* Posts by Brett Brennan

41 posts • joined 19 May 2007

SP2 glitch renders SharePoint trial ware

Brett Brennan

Patch Tuesday, then?

I suppose that the "fix" will be made available on Patch Tuesday next then? After all, this is far less of a problem than the MS Office vuln from Patch Tuesday prior...

iPhone compass evidence surfaces

Brett Brennan

As Seen on TV!

The iPhone compass application was seen by me Tuesday last in an iPhone advert that popped up on The Discovery Channel or some such. Portrait mode with a circular compass dial in the middle and GPS numbly bits on the top or bottom. Only about 3-4 seconds, but that should be enough to cement the rumors here...

Public rejects Time Warner metered-bandwidth tests

Brett Brennan

It's all about the video - period

Cablecos and telcos screwed the pooch by failing to deliver VOD and other IP-based services when they were the only game in town, citing "head-end" costs as being too great. But there was no "killer app" to drive customers to give up their dial-up service for the pricey cable and DSL offerings. (Remember when web pages didn't all have HD flash movies?) So they priced the high speed internet connections to get people to stop jamming their precious local loops with dedicated circuit calls for hours (telco) and cable did the same to try and remain competitive.

Now that everyone and their sister is streaming video and on-demand to boot, they have to do something to subsidize the cost of infrastructure upgrades that are needed to support to huge selection of freetard content available from the very content providers that they purchase entertainment from. Not to mention the successful business models from NetFlix and other VOD providers that are NOT telco or cableco based.

{SIGH!} We ARE eventually going to arrive at metered service. It's the only way that telcos and cablecos can recover the costs that will eventually have to be paid to boost service above the new "bottom" that 3G/4G wireless is forcing up on the wireline providers. However, the pricing needs to be rational: figure one HD-DVD per day for most customers, at the current rates for Pay-Per-View video, then customers will accept metered access.

Hell, my PARENTS, who are TWC customers, use over a gig per month, just wading through spam and downloading updates and applications for their computers! If 80-year-olds are going to hit the "poverty" limit each month, what about more Web 2.0 attuned customers? US$75 for 100GB is roughly 4 or 5 HD videos - like THAT is ever going to fly!

If the cablecos and telcos attempt to charge more for broadband but give their proprietary IP-based video services away as part of a "video" package, there will certainly be class-action suits against them for anti-trust violation.

So don't expect this to go away because some freetards have stopped it for now. But certainly don't expect this to end up costing and arm and a leg either.

(The Jolly Roger, because the real pirates are located in coms corporate boardrooms!)

Microsoft loudly disses secret 'Cloud Manifesto'

Brett Brennan

Smells like "Open" spirit to me

\" Martin then outlined three principles he feels the creators of the manifesto needed to adopt.

He suggested that interoperability policies and required standards for cloud computing should be defined though public collaboration and scrutiny.

The process should be "vendor-dominated" with support from multiple providers, customers and other interested parties, said Martin.

He added that relevant standards would take time to "develop and coalesce as the cloud computing industry matures." "\

Hmmm, this sounds suspiciously like the arguments that led up to the adoption of OOXML by ISO last year: "public collaboration" via MS partner companies; "vendor dominated" via the same group of providers and customers; "develop and coalesce" long after the standards have been perverted and market dominance is once again assured.

The ONLY way MS will be able to get traction on this plea is to renounce ISO 29500 and adopt ODF once and for all. THEN they can start beating their chest about "closed standards".

Kaminsky: MS security assessment tool is a 'game changer'

Brett Brennan
Gates Halo

Finally something worth while from Redmond

While not a big MS fanboi myself, this is (arguably) one of the first proactive things MS has done in a long time. Worthwhile or not (I don't know: I do no Windows work) it's a solid step in the right direction.

Good Bill! Nice Bill! Don't bite the hand with the nummy in it Bill!

Ballmer hails Windows Mobile for Welfare™

Brett Brennan
Paris Hilton

"No one's going to pay $500 more for a logo"


How many iPhones are in use?

How many Macbook computers are in use?

How many Jaguars, Cadillacs, Lincolns, etc. are in use?

OK, maybe it's not the whole market, but it is the most PROFITABLE part.

Something Steve Jobs knows very well.

And Steve Balmer hasn't a clue...

Ofcom slaps Bristol radio for uncoolness

Brett Brennan

Four notes on terrestrial radio

Terrestrial radio is pretty near death in the First World. Here in the American Colonies, we tried to switch over to digital ("HD radio") to invigorate the business and failed miserably.

So, four thoughts to temper the tempers.

(1) Most kidz today use their iPod for their personal "radio" mix. Artists are found via word of mouth or YouTube, and less via promo by the licensed broadcasters. Radio Disney may be the exception here, but their target is the over-pampered 5-11 demographic anyway.

(2) Here in the Colonies you can *literally* drive from coast to coast listening to the same programming. There are several U.S. wide network feeds like JACK, Radio Disney and The Wolf that are truly seamless from station to station. Again, because the revenue to support a radio station is GONE, the only way to run a station at all is by mass-producing a format and distributing it cheaply. Even so, it is doubtful that these networked stations will last out the decade - revenue is drying up faster every day. In fact, it's so bad that you can buy a secondary market station (non-top 10 markets) for as low as US$20k. That's assuming the market is big enough to support a station other than one of the networks.

(3) Ethnic radio is the *ONLY* growing segment of the broadcast market. A "survey" I do each time I reach a new city is to use the rental car's "scan" to listen to all the stations in the area for about half an hour. The "usual" mix on AM is roughly 30% Spanish language, 20% religious, 25% talk radio (mostly networked or local sports), 10% "other" Ethnic (ie, Hindi, Russian, Pakistani, Vietnamese) and the remainder "legacy" stations that are operated by a couple of people more as a hobby than as a business and/or news stations. FM is about 30% "networked" feeds, 20% talk radio, 20% religious, 10% Spanish language, 10% National Public Radio and the rest (ie, about 1 station) either Jazz, Classical or some other "local option" format. The growth is in the number of "other" ethnic stations on AM: at least one new language each time I return to a region. Even religious stations (the previous growth market) seem to be drifting away.

