet access are also taken into account, Assembly Government figures show that Cardiff is no longer the broadband capital of Wales. Newport leads with 51% of its residents now subscribed to a broadband service.

The Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff follow closely on 50%.

Nationwide, broadband take-up continues to climb, with 43% of Wales now subscribed to a broadband service - up from 39% in 2005.

The research, conducted by the Assembly's Broadband Wales programme, shows that Anglesey is the most improved county, with broadband take-up in the area increasing 38% in the last year from 29% to 40%. The next biggest increase was in Powys (up 30% to 39%), and Wrexham (up 27% to 42%).

As well as being better connected, the research also shows that Wales is getting faster, with 26% of those surveyed having connection speeds faster that 1Mb, which will allow users to run advanced applications such as videoconferencing, gaming and music downloads.

Although the PC remains the most popular method of connecting to the internet, there has been an increase in the number of people accessing on their mobile phones - almost 20% of respondents.

The telephone line is still the most common way of connecting to the internet, although there has been growth in use of both cable and wireless technology.

The impact of the Regional Innovative Broadband Support Programme (RIBS), which involves internet-enabling the final 35 exchanges in Wales, is not reflected in the research, which was completed before its launch.

Andrew Davies, Minister for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks, said, "The positive results of this latest wave of research are a testament to more than four years of hard work by our Broadband Wales Programme to raise community awareness and understanding of broadband.

"While I am pleased that broadband take-up is continuing to climb, we have to build on the success of the programme to ensure take-up continues to improve across all parts of the country."

The research involved surveying 5,500 residents across Wales' 22 local authorities.

It contrasts with data based on a much smaller sample released in August by the Office for National Statistics.

This found that 40% of the UK had broadband access (up from 28% last year) but said Wales had the second-lowest broadband take-up rate in the UK at just 32%.

This research said London had the top rate, with 49% of households connected to broadband.

BT's analysis is based on its wholesale sales to homes and businesses of ADSL internet access. It found the highest penetration was in Buckinghamshire (47%) and Aberdeenshire (44%).

Commenting on the popularity of high-speed access in Monmouthshire, Ann Beynon, BT's director for Wales, said the challenge was now to encourage greater use among the population as a whole.

"This is excellent news," she said.

"But Monmouthshire's success mirrors that of Wales as a whole which is one of the fastest growing parts of the UK in terms of broadband take-up with increasing numbers of homes and businesses realising the benefits the technology can bring.

"With more and more people using broadband's new and exciting services online, the challenge is now to continue to develop increasingly compelling content to encourage even greater growth."

Photographer Steve Pope, a broadband user from Caldicot, said the technology had made a huge difference to his business.

"Once you start using broadband you wonder how you ever managed without it," he said.

"So when I moved to the area, ADSL broadband was one of the first things I ordered.

"Since photography has gone digital, clients want their pictures the same day - and because you are dealing with such large files, without broadband it would be totally impractical."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Google Docs and Spreadsheets

October 10, 2006, 9:02 PM PDT
Google Docs and Spreadsheets: Not quite Google Office, but closer
Posted by: Rafe Needleman

Google Docs and Spreadsheets
Google Docs and Spreadsheets puts all your files in one place.

Google just launched the feature I was kvetching about yesterday when I covered Zoho: an integrated file system for its productivity applications. Until now, documents created in Writely and in Google Spreadsheets lived separately. But in the new, publicly available Google Docs and Spreadsheets, at docs.google.com, all the documents you create in either Docs (no more "Writely") or Spreadsheets are displayed in one interface, where you can tag your files and sort them however you want. It's a big improvement.

Google is also bringing the user interfaces and the feature sets of the two applications closer together. Both look very similar, and both have similar common functions, such as import and export. But it's clear that the Google apps were built by separate teams. Little differences give it away: The collaboration function is a separate page in Docs, but a right-hand panel in Spreadsheets. Spreadsheets also has a built-in chat feature to complement its real-time group editing capability. Docs has no chat (although it does have group editing). On the other hand, Docs lets you see a list of all the revisions other users have made; Spreadsheets does not.

Most importantly, although you can see all your files in one place, the two applications aren't really integrated. You cannot embed a spreadsheet into a document, for example. That's lame.

