Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Insanely Long Field Guide To Cisco’s War On The TV White Spaces

Will Cisco’s war against the TV white spaces tank incentive auctions? No doubt this question comes as a surprise to the vast majority of people unaware Cisco was running a war against TV white spaces (TVWS). True, Cisco has mostly tried to stay behind the scenes. But as we get closer to the Super Committee deadline, which include negotiations for incentive auction rules that would let TVWS survive, Cisco has become increasingly willing to go public with its anti-TVWS lobbying efforts.

This blog post on the Cisco blog, followed by this letter from the High Tech Spectrum Coalition (HTSC), finally say publicly what Cisco and its allies have been saying privately since debate over spectrum legislation began last January: “Death to the TV White Spaces.” Instead, argues Cisco, open up a new block of 5 GHz spectrum to “replace” the white spaces. But with spectrum legislation in trouble – as evidenced by CTIA’s non-stop radio advertising here in D.C. and it’s recent ‘we love unlicensed, can’t we all get along?’ letter to the Super Committee – Cisco’s continued opposition to white spaces threatens to tank any hope of getting incentive auctions passed either in the Super Committee or elsewhere.

Incentive auctions, while popular as a revenue generator, were always a tough sell because of broadcaster passive/aggressive opposition. Adding D Block reallocation made it even more difficult. Cisco’s war on the TVWS threatens to be the final straw that makes this lift just too heavy. It splits a tech community that would otherwise wholly support incentive auctions, while simultaneously pissing off key members of Congress who helped get TVWS done in the first place.

So the time has come for Cisco, CTIA, and others who really want incentive auctions, to ask themselves whether it’s worth it to risk incentive auctions just so that Cisco can keep Microsoft, Google/Motorola, Dell, and others from bringing a competing product to market. The Hutchison/Rockefeller Bill, S.911, was a compromise that kept spectrum for TVWS, gave Cisco the 5 GHz block it wants, and made sure that a minimum threshold of 84 MHz would be auctioned before allocating any recovered spectrum to replace white spaces lost by auction or repacking. While not great from my perspective as a white spaces supporter (and I’d still like to see it tweaked some), it was at least a livable compromise. Cisco’s anti-TVWS campaign already backfired once, with the Republican discussion draft to require auction for all unlicensed spectrum. Will Cisco and CTIA fail to learn just how easy it would be for them to blow this for everyone? Or will they settle for the compromise that got a bipartisan bill out of the Commerce Committee?

Why Cisco has been gunning for the TVWS, the quiet little war of the last ten months, and how to get out of this quagmire before it’s too late, below. . . .

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Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Acts of the Apostles in convenient ebook format

For nearly ten years, my book Acts of the Apostles has been available for free download from this site, and lately, from lots of other sites. I figure that it’s been downloaded at least ten thousand times, and perhaps a lot more. There’s really no way to tell at this point.

Recently I’ve been getting a fair number of requests for other (that is, not PDF) formats, such as mobi for the kindle and epub for other devices. After much, much, much too much ado, I’ve finally made different versions available on Smashwords for $4/copy. I’ll be curious to see what kind of sales I get, especially since the PDF is out there for free, and people can convert them if they feel like going through the hassle.

As I wrote in an earlier wetmachine post, I consider format conversion, for example from PDF to mobi, to be making a “derivative work” and therefore prohibited by the Creative Commons license. Not everybody agrees with me about this, and the matter really rests in an indeterminate state until such time as a court of law makes a pronouncement on it.

In the meantime, I don’t think $4 is much to ask for such a great book!

The hassles I went through were largely caused by my mule-headedness and lack of understanding of Microsoft Word. The Smashwords site itself is a relative breeze to use. I do plan to make Cheap Complex Devices also available on Smashwords, and I think the process of converting that book will be a whole lot smoother than the first one was.

Posted in My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

General Exception

Toe-tappingly depressing

So, how can you spice up really bleak statistics like recent stock market performances of major companies and the death toll of soldiers in Iraq? Make them into music, using that new darling of blog posts, Microsoft Songsmith (obligatory holy crap moment as I realize I’m linking to a Microsoft product I’m not hating on). See and listen to the results at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog.

Posted in General Exception, infotainment-general-exception | Also tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Windows on XO

Lord help us. Microsoft is putting Windows on the OLPC box. Note the added memory.

Posted in General, Inventing the Future | Tagged | Comments closed

General Exception

Microsoft Patents a System to Tell if You're Using a Microsoft Product


Ars Technica
has a report about a Microsoft patent application that is supposed to detect user frustration. The patent wording (as with most patents) is obscure and difficult to decipher. They’ve probably spent a huge chunk of money on the research… but I could have given them an exceedingly simple algorithm to detect user frustration:

Allow me to demonstrate in pseudo-code:


if (program.author == “Microsoft”) Then {
user.isFrustrated = true;
}

A more serious discussion, after the break.

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Posted in General, General Exception | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Self-destruction of a monster?

My cable company seems to be self-destructing. We can only hope.