(4) Satellite radio is where many Americans are turning for broadcast sound if they don't have an iPod. Sports, wide music choices, alternative entertainment (comedy, drama, etc.) and "real" news (including BBC, CBC as well as the big US television news stations audio) make the US$10/month subscription fee appealing. Also, most autos come with either XM or Sirius as a pre-installed option (at least GM, Ford and Chrysler), making it easier to get into the subscription. Yes, I know XM-Sirius is in financial trouble, but of all the radio broadcasters it's got the best chance of surviving - because it offers customers a better choice than any of the terrestrial networks.

If you want to get more information on the state of radio in the U.S. I recommend Radio Business Report (www.rbr.com) (subscription) for a very detailed daily analysis of the radio and television broadcast industry.

Microsoft claims Firefox- and Chrome-whopping IE8 speeds

Brett Brennan
Paris Hilton

Most people won't notice or care

The average PC user (and by PC I mean Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, etc.) really WILL NOT notice or even care - unless SOMEONE makes a big deal about "fast" and they start checking.

In the "real world", I've found IE(5-6-7) to be similar in "speed" to FireFox or Opera. "Real world" is sitting at your desk in a large corporation bringing up internal web pages on your 1MHz Dell or Compaq cheapbox while running Word, PowerPoint and Excel along with all the other apps you need to get work done. Or at home, connected to the Internet via a 1.5Mbps DSL link, with all your Facebook, chat, Twitter, camera, music and video software pounding away.

Simple case in point: surfing the internet at my inlaws I was connected via a SLOW WiFi link while my sister-in-law was cable-connected. I have an OLD 1.4GHz laptop, she has a brand new MacBook Pro with a 2.4GHz dual-core processor. My pages loaded instantly, hers were taking MINUTES to load. However, she had 25 apps open, including music, Office, chat, mail, etc. and I had only the browser and email.

When I asked her why the Mac was so slow, her response was "It's not slow. This is the way it ALWAYS runs!" Oh, and all 25 apps are automatically started every time she powers up.

I rest my case.

Multi-site bug exposes cloud computing's dark lining

Brett Brennan

It's your BOFH vs. their BOFH...

This has happened several time in the past with web server farms hosting multiple clients, and, indeed, is an issue that has been around since the days of time share and mainframes. A problem with a "core" application or service impacts all services that use the "core" will ALWAYS be a shared vulnerability.

The impact of these types of flaws has to be weighed against the cost and benefit of using the shared resource in the first place. While a larger number of clients WILL be affected by a problem on the common server platforms, the cost of mitigation and the impact of any loss of service and outage will, in all likelihood, be lower than a similar issue impacting stand-alone servers - simply because while ALL clients on a server may share the impact, remediation needs to be done once. And the discovery of a problem will likely be quicker, due to the number of clients that may report a problem vs. the total number of clients, some of which will NOT notice the failure.

To use a recent example: if Conficker hit one of these "cloud" systems, all the clients would be affected by it. However, remediation would also occur to all clients at the same time - including those that, with a stand-alone server, would NOT apply the fix in a timely manner.

No matter HOW or WHERE you host services, there is a probability that you will suffer an outage, that the outage WILL negatively impact business, and that repair will take time to implement. It's up to YOU to decide if you trust the service provider to adequately support you during an interruption, or if you trust your own IT apes to get it fixed or prevented any better.

So, as I see it, it's six-to-five-and-you-pick-'em.

Microsoft boffins devise 'secure' Gazelle browser

Brett Brennan

So it's not "an integral part of the OS"...

This might end up being a really BIG bullet to the MS foot. Microsoft has been claiming for years that the browser is "an integral part of the OS" and therefore cannot be removed/replaced with another browser.

So their boffins go out and build a browser that is NOT part of the base OS - and lo and behold, it's more secure.

What a conundrum! You can have a secure browser, but not as part of the OS. Or you can include the browser core in the OS "build" and leave the whole system open to unlimited free hacking.

And it demonstrates that MS COULD build a browser that isn't integral to Windows.

Yeah, I know, I'm skipping over all the technical stuff, but isn't this really the message this sends to the press?

"We knew we could make a safe browser, but it shows that we've been intentionally making an insecure product for years, we've know about it, and if we admit it and start shipping a secure product we're going to be up to our gonads in lawsuits because we claimed we couldn't do this."

Left foot, right foot, BANG! BANG! BANG!

(pirate, because, well, it is.)

MIT boffins fashion working plasma rocket from Coke can

Brett Brennan

Back in 1981...

I was at an open house at JPL, where one of the "science fair" displays (think of a JPL open house as an adult version of the science fair...) was a plasma thruster design, happily spurting away in a vacuum jar. It was constructed out of similar "junk box" stuff, and used ionized polyethylene plastic as the propellant. The JPL model used a fairly small lab-bench power supply, charging a couple of caps that then discharged to ionize the propellant and fire off the resonant cavity to accelerate the particle stream.

The design was a prototype for - you guessed it - a cheap, long-life stabilizer motor for a satellite...

(Not knocking the MIT effort at all: it's just that this has been kicking around for a L-O-N-G time...)

Microsoft confirms Equipt kill date

Brett Brennan


Thanks for the clarification. Being a Linux person I was {blissfully} unaware of the inclusion of Office H&S in LiveCare. However, several friends and family members (the part of my family tree that doesn't branch and similar friends) are still rooted in "needing" MS "products"...and I know my phone will start ringing if/when Office starts failing. Just like it did when TV stations started switching off yesterday...

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: never, NEVER let anyone know that you're smarter than they are.

