Coase’s 1959 Paper on the FCC

July 4, 2007

Ronald Coase – The Federal Communications Commission

Linked here for non-commercial personal academic research.

Failing Grades for Interoperability from the DHS

January 23, 2007

The Department of Homeland Security’s Tactical Interoperabilty assessment can be found here:

The report found deficiencies in all but 6 of 75 of major urban areas surveyed with the Denver Metro area ranking near the bottom. It seems like there is a huge opportunity for the adoption of SDR and CR systems to plug the gaps.

How Would You Describe a Web Browser to a Martian?

October 25, 2005

Seeing as how we can all get very excited, very quickly about Web 2.0, AJAX, Mash-ups, Social Applications, etc., it is wise every so often to step back and brew up a couple of rain clouds in order to see what happens to the parade. Try out this little thought experiment, for instance.

Q: How would you describe a Web Browser to a Martian? Assume the Martian can speak English and has a rudimentary knowledge of computing.

A: A web browser is a tool that displays text and image files stored on a computer, typically at a location remote from the viewer, on a “web” page. It uses a descriptive language called HTML to position the images on the page and to format the text in a variety of ways such as size, color and location. It also recognizes a light-weight software language called JavaScript that can be used to manipulate the text and images on the page in ways that a simple descriptive language like HTML can not, for example finding the sum of a list of numbers on the page. A third native language called CSS is used to place the formatting instructions for HTML into a centralized location allowing them to be reused for many different pages stored in the same location on the remote computer. Browsers may be enhanced by fitting them with additional modules that allow them to do more than read HTML, JavaScript and CSS. These modules may be manipulated to create a more interactive experience for the user and the content on the page. One of the most common of these modules is called Flash which is frequently utilized to embed games and movies on the page. Another very common module is called Java. Java is a more heavyweight program as it is an entirely separate operating system running on top of the one your computer has, of which the part that the browser uses is relatively small. Java has been used to create applications that communicate directly with a remote computer in order to allow the text and images on a page to change as the changes happen, without the need to use HTML, JavaScript or CSS to display them.

Now ask yourself if you were building a new internet application that was going to replace a common desktop application, say a spreadsheet, and the Web Browser had not yet been invented, would your final product resemble the tool described above.

Should we be concerned about creating new applications for the Web and the Web Browser when the Web and the Web Browser may not be the best tool for our applications? Will the real Web 2.0 killer app be the replacement for IE, Firefox and the rest?

Netflix – Your Broadband Content Provider

October 12, 2005

Newsweek wonders if Neflix has what it takes to survive with the coming of the “Broadband Age.” The answer, as always, is who knows. Here is their take on the Netflix story:

As a tech company, Netflix was a contrarian play. Even at the height of the dot-com boom, when Silicon Valley buzzed with the promise of “transformative technologies” and “fat pipes” that would allow consumers to quickly download all manner of content, Hastings built Netflix on two disarmingly retro technologies: the DVD and the United States Postal Service. For a monthly subscription fee averaging $17.99, consumers would be treated to an unlimited number of rented DVDs, most delivered within a day of being ordered online. “People were talking about beaming movies to wristwatches,” [Reed] Hastings says. “We tried not to get drunk on the future, but actually to predict it accurately.”

While they continue on in the article to write about how eventually the current content distributors will be able to control what you receive and they imply that the Long Tail customers will get shut out unless Netflix evolves to meet these challenges, they miss a fundamental point in Netflix’s story only hinted at above.

Netflix has already always been about selecting and downloading movies online. You choose a movie online and “download” it to your mailbox. Given even a nice moderately fast 2 Mbps connection and an equivalent upstream connection, an 8 GB DVD would take 10 hours to download – hardly a practical improvement over next day delivery. What if you order three 8 GB movies at 12:00 PM and they arrive at 12:00 PM the next day? You would have received 24 GB in 24 Hours or roughly 2.4 Mbps. This is a typical DSL or Cable Modem speed given today’s technology.

The conclusion here is that Netflix is already a Broadband Service Provider. At what point will home broadband speeds, digital compression technologies, upstream bandwidth availability and on-demand streaming technologies evolve to the point where next day delivery can finally be beaten? Again, who knows, but my guess is quite a while and by then Netflix has as good or better a chance as anyone of leveraging these new technolologies to deliver the same service they do today.

More on Sun/Google from Gartner

October 11, 2005

Gartner presents a quick topical analysis of the Sun/Google partnership along with a few plugs for some other AJAX apps. Interestingly, Gartner sees an 80% probability that IT Departments will begin to adopt these lightweight web-based apps to supplement or replace existing tools by late 2006.

Barbarians at the Gates?

October 11, 2005

Microsoft is publicly responding to the Google/Sun deal with typical confidence, stating that the Office suite is not threatened by OpenOffice and that they don’t envision future web-based Office software (neither does Google, evidently). Microsoft believes that with enhancements to its CRM and Office applications, it can integrate current web-based services such as AOL Instant Messenger with its own products and by adding collaborative features such as Groove to Office, it will be able to keep the focus on the desktop. Perhaps this is still where the smart money lies, however, there are several reasons why this may yet tip in favor of a combination of Open standards and web services.

  • Microsoft claims that they have always competed with OpenOffice. Sure they have. In the game space of the technorati and the innovators, certainly, but when US State governments get behind the Open document movement what does that tell us?
  • OpenOffice and StarOffice are maturing applications that are starting to create a buzz outside of innovation circles, compared to MS Office which as a mature application is more lumbering having accumulated many different features stapled on by different design teams over the last two decades.
  • Those who have worked with OpenOffice and StarOffice, and perhaps businesses in countries and industries that have not been dominated by Microsoft might say these applications are far past the early adopter phase but for most business users MS Office has been the rule of thumb since at least 1995. During this cycle, the late majority has become more technically savvy and some will have less trepidation about joining the early adopters, at least in applications that they completely understand – email, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
  • Standards organizations are beating the drum louder and louder for de jure rather than de facto document standards.
  • Five years ago, even three years ago, would there have even been a discussion about Microsofts dominance in the business application space?
  • Much more to come…

    AJAX Office

    October 5, 2005

    I can’t go five minutes without stumbling across a post somewhere about AJAX.

    What is it?

    October 4, 2005

    Web 2.0 that is. I have to agree with O’Reilly’s point that Web 2.0 sounds like a marketing buzzword being used by a lot of companies to describe their wares without really knowing what it means. Since he helped coin the term he has an idea of what it means and he shares it here.

    I am working on a paper for an interdisciplinary law and technology class at CU that will focus on Web 2.0, its origins, the core technologies that power it, and its prospects for the future. I hope to be able to offer a scholarly look at the Web 2.0 phenomenon to complement the hype.

    Life of O’Reilly

    October 2, 2005

    More about Web 2.0 and the “architecture of participation.” After reading this piece, maybe you’ll think that Tim O’Reilly is a little out there. Maybe you already did. I can’t argue too much with someone who has built a high tech empire on paperback books with woodcut animal characters on the front. It is a testament to the “O’Reilly Standard” that a software/networking/database/programming technology might as well not exist until it has an O’Reilly published about it. For what it’s worth, I had the phrase “The Internet is the Operating System” bouncing around in my head for a long time before I found someone who attributed it to O’Reilly.

    Overview of AJAX Apps

    September 29, 2005

    This ZDNET article is a good overview of some AJAX office applications currently availble and coming soon. I haven’t had the opportunity to test any of them out yet, but as I do there will be more posts on the way.