Today's release of Google Docs and Spreadsheets is a step forward, and I trust that Google will continue to improve the feature set, usability, and integration of these two products. At a preview for bloggers earlier today, we heard about some future plans such as integration with Gmail (when you get a word processing file or a spreadsheet as an attachment, you'll have the option to open the file in Docs and Spreadsheets). The team is also working on APIs, so other programmers can access the functionality of the applications. Also, Google is going to "take a shot" at a disconnected version, for users who want to access files when they are offline. And they're working on other applications, too.

I like Google's online applications despite their early-stage flaws and omissions. They're easy to use, and their collaboration features, while basic, set them apart from standard office applications. People looking for clean and simple online applications will find Google Docs and Spreadsheets useful. Those who need a more fully developed online suite right now should check out Zoho and ThinkFree. This market is moving fast; it's being reported on TechCrunch that Zoho will launch a more complete and very tightly integrated online productivity suite, Zoho Virtual Office, at the Office 2.0 Conference.

Internet freedom reigns in Amsterdam

Internet freedom reigns in Amsterdam
Sat Sep 30, 2006 11:00am ET253
By Lucas van Grinsven, European Technology Correspondent

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Amsterdam has the world's busiest Internet exchange, thanks to nuclear physicists and mathematicians who in the 1980s connected their network needs with the academic belief that knowledge needs to be free.

At a time when the neutrality of the Internet is at stake, and Internet service providers (ISPs) are moving to prioritize their premium traffic, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange is a reminder that the Internet was built on the principle of the unrestricted exchange of ideas and information.

The popularity of the AMS-IX. the official name of the exchange, is the result of a liberal foundation which has created a place where ISPs can do business any way they like.

"'Anything goes unless it's forbidden', was our motto from the beginning. We added a few rules later on, but any unnecessary organizing is being prevented," said Rob Blokzijl from Nikhef, the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics in the Netherlands.

It shares this spirit with the designers of the Internet who decided that all data packets were created equal, and with Tim Berners-Lee who developed the World Wide Web at the Swiss particle physics lab CERN as a universal and neutral platform.

"The public will demand an open Internet," Berners-Lee said in a recent interview with Reuters.

Indeed, the debate over "net neutrality" is one of the biggest issues facing the Web today on both sides of the Atlantic, pitting big cable and phone companies against Internet powerhouses like Google Inc.

At issue is whether broadband providers should be allowed to create "toll booths" that would charge Internet companies to move content along fast broadband lines, a move critics say would restrict the freedom of the Web.

The birth of AMS-IX is in fact the accidental consequence of Blokzijl's deal -- over a cup of coffee -- to team up with a neighboring center for mathematicians and computer scientists. They bundled their network budgets to buy more network capacity from powerful telecoms monopolies back then.

"It took months to get a line between Amsterdam and Geneva, and we had to coordinate between the local telecoms operators because they wouldn't talk to each other," Blokzijl recalls.

Shortly afterward the first commercial Internet providers started their businesses and connected to the emerging Internet hub in Amsterdam.

"The scale advantaged started when we had four of five ISPs. The rest is history," Blokzijl said.



Internet freedom reigns in Amsterdam. Do we need Internet Censorship?
Gail Orenstein | flickr

Monday, October 09, 2006

Solar-powered mesh project helps find new frog

David Meyer
October 06, 2006, 15:35 BST

A sustainable networking project in the Amazon rainforest has turned up an unknown amphibian, proving Nicholas Negroponte right in more ways than one

A solar-powered wireless mesh network in the Amazon rainforest has played a part in the discovery of a new species of frog.

The frog, currently nicknamed Yachanita, was discovered last month on a field station, which was connected by mesh to the Funedesin (Foundation for Integrated Education and Development) network in Yachana, Ecuador.

According to Richard Lander, co-founder of UK mesh networking company LocustWorld — whose technology is used in the network — the scheme itself may be the first of its kind.

"We have lots of mesh networks where the occasional inaccessible mesh box gets power by solar or wind or replaceable battery, but this entire centre is powered by solar electricity. The fact that this centre in the middle of the jungle is able to achieve Internet connectivity through solar power, we think, is unique," Lander told ZDNet UK on Friday.

Mesh networks are constucted out of a number of mesh access points which can automatically form connections with other nodes within range, and reroute traffic if a node drops offline. This makes the networks self-organising. They can be set up in a matter of days, and at a fraction of the cost needed to establish a traditional telecommunications network.

The network was designed and installed by Bruce Schulte, an American who was inspired by the concept of sustainable mesh networking after attending a training session held in Ecuador by LocustWorld's Joe Roper last year.