(zips coat, jumps into MG and blows a cloud of Castrol and a year's worth of carbon credits disappearing into the sunset...)

Brett Brennan
Gates Horns

So, does everyone need to buy a new Office?

According to this snippet from the article:

"It confirmed that Office Home and Student 2007 won’t receive subscription licence updates and will enter “reduced functionality mode”. Effectively customers will only be able to view Office documents, but they won’t be able to create or edit docs via the service."

This appears to indicate that all those gazillions of people that bought MS Office 2007 Home and Student edition will need to cough up and buy another version of Office in order to continue to create documents. Is this really true?

Man, if so this is REALLY going to piss off some folks!

Authors Guild to Amazon Kindle: Shut up

Brett Brennan

@Chris W - Fair Use

As an individual you have the right, under the Fair Use provisions of copyright, to make personal copies and derivative works for your own, non-commercial use. You could purchase a book, then painstakingly copy it by hand to a blank volume, illuminating the words and illustrating to your heart's content. Likewise you can read the book aloud into a tape recorder and allow your family to listen to the tape as they like. This is protected under law.

However, the Kindle falls afoul of the same laws that are being applied (wrongly, in my opinion) to BitTorrent and other forms of unlicensed reproduction and distribution. This is illustrated by the way other eBooks that include text-to-speech disable the feature for DRM-encumbered works.

Text-to-speech implemented in a device which has the sole purpose of delivering copyright content for VISUAL reading (ie, the eBook derivative license) does NOT automatically allow audio reproduction (the audio book derivative license) - unless the copyright covering the specific work explicitly includes the audio reproduction permission as well. It is a case that text-to-speech has NO NON-INFRINGING USE in the device.

If the Kindle allowed playing audio files (music, audio books) this would be fine. Fair Use allows you to make a copy of a music track and play it for your personal use on another device, and this would include you making an mp3 copy of an audio book for later personal play-back.

The Kindle doesn't just reproduce something that has already been purchased in the licensed format: it PUBLISHES a derivative work on-the-fly. Unless that right has been purchased by the licensee that makes the work available as an eBook derivative and the audio derivative is extended to Amazon as part of the copyright included with the work, then Amazon's inclusion of a feature that can ONLY be used to infringe on the derivative work copyright is illegal. And the use of text-to-speech with non-copyright works, while completely legal, is only NOT infringing because the original copyright - and therefore all of the derivative works - is no longer in force.

This is really a huge, HUGE can of worms being opened. The audio book derivative is just the first hair from the camel's nostril poking under the tent. I can envision in the near future a home super computer with an AI that will take a book text as input and create a lavish, high-def anime-like video of the story, complete with editing and dialogue. This would completely transform the motion picture and television industries overnight. Notice I didn't say "wipe out": these industries would be just like the buggy-makers of the 19th century who transformed into auto makers.

My contention is that if Amazon pays a license fee for the text-to-speech derived works NOW, it both solves the problem AND sets precedent for the NEXT wave of innovation. The MPAA would get HAMMERED by the above movie scenario, but they couldn't argue against the precedent...and the author of the story - who normally gets only a few hundred thousand for their story AT BEST from a studio - would see automatic additional revenue for the "movie" rights built right into their copyright payment.

I hope this clarifies some of the points in question here.

(BTW, I'm "well read" in this topic, but I'm NOT a lawyer or solicitor, so check with you legal counsel for a more technical explanation.)

Brett Brennan

Derivative rights

The Author's Guild is really NOT trailing behind technology, but is actually running somewhat ahead of it - unlike RIAA. This infringement is actually pretty serious - or it will be when text to speech improves to the next level. And defining the rights now is far less drastic than waiting until it becomes a serious problem.

The Guild has a very, very legitimate point here. Derivative rights are the real "bread" underlaying an author's copyright "butter": these are the way most authors make their living in the real world.

I'll give you a real world example. One of my very old friends is a horror writer - no one you'd ever really notice (he's an engineer in his day job), but he's had a couple of stories published over the years. The original publication usually garnered him about US$1000 - not a lot of "butter" so to speak.

However, he has re-sold the derivative rights to these stories over the years for more money. His very first story has been resold at least five or six time (as a comic book adaptation, part of a horror anthology, a magazine serial, a science-fiction anthology and a couple others), each for about US$500. As far as I know he hasn't sold the audio book rights yet, or the movie rights, but those would also be worth a couple of extra bucks.

So, in this single, specific case, the derivative value of his copyright has been worth at least three times what he was paid for the original print version. Multiply this by several stories or books, and you are talking about a small but meaningful income stream.

Licensing is how the entire publishing industry has operated for centuries - it just hasn't made sense until we had electronic data replication to raise the legal issues from an annoyance to a serious economic problem. Until the late 1950's the only meaningful issue for an author was illegal publishing of their works - and that usually occurred in countries that had no copyright enforcement, but equally few literate people. Xerography was the first real challenge to copyright enforcement in print - and again this was an annoyance unless a college or university decided to perform it wholesale. But the authors and publishers were on top of this issue almost immediately: check out the changes to copyright notice wording in books published in the 1960's and then in the 1980's. "Electronic and other means" got added in there - for good reason.


Amazon will probably solve this by offering the Guild(s) an add-on percentage (and passing on the cost) to cover the potential loss of revenue for the audio rendering. The author gets a proportional bump in revenue for each copy sold...which will FAR outstrip their audio book revenue in most cases.

Mozilla comes out in support of Brussels IE on Windows findings

Brett Brennan

How hard is it?

Linux distros generally include SEVERAL browsers: Konqueror, FireFox, Opera, Epiphany, etc. It would be ludicrously easy for Microsoft to simply include in the install package most or all of the browsers with over 1% market share - including IE - and, as part of the install, ask the user to pick one. To be fair, the display order should be randomized so that the first choice isn't ALWAYS IE, but what the hell, at least offer a choice.

