Intel Drops WiFi from Grantsdale

Intel have dropped their proposal to include integrated WiFi in its Grantsdale chipsets. Intel Wireless Connect was intended as a cheap and easy way to make WiFi networking ubiquitous – and help Intel promote and distribute their own wireless technologies.

PC manufacturers are not so sure, however, citing concerns that the functionality would add US$50 to US$75 (€40 to €68) to the price of a new desktop computer – this does not compare favourably to an add-in card which typically sells for US$50 (€40).

Whilst integrating WiFi into a chipset has advantages such as power consumption and compatibility, stand-alone wireless networking components have better signal reception and are easier to replace should they fail.

The timing is evidently wrong for Intel, but they have stated that they intend to reintroduce Wireless Connect when the price falls – or if a big enough PC manufacturer requests it.


Overpeer Launched in Europe

Loudeye have launched their Overpeer anti-piracy technology in Europe. The system, which uses a number of techniques to protect content, has proven popular in the US and Asia and currently protects 60,000 digital entertainment titles. This translates to millions of blocked downloads every month.

“As we enter an important stage in the legitimate distribution of digital media content, content owners around the world face challenges in managing the illegal distribution of their material across peer-to-peer networks,” said Marc Morgenstern, vice president and general manager of Loudeye’s asset protection and promotion business in a statement. “Our proprietary systems and technology are designed to interdict illegal peer-to-peer traffic, blocking illegal transmission of copyrighted material and helping content owners take control of piracy. These systems have been highly effective for our customers in the US and Asia, and we’re pleased that we are now launching the services in Europe through OD2, our European subsidiary.”

Overpeer uses content spoofing to distribute fake music, software and movie files across P2P networks – if downloaded, the file can then redirect a PC user to a legitimate source for the real content with the option of buying it.


Akimbo Showcase Internet-toTV VOD Service, Make Deal With TBS

Still can’t find anything worth watching on TV? Akimbo have demoed their internet-to-TV video-on-demand service at the Digital Hollywook show in California this week.

The service is planned to launch in October, and will deliver thousands of hours of video content to a set-top box, the Akimbo Player via subscribers’ broadband connections.

The Akimbo system uses a “Que and View” interface and dedicated remote control to allow users to select programmes that they wish to see – for delivery to them for later viewing.

The Akimbo player holds about 200 hours of video at 1.5 megabits per second, and two of the key advantages are that it doesn’t tie up subscribers’ PCs, nor do they have to watch programmes on a monitor — they can cosy up in their front room. The service will launch at US$9.99 (€8.10) a month, and will include films, music, sports, comedy and drama content amongst others.

Akimbo, founded and managed by execs from ReplayTV, Macromedia, Microsoft and Apple, has also signed a deal with Turner Broadcasting Systems to license thousands of hours of content from CNN, Cartoon Network, TCM and Boomerang.

Kevin Cohen, senior vice president and general manager, interactive/enhanced television for TBS said in a statement: “We are pleased to work with Akimbo and are looking forward to learning how consumers respond to this new subscription on-demand technology.”



Touted as the most efficient audio codec in the world, HE-AAC has been adopted as a standard by 3GPP, a collaboration between telecommunications standards bodies to produce global standards and specifications for mobile technologies.

It’s good news for the developing AAC format, and good news for those in the mobile industry – there’s now a good chance there’ll be a common file format for music stores and mobile music. Convergence fans will also be able to transfer music between AAC compatible devices, meaning that it’s less likely they’ll have to buy the same track more than once. Furthermore, the adoption of a standard should encourage more publishers to venture out into mobile music.

aacPlus can store a reasonably high-fidelity single track in just 500kb – obviously hand for the current generation of handsets that are doubly constrained by available bandwidth and memory capacities.

Richard Poston, director of corporate communications at mmO2 said about the news: “As the first operator offering mobile music downloads, we are very happy about the final standardization. We’ve been really impressed by the excellent balance of good audio quality combined with efficient use of bandwidth.”

HE-AAC uses a spectral band replication system from Coding Technologies to reconstruct high frequency sound from hints in the encoded file. By stripping out the high frequencies, only low-frequency sound needs to be encoded and stored, meaning that music can be encoded at roughly half the bit rate of standard AAC.

Perfect if you listen to that “bang bang bang” music, but we’ve yet to test if the high-frequency substitution wheeze can encode other music types, such as those with lots of strings, accurately.