Running off a single satellite link, the Yachana network provides connectivity for a biological research centre 5km down the river, as well as the local high school.

Funedesin manages to squeeze uses in telemedicine, ecotourism, solar power, ecology and education out of that single connection. The foundation even recently moved its office back into the middle of the jungle — it had previously needed to operate from the capital.

Supported by the revenue it gains through 2,000 annual visits from ecological tourists, Funedesin will now be setting up a college nearby to train others in the simple art of mesh networking, with support from LocustWorld.

Lander told ZDNet UK that such networks were fulfilling a prophecy by MIT Labs founder Nicholas Negroponte, who predicted in 2002 that each Wi-Fi system would end up "like a small router relaying to its nearest neighbours", with messages hopping "peer-to-peer, leaping from lily to lily like frogs".

"Negroponte had the vision to see this concept of lily pads — we've implemented it using mesh networking worldwide," said Lander.

"It's got so far round the world that now we've got new species of frogs being discovered."

Ofcom says iTrip will be legal for Christmas

Colin Barker
October 06, 2006, 15:45 BST

The regulator has confirmed it is ready to legalise use of the add-on that turns your iPod into a radio station

After years of illegality, the iTrip and related devices are about to get the UK's stamp of approval.

The communications regulator Ofcom announced on Thursday that after a successful 10-week consultation it is giving the stamp of approval to the small FM transmitters that connect to the iPod and broadcasts a signal that can heard on a car radio or home stereo receiver.

Many people have been happily using them illegally for years.In fact, Ofcom has estimated the number of iTrips being used illegally in the UK at around 87,500, or 10 percent of the potential market of 875,000.

The iTrip, which costs around £40 with similar devices available from £10 and up, can be set to a free FM channel so you can listen to your iPod using any radio receiver. Tune your household radios to the same frequency and you can have tunes from your collection of iPod music, playing in every room in the house.

The issue in the past has been that, while they're perfectly legal in the US, using them here contravenes the Wireless Telegraphy Regulations in the UK. This didn't put off UK users, as witnessed by US retailers reporting that the UK was one of the most popular markets for these devices.

The Griffin iTrip is currently legal to sell in Europe, since it has a CE mark, but in the UK its illegal to use because it broadcasts an FM signal. The law in question was drawn up to restrict pirate radio stations, rather than micro FM transmitters.

Derrick Stembridge, marketing director of Griffin Technology, welcomed the news from Ofcom. "It's great that Griffin will be able to support legally sold and used iTrips," he said.

Steve Hawkins, managing director of distributor AM Micro, has been a keen proponent for the change in law. "It's ridiculous to consider such harmless technology as illegal. Thankfully with the help of MPs like Don Foster [Lib Dem MP for Bath] and the staff at Ofcom that looks certain to change very soon."

HP unveils vision for personal communications

Richard Thurston
October 09, 2006, 16:00 BST

Company believes mobile workers of the future will carry a personal wireless hub to keep all their devices connected

HP has revealed its vision for the future of mobile devices by unveiling, as a concept, a wearable wireless communications hub.

The hub — which resembles a wristwatch and would be worn on the arm — would handle a user's connectivity requirements. All the individual's other mobile devices would then communicate solely with the hub.

Phil McKinney, chief technology officer for HP's personal systems group, said, "People want more powerful devices with more memory and more radios, and you have to cram all this in. So we have this concept of a watch, which is something we are driving to. Devices just need to communicate with this watch."

McKinney said users would set up a personal area network using ultra wideband (UWB), but also Bluetooth if they were still using today's devices. All the radios for external connectivity — whether 3G, Wi-Fi, WiMax or any other bearer — would be contained in the hub.

The hub would also allow a device, such as a smartphone, to seamlessly move between different networks. McKinney added that moving all the radios into the watch would mean radios could be removed from each device, making devices simpler to use and cheaper to manufacture.
HP's concept mobile hub
The wireless hub would use UWB to keep a user's devices connected

But McKinney rejected suggestions that data security could be at risk with such a profileration of individual networks. He said devices would only communicate with a device which had a MAC address white-listed by the user. If a device was stolen, the user would need to remove it from the white-list.

McKinney estimated that it will take until 2016 for a hub resembling a wristwatch to be commercially available. Before that it would go through several iterations, he said, first appearing as a credit card-sized box that could be carried in the user's pocket.

HP also unveiled a range of related products, including a "Smart Shelf" and adjoining Wall Display, which would act as a charger for the hub and could also be used as a monitor.