Microsoft could also just as easily use a proprietary update application to provide downloads: Linux distros do this (my SuSE uses YAST to manage updates and add-ins). The update part is NOT the issue of integration. The real bottom line is that the browser is NOT included JUST to manage updates, or JUST to provide a convenient "hook" for displaying HTML.

No, the ONLY reason Microsoft includes and is FIGHTING to keep IE in the mix is to prevent competitors - like Mozilla or Opera - from being able to offer a product that COULD unseat their web SERVER market. IIS is still the predominant web server in major corporations, and as long as IIS provides non-standard HTML that only IE can render properly (or blocks the attempts of other web browsers to access or render pages - which happens regularly to me at several corporate sites when I attempt to log in to PAY MY BILLS!!) then MS has done its job.

Yes, I know that corporate IT can decide to use different technology - like Apache and Linux - instead of Windows. And, eventually, they might.

But...remember all those unpatched server that Conficker infected over the past month? All those old copies of Windows that have NOT been patched for YEARS? The reason is that companies are even cheaper than Freetards: those servers are probably still running Win2K and won't be updated - ever. And a BUNCH of those systems are running IIS, which won't be replaced - ever. And THAT's why MS is fighting all this browser-mania. If even 30% of the browsers out there quit working against the old MS systems still operating in most companies, then those companies will HAVE to upgrade them. And there's a high probability that they WON'T be replaced with Server 2008 or Windows 7 Enterprise...but with Linux running in a VM on a blade. And once MS loses the corporate server world...well, can they REALLY survive selling Zunes and Xboxes?

Ya know, come to think about it, this might be the BEST thing that happened to Microsoft! Think of it: Microsoft suddenly is getting its crap products tossed like week-old fish from businesses left and right. Maybe it'd kick their ass hard enough to make them start creating really GREAT products again - like back in the Windows 3 days, when their products really were breakthrough.

Or not.

(steps off of soap box, gets into MG and leaves)

High-slider integrity planned for Windows 7 UAC

Brett Brennan
Thumb Down

Off on the wrong foot already

Microsoft can't afford another Vista debacle. No matter how good, secure, pretty, easy-to-use etc. Windows 7 ends up, the fact that EVERYBODY is looking for a mis-step in the release is really more important to address than the actual features.

In the case of this UAC "issue", all Microsoft's management needed to do was say "yes, well, you have a possible good point. We'll look into it and give a technical explanation of how we'll address it by the release date."

Microsoft has to realize by now (and the contrite response at the end of this report show that they DO GET IT) that one more release that has the problems Vista was perceived to have is going to cost them dearly - specifically on the corporate desktop and server. Companies have put up with having large IT staffs who mostly deal with Windows patches, security issues and user screw-ups. The issue for large corporations is that this is becoming the primary cost center for their IT department. Even outsourcing this job to India or China doesn't make it go away, and it doesn't really lower the cost of having systems "go down" for bug fixes and updates - which a problem or patch WILL do regularly in the real world.

IT department managers are already beginning to realize that their maintenance costs keep going UP not down, and each problem is more expensive than the last. Conficker opened a lot of eyes over the past couple of weeks: the cost of fixing this relatively simple attack has hit home, not because of the attack itself, but discovering that there are about 10-20% of corporate systems that could NOT be patched immediately because of expensive, custom "legacy" applications that need to be moved onto newer OS releases, at a huge rewrite cost. The IT directors are getting hammered for having the infection in their system, and they're getting hammered for needing to take down "core" applications to fix it. And their budgets are going up in smoke just patching the holes in the dike. Then they notice that their {*nix/mainframe/Apple} systems aren't getting hit the same way, that they have 1/5 the staff managing these platforms and the cost isn't bulging up every time a script kiddie discovers a new toy to play with.

Microsoft absolutely MUST be able to take the message to the world that their product is engineered safe and efficient, and that when the inevitable problem DOES occur that they can fix it quickly without impacting all the old legacy applications running the businesses that buy their product. And it ain't going to require opening another support center ANYWHERE just to have the asses and elbows to rush around 1000 systems and slap patches.

Redmond's got about six months to get this message done and done right. If Windows 7 has ANY issues even CLOSE to Vista, it'll be "hasta la vista" to Microsoft in the corporate environment within 18 months, and probably in the consumer market just as quickly.

We'll see how they react.

Microsoft SKUs Windows 7 clarity

Brett Brennan

Why not one base package...

...and sell "upgrade" packages to add the features needed for the other functions? That way EVERYBODY gets the Home Basic/Starter edition, and OEMs and other folks can add away to their heart's (and wallet's) content.

Oh, wait. That's too much like a Linux "distro". Wouldn't want THAT to blemish Window's clear, easy to follow functionality ladder. Like Vista Home: you're offered the opportunity to "upgrade" your "experience" via the internet - IF your ISP doesn't cut off the 5GB download half-way through...

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.


Brett Brennan

The Yank Scum part...

...was the best. If I'm not mistaken, Andrew is not a Colonial at all...so this should be


There! Done my part for the editorial desk! Now to buy tickets to my place on Eluthera just a couple of miles from the Pink Sand and down some frosties made with real rum...

Wi-Fi roaming: US T-Mobile gets it, BT drops it

Brett Brennan

Great idea for your parents...

I was at the Sprint store the other day, explaining to the staff (they always love it when I come in - I answer all the questions that their tech support can't) how femtocell technology works with the new little broadband-cellular bridge. It's a nice concept, and has immediate application for those folks that can't use their cell phone at home. Like my parents who live in an RF hole up in north Texas.

Mr. Ray is right, however: without a solid roll-out in commercial areas - like at the Mall, major office buildings and apartment complexes, most of which are RF holes, this is at best a PR gimmick. Unless you have enough radio background to understand when to use this technology, it's an expensive toy that is probably not needed - nay, is counter-productive.

