Inventing the Future

Time Shifting

I don’t remember hearing the phrase “time shifting” before VCRs and DVRs. I now appreciate the value in being able to capture something while I’m doing something else and then view the capture later when I think I’ll have more time. With digital photography I can easily and sloppily capture my world and shift the difficult task of composition and editing to a later time. (Like, after I’m dead maybe.) I thought I learned in economics that land was the one universally limited resource, but I think that finite time is far more significant. Any tool that helps me shift time is valuable.

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Inventing the Future

“The Medium is the Message”

One of the arguments against sharing music was society will be diminished because no one will create music without a sufficient intellectual property incentive.

We now have a flourishing culture of sharing for video, in which people of diverse skill levels are creating huge amounts of content. No shortage there.

So I want to ask, “Is there a flourishing of digital music content today?” Surely it is easier to both create and enjoy music than it is for video. (Music requires lower bandwidth and less power, play-anywhere music devices are good and plentiful, and music creation software are quite fantastic.)

It feels like there is lot of free music available in video form. I wonder if the legal fight against music sharing — rather than sharing itself — has stifled the medium of sound-only recording, even as the more demanding but less legally bullied video medium has exploded. The music itself has just been switched to a new medium, and may ultimately be better for it.

Meanwhile, it seems that half the top 10 best selling printed novels in Japan were written on and for cell phone distribution. I’ve heard that the explosion in the genre coincides with the spread of flat-rate pricing on text messaging.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Time Warner May Pilot Metered Pricing With Easy Consumer Monitoring Tools. Good for now, but bad for ecommerce in the long run.

As reported by Broadband Reports and now confirmed elsewhere, a Time Warner internal memo indicates Time Warner will pilot a program where it has an explicit bandwidth cap, and users that exceed the cap will pay additional explicit fees — rather like what happens now with your standard cell phone package where you buy a bundle of minutes and then pay for any overages. The pilot will include a website to allow customers to track their usage, moderate their behavior, or buy additional capacity if they wish.

I agree with Dave Isenberg that this is the best way for Time Warner to handle its network capacity constraints and address the supposed 5% of users gobbling 50% of the bandwidth. We can expect some heavy users to move to other networks without caps, but also expect that users that use much less capacity and frustrated by congestion caused by heavy use by others to prefer plans like Time Warner’s because it should produce a less congested pipe overall.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that I was just musing about this the other day, giving me a chance to do another Stephen Colbert I CALLED IT!!! dance.

O.K., shameless gloating over. Analysis below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Dave Sez: AT&T Are [Bleep!]

My friend “Dave” recently moved from San Francisco to Sacramento. Being of the modern mobile generation that has “cut the cord” and lives by the cell phone, Dave wanted to get “naked DSL.” i.e., DSL (or other broadband) without any kind of telephone or video contract (Dave also refuses to pay for cable TV, on the grounds that 99% of the programming “sucks”). To his surprise and disappointment, Dave couldn’t find any naked broadband available in his neighborhood. So he wrote to me, as the known expert on all things broadband. “Isn’t there any way I can just get broadband without a telephone contract?” Dave wrote me in an email.

So I thought about it, and I said: “Is Sacramento AT&T territory?”

“Yeah.”

“Well AT&T has to offer $20 naked DSL, as a merger condition from when they bought BellSouth. Why don’t you try for that.”

So Dave dug around until he found the offer for AT&T DSL until he found the AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet Package With No Voice Contract:

Basic 768 kbps $19.95
Express 1.5 mbps $23.99
Pro 3.0 mbps $28.99

We talked, and I recommended the “Express” package as probably the best suited to his needs. Dave went to order it. His reactions below (warning, contains frank language and highly suggestive ASCII)….

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Inventing the Future

Inventing the Future: digital convergence happens

Croquet is “about” real-time collaboration. A bunch of people can be in the same virtual environment and see the live effects of each other moving around and manipulating things. It seems natural to add audio chat using existing Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. So now you can talk to folks in the same space while you work together. We’re working on Webcam video, too, so that it’s generally suitable for holding distance meetings in a Croquet place. I didn’t think much about displacing land-line telephones. Who cares.

We thought a bit about how you could connect the telephone system so that you could call in to a Croquet place and join a meeting (audio only?) from a cell phone.

But then I read this quote from Patrick Scaglia, Vice-President and Director of the Internet and Computing Platforms Research Center at HP Lab:

“Croquet is a first in many ways. It represents a major step in our vision of computation as a communications platform and service, available anytime, anywhere, from any device. Soon, Croquet will run on everything, from a PDA through a set-top box; persistent Croquet worlds will be ubiquitous on the Internet, routed intelligently to each user through computational services overlays like PlanetLab. This will change the way people think about software and computation, from today’s device-oriented perspective to a perspective of computation as a persistent, pervasive, service”.

It took a day to sink in.

Eventually, people will want and get always-on connectivity for mobile devices, just as over half of American Internet users now get for fixed-position access. After demand evens out, I think device costs are first-order proportional to the number of chips, with the complexity of chips being a second-order effect. So the cost of a PDA capable of running Croquet will someday not be inherently much more expensive then a cell phone such as is now being given away by providers.

So, will we have telephones? Of any kind?

As far as I know, the Croquet developers didn’t set out to replace the telephone. If I had, my wife would have threatened divorce for such a hair-brained idea. And I’m not predicting that Croquet will displace the telephone. But it is interesting that progress in solving an abstract and general problem
mightlead to the merging of computers and telephones.

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