In the nearer term, HP will soon release two versions of its popular iPAQ PDA containing built-in satellite navigation software. The RX5700 and RX5900 will ship for little more than it costs to buy TomTom software on its own, HP said. The devices, which are Wi-Fi-enabled and run Windows Mobile, will go on sale in November.

HP will also start selling its first laptop with built-in 3G connectivity next month. The 6400 model, which will ship to businesses for £799 (ex VAT), will come with a Vodafone SIM pre-installed.


Fat cat telcos are killing the net

The reality is that all the necessary control can be realised from the periphery of the net. It really does not require a huge centralised control system with billing added on top for good measure.

Peter Cochrane's Blog: Fat cat telcos are killing the net
Published: Friday 7 July 2006

I feel as though we are standing on the edge of a very dangerous precipice...


The reality is that the internet protocol (IP) was never designed or intended for real-time anything! In order to achieve any reasonable QoS level it is necessary to nail down routings on a call-by-call, session-by-session basis. Ironically the internet then starts to look like a circuit-switched system à la the old telephone network.

The net neutrality debate gives the old school the opportunity to resume control, to create a two-tier net, to grab more of the money and to restore their fortunes. And in phase one they would like to groom the traffic carried to increase the efficiency and the earnings per packet. But it gets worse fast!

The telcos et al see an opportunity to regulate the whole net and control the packet flow so they can extract more revenues by creating tiers of usage for individuals and websites by volume and speed. This would create, at least, two classes - one faster internet for those with lots of money and one slower one for those without. And I have to say, this also means goodbye to the freedom and uniform utility we currently enjoy.

The reality is that all the necessary control can be realised from the periphery of the net. It really does not require a huge centralised control system with billing added on top for good measure. Is there an existence theorem for this alternative approach? Yes! Just take a look at Japan and Korea. They are streets ahead with populations already watching TV and listening to the radio over fibre to the home using IP.

In my view this is a pure money play by the dark side, who, if they succeed politically, will catapult us back to a time when they controlled connectivity and information flow. And if it happens in the US, which would be wonderfully ironic as that is the country that created the internet, we might see the EU network operators queuing up with their wallets open ready to skim off more money than they are actually due by exactly the same mechanisms.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We have two basic choices. To go for a world of increasing complexity, as we try to squeeze more and more out of a given amount of transmission bandwidth and routing capacity, or to throw more and more bandwidth at the problem to achieve a greater simplicity at the expense of efficiency.

As bandwidth now (effectively) costs nothing, I vote for increasing simplicity (relatively speaking) as have Japan and Korea.


: Poking CIOs with a stick

Everything is moving to the edge of networks and organisations - computing power, communication, skills, information and knowledge.

11.45 Monday 2nd October 2006
Peter Cochrane's Blog: Poking CIOs with a stick


# Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s people who knew deep technical stuff (nerds) were derided and discounted. The management attitude was that these people were irrelevant and a pain. Deep tech understanding was not seen as necessary to manage anything. How the world has changed - today some of the richest people in the world are ex-nerds!

# This retrograde management attitude had a lot to do with the greater than 85 per cent failure rate of IT programmes through that era, that continues today in industry, defence, education and healthcare. Know-nothing managers are a menace to any industry and profession.

# Not including the end user, not understanding the technology and not understanding the difference between data, information and knowledge is not only dangerous - it turns out to be very expensive!

# The biggest universal mistake has been to take the old paper processes and transplant them to the screen, and then create even more paper! IT presents a much bigger opportunity to change organisations and operations but, unfortunately, people seem unable to adapt and change in more than one dimension at a time. Contrast the old (50- to 100-years-old) companies to the new (10- to 20-years-old) and it is stark in the way they use IT to create, run and advance the business.

# Increasing numbers of mobile workers means the notion of centralised databases are going to be more difficult to sustain. In a lot of companies the transition will be from filing data away in a predetermined structure to finding what a worker needs when they need it, a far more Google-like existence.

# We have to think about data, information and knowledge being collected, collated, created and stored by a wide variety of sources and not just think in terms of centralised operations. Mobile workers and young people are a new source of everything. For example, the young jump straight to Google and Wikipedia as their sources, whilst a mobile workforce is hunter/gatherer-like, collecting and creating on the move to meet their immediate need. This is a far cry from the deskbound cultures of old.