Worse yet, here in the American Colonies only about half of the public Wi-Fi is "open". Most of the places you'd have your iPhone or Wi-Fi Blackberry connecting to 802.11 still charge a pretty penny for connections (mostly hotels, airports and convention centers), making the "seamless" switch impossible. And, of course, at home you stand a better chance of connecting to a neighbor's Wi-Fi than your own - especially if you keep high security on your bridge and they don't. Furthermore, at most high-density living locations (blocks of flats with hundreds of thousands of residents) there is so much channel interference that Wi-Fi is rendered almost useless. (My parents have an off-channel (1) connection for one machine: the rest are hard-wired to the router anyway.)

With luck we'll see some intelligent deployment of femtocell technology over the coming year...but I doubt it...

US mulls clicks for cameraphones

Brett Brennan

{sigh!} Back to using the Minox then...

Disco the speaker, wear the Bluetooth headset...done.

I apologize for the stupidity of our Colonial Government for even letting this see the light of day. On the other hand, England's total attack on photogs seems to be an even more mean-spirited (and violent) attempt to get to the "root cause" of the issue...

Makes one proud to be human, eh?

Countdown to Conficker activation begins

Brett Brennan

The damage may already be done

One of the primary reasons that corporations don't install updates or patches is that "business critical" applications - specifically high-dollar custom applications that are core to the business operations - often stop functioning when a new patch is introduced. Until Conficker arrived, the business had two choices: leave the systems unpatched and hope that their firewalls protected the systems, or purchase/develop a rewrite of the application(s) that were impacted by the patch/updates.

Post-Conficker, the only option is to rewrite the applications so that zero-day patching can be maintained.

And here's the bad news: the impact of this necessity for most major businesses (in the Fortune 100, ALL that I have visited have multiple applications that fit this profile) is a development effort that is possibly bigger than Y2K. Certainly the effort is now more pressing: zero-day patches that take down key applications are certainly more time sensitive than the 2 year run-up to Y2K.

So, the "damage" may well and truly already be done. The business impact on those companies that will rewrite their code is potentially huge. And the impact to those that do NOT rewrite their applications is certainly going to be devastating.

Tesla asks early adopters to cough up more cash

Brett Brennan

Probably tied to the cost of capital

You've got to admit that Tesla is pretty ballsy - launching a new car in the midst of a depression. And while this pricing "upgrade" may seem like cruel and unusual punishment for their early customers, it most likely reflects the reality of needing to post an early cash flow success in order to be able to go to credit markets for on-going financing. After all, if the banks aren't prepared to lend to GM, Ford or Chrysler (or Toyota, Nissan and Honda for that matter) why should they consider Tesla to be a good risk?

The brilliance in Tesla's move is that it has kept the price "revenue neutral" for its customers. Yes, they "lose" the US$7500 tax credit, but the net-net is pretty much a zero impact. And, as Steve notes in the first post, being able to build and inventory parts is as much a part of the game as selling the car.

Let's hope that Musk keeps his snoot out of the Marching Powder...unlike some other car entrepreneurs we can name...

US Army working on 'exploding marmalade' missile tech

Brett Brennan

What about Scaled Composite's stuff?

The boffins at Mohave have been using a throttled solid propulsion system all along. I wonder if the MIL SPEC folks are just avoiding this concept because it would make them look bad - they didn't think of it first, eh?

Toyota USA goes all chatty

Brett Brennan

It could be a good thing...

You know, adding a simple "ON-OFF" to the feature and a short menu of topics (like "restaurants", "gas stations", "malls", "car features", etc.) would turn this from a useful but intrusive feature into a "must have". My cell phone comes with a navigation feature that lets me find "things" based on location: I find this to be the second most useful application on the phone (after voice calls, ahead of SMS).

This could be a win-win for Toyota: the revenue stream from providing product placement for advertisers could be enhanced by improved targeting (you get to charge a whole lot more for adverts that actually generate a sale than the usual AM radio kind of "spam") and you convert an (annoyed) customer into a sales force with the "Hey, Bubba, watch this!" effect.

Someday someone will figure out this simple formula to use location-based services effectively. Until then we'll have to put up with sorting one more set of voice mails each morning before we have had our coffee...

New York mulls terrorist cell phone jamming

Brett Brennan

Didn't Tom Clancey already cover this?

In "Rainbow Six", I believe.

In my poor opinion, this would actually be pretty straight-forward. Assume that you're getting an emergency call BEFORE you shut everything down: you will then have a good geoloc for the incident already. Tapping into the cellular switches gives you a quick picture of what devices are close to the towers covering the terrorist site: you can then proceed to cut inbound service to those areas and simultaneously start back-tracking the calls that were underway and the ownership records for the devices detected. New calls out can be quickly sorted as to destination (hmm, that guy is calling an unlisted number in the hills of Afghanistan...suspicious?).

Even easier: shut down inbound to all PAYG devices immediately, as those are most likely to be used by terrorists (as well as poor schmucks without credit, but you can't have it all...). The devices with recorded ownership can then be sorted and any attempted calls from them to "unusual" numbers (like three or four people suddenly start calling Afghanistan that have never called further than the Bronx) can be quickly located and handled.

Chinese automaker launches plug-in hybrid

Brett Brennan

High-voltage charging in the USA

Lest we forget, nearly all stand-alone homes (the majority of places with a vehicle garage) come standard with 240V mains connections. Typically these are already in use to power appliances like electric stoves, water heaters, heating and air conditioning. It is fairly trivial to have a 240V line run to the garage (if it isn't already there to power an electric clothes dryer) to provide a charging station for an electric auto.

A 1-liter engine? Crikey, this is sounding more like my MG every day! Speaking of which, I wonder if Cherry Motors will offer a 'leccy version of the MG-TF when they start production at their Oklahoma factory? After all, 62 miles is about the cruising range of an MG - before one of the Lucas parts breaks down and requires a field rebuild in order to return home...