Recently I wrote about my cableco cutting off my service, and not turning it back on until I answered questions about my and my wife’s social security numbers and download habits.

Last Monday I called to complain that despite the premium I was paying for 3Mb/s service, I was getting 300 Kb/s downloads and worse. They responded by cutting me off completely. I’ll spare you the dialog, but you can just substitute any page from Franz Kafka or Lewis Carroll. A guy came on Wednesday to replace my cable modem and splitter, and it appeared in his immediate testing to yield close to the expected 3000 Kb/s.

Over the next few days I found that I only got that speed immediately after rebooting the cable-modem. After a few minutes, it would drop to 1500, 600, 300, 150, and finally 30 Kb/s. Slower than an acoustic modem from before my children were born. All through the rest of the week, I would reboot, and watch as the speed fell off.

Charter stopped taking my calls altogether. They just hung up on me over and over again.

After one of these calls we ordered DSL from our local phone company. The modem arrived Friday. I plugged it in and it worked! 3.5 to 4 Mb/s. And it has stayed that way ever since. I’ve been trying to get my mail and Webpages copied off from Charter, but they won’t let me log in.

Since then, I’ve discovered two things I didn’t know or pay any attention to when things just worked:

  • Charter Communications is run by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. What an asshole.
  • Despite increasing their revenue from saps like me by more than 10% over this quarter last year, they announced this week that they’re losing even more money than ever, and their stock lost nearly 20% of it’s value. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving group.
  • Posted in General, Inventing the Future | Also tagged , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

    Tales of the Sausage Factory

    Brief update on White Spaces

    For those following the current White Spaces follies (or, “how Microsoft crashed an entire proceeding by treating spectrum as if it were software”) the FCC announced it will do further testing on white spaces prototypes.

    That’s a modest victory for pro-white spaces forces, as the NAB had tried to leverage the failure of the (broken) Microsoft device to force the FCC to shut down the proceeding (or, more realistically, go with stationary devices and say no to mobile devices, with sufficient restrictions on power level and use of adjacent channels to make the white spaces virtually useless). At the same time, however, it ups the stakes pretty severely. Another “blue screen of static” and the NAB will probably get its way.

    My sense is that a majority of Commissioners would like to see this happen, if they are convinced the engineering works. That doesn’t just mean a proof of concept. That means a demonstration that the technology today works sufficiently well that the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology can say with confidence “if devices follow these rules, they will not interfere with people trying to watch free over-the-air TV.” We know the theory works, but is the technology ready for prime time?

    Stay tuned . . . .

    Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

    Inventing the Future

    this just in: All your planet are belong to us

    How will it change the world to give millions of children low-cost computers and open source software? The first real effect is to provoke a response from Microsoft.

    Initially Wintel executives dismissed and ridiculed the OLPC project. But now Microsoft is employing the infamous embrace-and-destroy practice that it has always used to subdue competition.

    People are already reporting that Microsoft now plans to give away crippled versions of their software for as little as $3 a copy. But take a look at the real deal. Professional edition can be had for a dollar. Most importantly, the program offers cheap used junk Wintel computers, with Microsoft paying half the cost. In order to place their software in the world’s hands, they intend to undercut the complete OLPC package cost by roughly half. Never mind that the crap boxes consume massive amounts of unavailable power, require massive wired infrastructure through the rainforests, are full of toxins, not hardened against sand and kid use, etc. And of course, the software is the same crap they foist on the rest of us.

    Clever, no?

    Posted in Inventing the Future, Philosophical business mumbo-jumbo | Also tagged , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

    Inventing the Future

    News from the Metaverse

    Key invitation-only conference on the future of collaborative virtual worlds.

    Metaverse Roadmap site

    CNET story

    A Microsoft blogger, with pictures

    Good blog

    A key thread in all this seems to be a desire for an open-source framework that works. It looks like the only concerns voiced about Croquet for this was a mistaken impression about the licensing. (See the comments in the “Good blog”, above.)

    BTW, We’re still trying to set up cool demos over the now-released Croquet Software Developers Kit. The demo at Metaverse was actually the demo we produced at the University of Wisconsin for C5 ’05 in Kyoto, which was built over the Jasmine proof-of-concept. The current release is so much better, but lacking in some of the visible bells and whisles. We’re working on it…

    Posted in Inventing the Future | Also tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

    Inventing the Future

    It's about time…

    From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

    Worried about persistent security flaws in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, officials at the Pennsylvania State University system have taken the unusual step of recommending that students, professors, and staff members stop using the popular Web browser.

    “The threats are real, and alternatives exist,” the university said in an announcement posted on its Web site this week.

    Penn State appears to be the first American college to recommend against the use of Internet Explorer. However, the CERT Coordination Center, a federal computer-security center operated by Carnegie Mellon University, made a similar recommendation to the public earlier this year.

    Internet Explorer, which is distributed free by the Microsoft Corporation, has more than 90 percent of the worldwide browser market. …

    Posted in Inventing the Future | Also tagged | Comments closed
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