# And then there is modelling, any kind of modelling, from crowd behaviour and flow in a retail store, to market modelling and ecological economics. We can no longer afford the crude management decision-making tools of the past as it is all getting far too complex for the knee-jerk reaction!

# CIOs and their teams have a prime responsibility to keep companies and boards ahead of the game. They have to be the IT and potential threat radar, the thinkers, the modellers, the guiders of the corporate hand. Keeping on top of the latest Office patches isn't where the action or responsibility lies.

# Young people will help transform everything. They think and act differently and come with new expectations and skill sets that often outclass and outflank the established order of the IT department. Most likely they will not work for a centralised and controlling regime, and will certainly usurp the old ways of doing things. This new attitude and skill set needs to be embraced as an opportunity for change rather than being a target for punitive action.

# Everything is moving to the edge of networks and organisations - computing power, communication, skills, information and knowledge.

# Increasingly the future will be about taking risks - not blind risks - but calculated, modelled, tried and tested risks. And the CIO has a new and key role in the process. IT isn't an adjunct function of the company; it is central to success and as such needs to be recognised as an asset by boards and managers in general. Unfortunately, IT is one of today's least-loved corporate functions and seen as some form of creative chastity belt. This has to change fast if organisations are to grow and prosper - the clock is ticking!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hotel Wi-Fi rates slammed

David Meyer
October 02, 2006, 14:00 BST

The Good Hotel Guide 2007 has named and shamed hotels that charge the earth for Wi-Fi access, but analysts suggest they may still be good value compared with mobile data roaming charges

Hotel Wi-Fi pricing has come in for a bashing in the latest edition of The Good Hotel Guide.

The 2007 edition of the Guide points out that some UK hotels charge as much as £5 an hour despite the low running costs of a Wi-Fi network — a Cambridge hotel is even identified as charging their guests £20 for one day's access.

Wi-Fi access has increasingly become free in US hotels, the guide notes, but analyst Ian Fogg, of Jupiter Research, believes the comparison is not necessarily accurate.

"When you're rolling out Wi-Fi, it depends on the construction of the hotel and American buildings are very different," Fogg told ZDNet UK on Monday, adding that it was "not as simple to roll out Wi-Fi access [in a hotel] as many people think — to offer a good signal in every bedroom is very challenging".

Fogg suggested that the first step towards tackling hotel Wi-Fi pricing in the UK should be transparency, as it is "not sufficiently clear when booking a hotel what type of broadband is available, what price it is — they normally just say 'Internet available'".

This problem was particularly prevalent for business travellers who visit multiple locations, as they would have little opportunity to discover hotels with cheap or free Wi-Fi.

Fogg also claimed that hotel Wi-Fi access is perceived as expensive when compared to home or office access, but often fared well in relation to the exorbitant roaming rates charged by operators for mobile data services.

He added that a key factor was "whether [Wi-Fi access] remains an additional charge" or gets absorbed into the overall room rate, and suggested that hotels may increasingly seek to differentiate themselves from the competition by advertising "free" Wi-Fi, as often happens in the US.

Intel advances Centrino with faster wireless

Richard Thurston
October 02, 2006, 11:30 BST

3G and 802.11n are on the roadmap for the next generation of Centrino, due next year
Intel will embrace the upcoming high speed wireless LAN standard 802.11n with an upgrade to its Centrino wireless chipset.

Centrino, which is built into many laptops, currently only works with the three most widely deployed wireless standards — a, b and g.

Next-generation equipment based on 802.11n will offer throughput of up to 300Mbps, compared with a maximum of 54Mbps at present.

802.11n hasn't yet been certified, but several vendors are already shipping pre-certified kit. This has prompted Intel to release a new version of Centrino code-named Santa Rosa, which is due in the first six months of 2007.

Santa Rosa will be based on the Core 2 Duo processor, and it will also feature a built-in 3G EDGE module, provided by Nokia.

Santa Rosa's two radios will give users a choice of wireless connectivity without having to install a separate datacard.

"Our vision for Centrino is that we have a solution that attaches to the fastest, or most cost-effective, solution available," said Intel spokesperson Chris Hogg. "The enhancement will deliver many benefits to users."

But critics were less convinced by the appeal of Santa Rosa.

"Most businesses work on a three- to five-year lifecycle [for mobile devices]," said Martin Morey, head of the Mobile Computer Users Group. "So the take-up is likely to be quite slow. They are not pining to be early adopters."

Morey told ZDNet UK that the most important thing was that sessions over mobile connections did not drop whichever bearer was being used.