Barkeep, hand me my coat and a warm pint out of the Lucas reefer there, won't ya now...

DARPA wargamer calls for US X-Men superplane fleet

Brett Brennan

ExFil - Tom Clancy already did this...

In "Debt of Honor", the SpecFor was dropped off by helicopter, but left Japan as a Brazilian soccer team. By bus. Hell, we could cover them as Canadians, eh?

AT&T cops to Jesus Phone-as-modem app

Brett Brennan

AT&T pulls another b0n3r

It's all about failure to plan - again - on at&t's part. And here's the proof - well, to me it's proof...

Back in 2004 I bought a Sierra AirCard 860 and Cingular's "3G" wireless service. In St. Louis, at the Cingular store in the Cingular HQ building. Cingular promised HSDPA service with the 860; however, at their headquarters all you could get was EDGE. Period. And that's ALL you could get unless you were in San Francisco, parts of Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and a couple of other "major markets".

Until the iPhone 3G was released, that is. Within 2 weeks of the 3G release, suddenly there was HSDPA service in all these other locations that were "dead" days prior. Funny how that worked.

Now that the iPhone 3G has been out a while, these same HSDPA areas are showing major suckage as far as network performance. It appears that the iPhone is saturating the at&t 3G network. Oh, yes, I can get full 3G speeds - at 3am. Forget about getting it during business hours though.

So tethering, while available "standard" from every other carrier on just about any phone (even my Sprint Instinct (which I call the "vending machine phone" because every "fun" feature is available as an extra cost subscription) tethers instantly out of the box) is NOT an option on the one phone that is sucking up all the 3G bandwidth already. It's probably a backhaul issue: I'm sure that the software upgrade for 3G was easy, but to have enough backhaul to handle it requires a real investment.

So, it's back to why did they do this? First of all, Apple has at&t b0ned with the iPhone. Everybody wants one because it's cool, but at&t gets nothing from the device sale, and worse yet, it is stuck with infrastructure costs to support the iPhone 3G.

Now in Europe, where 3G is the rule rather than the exception in the GSM market, this isn't an issue. However, if Apple releases a phone with tethering enabled in Europe, it will instantly get back to America, and at&t is still screwed. So at&t has them delay the application as long as it can so it can backfill the backhaul (or whatever) to make it worth while.

Finally, remember, what the carrier wants you to do is BUY SERVICES, not applications, from THEM! So expect at&t to address this with a new "unlimited" plan offer at US$80-90/mo for iPhones that will allow tethering, hoping that the price will keep all but the few business customers that "need" tethering out of the market until at&t does something to improve the network.

Me, I'll stick to Sprint. Yeah, they suck too, but at least my data is consistent and coverage blows at&t out of the water in nearly every market. And even the "vending machine" phone works as stated out of the box - and it's useful for making voice calls, too!

Hackintosh maker bites back at Apple

Brett Brennan

When cars come with a EULA...

I've been expecting this to occur before long: every major consumer product starts requiring acceptance of a EULA before you can start using it.

After all, cars contain "intellectual property" that you technically "license" the use of when purchasing the "package" it comes in.

So put your future cap on. Envision the day that your car MUST connect to the Internet every day to insure that the "Genuine Ford Experience" software is up to date, or it won't start.

The EULA states that opening the bonnet (ie, "reverse engineering") is a violation of the license, and will cause the vehicle to immediately freeze, requiring the purchase of a new "license" (vehicle).

I could go on. However, bear in mind: these EXACT ideas ARE being mooted about in Detroit, Stuttgart, Tokyo, et.al. ; more precisely, the EXTENT to which these licenses can be mandated and enforced is being rigorously explored by auto makers world-wide. Not just "voids the warranty", but "seizure of licensed property and imposition of infringement fines" are under legal discussion.

The precedent is already there: failure to use a licensed HDMI cable to connect your DVD to your TV is a DMCA and patent violation (read the fine print) - the bulk of the cost for an HDMI cable is the license fee paid to the patent holders.

So be very, VERY careful about what you wish for. You could have it in spades all too quickly.

(As a bootnote: it is a widely studied grad school case study that Apple lost domination to Microsoft in the 1990s precisely BECAUSE of these same restrictions. And review the history of Windows vs. OS/2 for a case study of what happens when you DON'T enforce IP licensing...)

Federal judge halts Defcon talk on subway card hacking

Brett Brennan

The Bottom Line

This applies equally to the MBTA, the California tollway providers, the Dutch transportation authority, the Oyster Card folks, et.al.:

The blame can ONLY be placed on the companies and governments that OPERATE these transport systems that are using the flawed security measures. The failure of these companies and government agencies to constantly review the security of their systems AND PLAN FOR UPGRADES TO DEAL WITH THESE THREATS AS THEY OCCUR is an egregious management error that MUST be addressed by their stockholders/governments.

Companies like NXP semi are really NOT to blame, especially if they can show that they were actively attempting to upsell their clients to newer technology when the old systems became vulnerable. On the other hand, if they were assuring their customers that the Mifare Classic was still secure, then they ALSO need to be part of the guilty crowd.

I fully expect the outcome of all this publicity to be criminal suits filed by government law enforcement agencies against the managers of the failed agencies and their vendors - for completely failing to do their jobs. And another round of fare hikes and taxes to pay for complete overhauls of the transport systems that are affected.

Finally, an example. If a bank were to build a vault with a screen door and pronounce it "secure" because no one had broken into it yet, the management would be behind bars in a heartbeat - or at least fired and fined. The actions of these agencies and companies is the equivalent of the screen door on a bank vault.

IBM traps Captain Planet in a container

Brett Brennan
Paris Hilton

@Mark Hahn

Of course you're correct: a bit of skull-sweat with our think-caps on and this can be done.