"It's fine that Intel are putting these developments into their chipsets, but the really important thing is that sessions persist," said Morey.

Some corporate users are holding back from buying 802.11n equipment because the standard is not yet finalised, and they are concerned that equipment produced now may not be interoperable.

Intel is trying to address these concerns by establishing an interoperability programme with equipment vendors.

Hogg said: "We were keen to bring the benefits of the product [to our customers] in a suitable timeframe. It is pre-standard, but we are doing a lot of the testing work. We wanted to do the quality assurance of our 802.11n solution".

The Wi-Fi Alliance — a global supplier-led organisation — is running a more widespread interoperability testing programme covering nearly every equipment vendor.

The four vendors Intel has publicly chosen to work with all provide primarily consumer and small office equipment: Buffalo, D-Link, Linksys and Netgear.

Intel is also porting some of its vPro desktop firmware to Centrino, so IT managers will be able to wirelessly perform a range of administrative tasks on user's laptops.

WiMax will be integrated into Santa Rosa in 2008, the company added.

Innovation the key to unlock a competitive future for Wales

By Jonathan Kestenbaum, chief executive, NESTA | 2 Oct 2006

There was a time when Wales could build an economy just by optimising for efficiency on the back of a competitive manufacturing export base. That period is now coming to an end. Instead, if we are to compete economically as well as solve the social and environmental problems of the 21st century, we must maximise our capacity for innovation.

This fact is increasingly being acknowledged and this week Cardiff will host the inaugural Innovation Wales - the technology exhibition & conference. The event will bring together a wide range of hi-tech companies, venture capitalists and public and private bodies to consider how Wales can capitalise on its vast innovative potential.

A few years ago one commentator wrote that Swansea could become a 'Welsh Silicon Valley', and it is imperative that Wales has the self-confidence to regard such ambition for its university cities as viable and credible. To do so it must work to enhance and integrate the ingredients necessary for an innovation economy to prosper: well-established links between higher education institutions and businesses so that ideas can be nurtured into commercial successes; a sufficient and diverse pool of start-up funding so that young companies can get off the ground; and the presence of a large number of creative individuals to come up with new ideas at the outset.

At NESTA, we use the largest single source of endowed funds in the UK to invest in start-up businesses and ensure that these projects are effectively mentored as they strive to develop into successful companies. Across Wales, we have, so far, invested in 29 projects and businesses totalling £1.5m and recognise that innovation is not merely a safeguard against future economic stagnation, but vital to solving contemporary problems.

Used Tyre Distillation Research (UTDR) in North Wales illustrates exactly this point having just opened a recycling plant to help turn the estimated 50 million tyres discarded in the UK each year into feedstock for use across other industries. UTDR’s system is green, economical and fulfils a pressing need given that the most frequently used manner of disposal – landfill – is now outlawed under new EU environment rules.

Similarly, Swansea-based Starbridge Systems is developing a revolutionary new micro-pump for use across a range of medical disciplines, but which could be particularly important for diabetes sufferers. With the disease now reaching epidemic proportions across the world, Starbridge is being supported by NESTA as they look to advance a prototype to allow sufferers to carry a three-day supply of insulin on their body, and so lead a safer life less inconvenienced by the need for regular injections.

Starbridge is, in fact, part of the well-documented Technium Wales network which provides specialist incubator facilities for hi-tech, creative and knowledge-based businesses. Indeed, Wales has an encouraging number of programmes in support of such firms, including the Wales Innovation Relay Centre, CTI Wales, SmartCymru, the Technology and Innovation Group and the much-vaunted Wales Innovator Network.

All these organisations have looked to enhance Wales' capacity for innovation, but still more can be done across the country to ensure that young Welsh companies have improved access to high quality, bespoke early stage business support during the difficult first steps of their development.

Money is only one part of the equation for these firms, and all those involved in attempting to bolster innovation must look to boost the soft support available in the form of access to networks, mentors, role models and expertise.

The question of how best to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation is becoming one of the leading issues of our day. Politicians from all sides are beginning to realise that the challenges of wealth creation, employment and environmental decline all point inexorably towards innovation as the common solution.

The media is starting to pick up on this trend, and politicians must build on this momentum to formulate a national mission for innovation – a mission in which Wales has a pivotal role to play.

Innovation Wales takes place at Cardiff City Hall this Tuesday, October 3 (9am-7pm). Entrance is free.