The problem is that most data centre managers these days are looking for a "turn-key" solution from a single source, as it's less work for them and easier to focus blame. IBM has 70+ years making money from being a "blame magnet" for management teams ("It's not my fault, IBM said to do it!") by delivering these type of "turn-key" solutions.

Remember, your average corporate Director or Vice-President level executive has about the same technical savvy as Paris Hilton - not too different than the BOfH's manager. Submitting a request to the Budget Committee to "...triple Data Centre capacity without buying a new building - $15M..." makes them a Hero both for saving on real-estate AND keeping the request to a single line-item.

All in all, however, IBM does a pretty decent job of delivering what they promise. You can certainly do much worse than buying an IBM installation.

Paris, because she can get a job as Director of Data Centre Operations at most companies...

Yahoo! and Microsoft terminate talks, this time for good

Brett Brennan

This makes no sense

The only valuable part of Yahoo! is the portal/mail tie-in it has with mega-ISPs like at&t. Rebranding Yahoo! search as Microsoft doesn't solve the underlying issue: people use Google even if the default search engine on 90% of the browsers on earth point to Microsoft.

Ol' Carl's got some tricks in his back pocket - like a proxy fight coupled with some naked shorting of Yahoo! to allow him to apply even more pressure. Once he wins (and he WILL win), he'll sell the whole shooting match to Microsoft for $30-$35 a share - still better than what the stockholders can get today or tomorrow, especially if Yahoo! "outsources" their search to Google. (Then what "search" does Yahoo! have left?)

We'll see what happens leading up to the shareholder's meeting...

Icahn laughs at Yahoo!

Brett Brennan

It's all about the customers

Without the employee retention plan, Yahoo! becomes nothing more than a "war chest" full of customers (those with Yahoo! as a portal via their ISP, Yahoo! mail, etc.). I've maintained all along that this is the asset that Microsoft is interested in (along with sundry patents, software and equipment), and Mr. Ichan's proposal reflects this reality quite starkly.

I guess the real question is about valuation. What is the conversion cost for Microsoft or Google to acquire the portal and services customers from Yahoo! if Yahoo! were to terminate business today? In other words, what is the "break-up value" of Yahoo's primary asset, the customer base?

If the cost per customer conversion (usually somewhere around US$10) exceeds the value of the company at the current offer price, then the offer from Microsoft is too low. If, on the other hand, the cost is less than the offer being made, then Icahn is completely correct: kill the retention clause and sell the company, if this is what the majority of the owners (ie, shareholders) want.

Unless Jerry Yang and Yahoo! management have a business plan that will return as much value to the shareholders over the next 3-5 years (through stock appreciation, dividends, etc.) as selling the company will provide, then they need to be removed and the company sold.

Remember: Jerry Yang and his management team are NOT the owners of the company. Their job - first and foremost - is to provide the owners with a return of their investment. Period. If Jerry doesn't like that idea, then let him and his managers offer what HE thinks is a fair price to the shareholders, and take Yahoo! private, where he can do whatever he wants with it.

The Reg surfs for porn with a San Jose councilman

Brett Brennan

At least El Reg found...

...the "Pole Dancing Barbie" doll for the kicker icon. Great little toy: put it on your desk at work if you want to quit. Available at major Geek stores (like Fry's) everywhere...

Oh, and lest Austin think I didn't read the article:

I believe it was Phillip Roth, in his novel "Goodbye, Columbus" that had a scene with a young boy who would come to the New York Public Library every day to gaze upon naked pictures in art books. This was, of course, from back in the early 1960's - and the book itself was swirled around the sexual habits of two college students. But I digress...

The bottom line is that human knowledge includes a lot of things that are upsetting to a lot of people. The purpose of a library is NOT to segregate out the "upsetting" material, but to provide a repository of knowledge - even that which is offensive to others. The internet is just one more repository of human artifacts - many offensive, many, many more useful - but all should be freely available -- ESPECIALLY at a library -- with the understanding that you may find things you don't like in there.

If "community standards" prohibit offending adults - and children - with potential upsetting material, then close the damn library. Because SOMEBODY is going to be offended by ANYTHING in a library - whether it is Da Vinci's art or a copy of the Koran - and you can't stop one without giving grounds to stopping the other.

As the AC above points out, D.H. Lawrence was banned from libraries for years. I attended a high school in Kansas that "banned" all sorts of books from the library - including science fiction that was "biblically offensive" and even books that were on my homework assignments in literature. (Yeah, this is the same bunch that wants to stop teaching evolution in schools - if they had their way, the library would have only one book - the Bible - and NOT the one my (Catholic) wife uses.) We had to travel to Kansas City, Missouri and use THEIR library (or go to the University bookstore and BUY the book) in order to access material that was no longer available locally for education.

These were not ignorant farmers, but prosperous middle-class adults, led by a small, well-funded group of bigots, that instituted these restrictions on literature. George Orwell (banned) would have been proud of THAT "Animal Farm".

Google earnings less astronomical than expected

Brett Brennan

Proof of insatiable greed on Wall Street

If I ran a company that posted Google's growth, did not really *LOSE* anything every year, generated the *REAL* revenue it does, I'd go home and sleep well every night. Screw the "analysts" - when a company meets nearly all of its projections, and exceeds a good number of them, I have no problem with it.

In fact, I'd rather see Wall Street pay more kudos to companies that consistently MEET their projections spot-on. Not "exceed" expectations, but hit them on-target every time. THAT, to me, is a well-run company that truly knows what it's doing and managing to it.

This story underlines why there are so many problems with "cheating" in publicly traded companies: no matter what you do, unless you "surprise" yourself - "OOOH, look, I make BIGGER potty!" - then the "analysts" don't care. So cheat: under-report items one quarter and "save them up for a rainy day", run "off-the-book" projects that can pump a bit of cash in at the appropriate place, etc.

It's like the vignette from Jules Feiffer's "Feiffer's People" about the Worlds Second Greatest Athlete. The guy that can EXACTLY match the world's greatest athletes - to the centimeter - is considered a nobody, no matter how much harder it is to do. A company that can meet its projections because of superior governance and measurement is considered a "poor performer".

Stepping down from soap box now...

Jury spanks Lexmark in toner refill case

Brett Brennan

re: reduce - reuse - recycle

The anti-refill chips aren't intended to prevent recycling - although in the case of HP-style ink cartridges there is a *TINY* bit of merit in their use - their intent is to keep *YOU* from recycling.

HP cartridges embed the print head itself in the "disposable" cartridge. The technology used in the head uses a micro-boiler to vaporize a tiny bit of ink and use this to "spit" a micro-droplet onto the paper. Over time, the "boiler" becomes clogged and needs to be replaced.

This is also where ink formulation becomes critical: the ink is similar to the fuel-oil mix in a 2-stroke gasoline engine. It must carry pigment, boil at a specific heat input, remain at a specific viscosity over a wide temperature range, be a solvent to keep the "boiler" clean and lubricated, and fulfill the toxicity and environmental requirements of a consumer product. This was the original reason that HP and others did not want 3rd party refillers involved: the ink technology was usually the first thing that was scrapped by unscrupulous refillers, causing rapid failure of the print head mechanism. HP "solved" the problem by putting "disposable" print heads in each cartridge - thus insuring that a new print head would be used each time the cartridge was replaced, eliminating the maintenance problem. (Indeed, in some of the high-end "All-In-One" products, the print head and ink cartridge are actually two seperate components: you replace the ink cartridges 3-4 times before replacing the MUCH more expensive print heads. However, these are engineered to be long-life heads...probably through some small decreace in viscosity and a bit more solvent in the ink mix, as the physics of the head design dictates the parameters for forming the droplet that hits the paper.)

Other manufacturers did not follow this simple design, and built a non-replaceable print head into the printer. This requires a more sophisticated ink in order to keep the mechanism from failing for a "reasonable" printer life expectancy.

I "learned" all of this the "hard way" - I did an internship with a large computer company back in the 1970's in the printer development lab and researched pneumatic "hammer" and ink jet operation in line-printer environments. OOPS - my age is showing again...

The "unfair" part of this equation is the busiess model that has been adopted with regard to the disposables, not the fact that print heads need to be replaced. While ink may be a very expensive component to develop, the cost becomes trivial when you start making tankers full of it. And, due to the very short duty cycles of consumer printers (yes, SHORT duty cycles), the ink and head designs *SHOULD* be useful for at least 2 or 3 refills before failure of nozzles finally occurs.

The "politically correct" solution for a manufacturer would be to provide ink in 2-3 times larger cartridges at about the same price as the small ones today, and provide a post-paid recycle pack with each new cartridge to return the spent cartridge for proper recycle and disposal. This would allow use up to head failure and make it trivial to return the cartridge for proper disposal.

Crypto boffin: writing is on the wall for 1024-bit RSA

Brett Brennan

If the govn'mt lets us...

The presupposes that governments will let commercial encryption use stronger keys when 1024 bit RSA becomes insecure. Remember, the US (among others) fought anything stronger than a 48-bit key for a time - until the procurement cycle allowed them to buy hardware to break the (then) strong 128 bit keys.

However, given that anyone can use open-source software to provide arbitrary levels of encryption for private messaging, I suppose that allowing 2048 or larger keys will be allowed. With escrow, of course...

Google pulls essay adverts

Brett Brennan

Back to School?

Didn't Rodney Dangerfield hire Kurt Vonnegut Jr. to write his essays for him in "Back to School"? (I think he got a "D" on it in the movie...)

So, this removes the essay writing adverts from Google: does it remove their search results as well? If so, I guess I'll have to use Internet Exploder and MSN from now on...

Gates predicts death of the office phone

Brett Brennan

Phones and Tablets

I use a NEC Versa LitePad table every day - and have since I bought it 4 years ago. It was the only tablet worth hitting a dog in the arse with: the same useful area as a sheet of paper, reasonable speed and just enough storage to keep what is needed on it. Which, by the way, is notes (I use it instead of paper for all meetings and conversations) and documents (especially the maintenance manuals for my 50 year-old MGA). Battery life DOES suck, but I still have three to swap in when one runs down. Best of all, it cost US$900 new - cheap then and still working now.

The point here is that I do NOT use it as my desktop computer - rather, it is an adjunct that permits integrating information that normally escapes digital capture. I was using a Franklin (I think) electronic note pad (you wrote on a paper tablet with an RF pen and the tablet that was part of the folio captured the pen strokes). This was also wonderful, but no one understood the usefulness of the device and when drivers quit being written I had to abandon it.

I guess the rambling point here is that there are different uses for different devices - phone, laptop, tablet, server, etc. There *IS* merit in getting convergence in the device footprints - that is, if I had a laptop PC with a tablet screen that could be removed (completely) for use in note-taking or carrying large reference documents around, that also had a wireless telephone that could dock into it for data exchange and modem use - but could also be removed and used stand-alone as a cell phone. This *SHOULD* be easy to provide these days: the only requirement would be to have power and a USB interface and a solid dock latch into the laptop body.

Oh, by the way, my comment to this story (before I was side-tracked): there WAS a convergent device like this back in the mid 1990's. Built by AT&T, it was a tablet computer, running and advanced OS specifically geared to note-taking and information display, with an integrated cell phone that could also work as a CDPD modem. It was called the EO, and lasted all of about a year...

...because it didn't run Windows...

Indian dealers are squealers over Microsoft piracy raids

Brett Brennan

re: Title

Windows *IS* like a Ferrari: it's too expensive, looks flashy, but only goes 10kph in bumper-to-bumper traffic (just like the Yugo next to it) and requires a LOT of time in the shop being fixed for all the minor problems that prevent it from running. That's why Ferrari owners usually have more than one - so that they can *drive* one while the others are being fixed!


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