Two Way TV Acquires Broadcast Games

Two Way TV has acquired mobile-to-TV specialist Broadcast Games, and will incorporate the company to form Two Way Mobile. Two Way TV hope that the acquisition will bolster its existing mobile services, including a service produced with ITV earlier this year.

Founded last year by Julian Jones and Jani Peltonen, Broadcast Games bring their SAMPO mobile-to-TV interaction platform, which lets users play games, chat and interact with TV broadcasts using their mobile handsets, interactive TV button and internet connections.

Commenting on the deal, Jean de Fougerolles, the chief executive of Two Way TV, said: “We are integrating the expertise of Broadcast Games with our existing mobile-to-TV services, to create innovative and market-leading mobile-to-TV games which work on analogue services, as well as digital platforms. This is all part of Two Way TV’s aggressive growth strategy to make sure that we stay at the forefront of interactive programming and is the first in a number of strategic partnerships that we will be announcing between now and Christmas.”

Julian Jones added: “This is a really strong partnership. Broadcast Games was set up last year but in that time we’ve managed to get a platform off the ground. This deal with Two Way TV means we will become part of a substantial, growing company where mobile-to-TV games form an important component of the business.”

Two Way TV

BT Doubles Bandwidth for Business Customers; Blair Promises Broadband UK 2008

BT has announced today that it will be doubling the speed of its customers’ Business Broadband Network connections, at no extra cost. Customers on the 512k and 1 meg pipes will be upgraded to Network 1000 and 2000 automatically.

Customers on the 2 meg service won’t be getting ablistering 4 meg however – instead they’ll see a UK£30 (€44) reduction in their monthly line rental.

Duncan Ingram, BT Retail’s managing director of Broadband and Internet Services commented: “High bandwidth is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for businesses. Companies now need to have more than one computer attached to a network connection and that’s exactly what our Network products are designed for. Doubling bandwidth, whilst not increasing price, is part of our continuing drive to give our business customers the tools they need to really harness broadband, giving them a clear advantage over competitors and enabling them to punch well above their weight. Not only does it make communication easier, but also enables small businesses to have access to the same applications and services that have traditionally only been open to much larger enterprises.”

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, the UK PM Tony Blair promised a broadband Britain by 2008, if the country voted Labour: “Our country and its people prospering in the knowledge economy. Increasing by £1bn the investment in science, boosting support to small businesses and ending the digital divide by bringing broadband technology to every home in Britain that wants it by 2008.”

Broadband is part of a package of ten items that Blair promises as part of a Labour third term. Included amongst them are ID cards and the electronic registration of everyone who passes the UK’s borders.

Given that it’s not actually the UK government who will be doing the connecting, it’s a bit of a cheeky promise.

Since BT have already estimated that 99.6% of households will be broadband accessible by July 2005, is Tony saying that voting Labour will delay the whole process by three years?

BT double bandwidth

Toshiba Announce First 60GB Music Players

Toshiba have added some new models to their gigabeat series, including the world’s first 60GB digital music player. All players in the gigabeat F series have 2.2 inch QVGA high resolution colour displays and feature storage capacities from 10GB to 60GB. Based on Toshiba’s 1.8” hard-drive technology, the music players will début in Japan in November 2004.

The 60GB model will store 15,000 4 minute tracks encoded at 128kbps in either WMA or MP3 formats – that’s nearly 42 days of continuous music.

Interaction with the gigabeat F players is done through Plus Touch, a plus sign-shaped sensor that allows users to navigate quickly through music libraries and tracks. The players attach to PCs through a USB cradle, and users can rip any CD in their optical drive by pressing the RipRec button on the cradle. Toshiba’s gigabeat Room software manages music on the PC and player, synchronises tracks within designated folders and allows artwork and notes to be attached to music. Supporting Windows DRM, the players are fully compatible with either Windows Media or MP3 files, but no AAC as yet.

So what next? Who will be the first to break the 100GB music player barrier, and when?

The Toshiba players

Duke Nukem Forever Crawls Slightly Closer; New Development Tools for the PSP

Think Half Life 2 is taking a long time? Well, spare a thought for those poor souls waiting for Duke Nukem Forever – the whole affair reminds me of the “Apocalypse When?” headlines when Coppola was working on his Vietnam film. Rabid fans of the first person shooter series will be pleased to hear that a physics engine provider has been chosen, and so hopefully the new game will have the same detail and level of interactivity as its 3D predecessors.

Physics for the world inhabited by the Snake Plisskin-inspired eponymous hero will be supplied by Meqon, a new company in the physics middleware market.

George Broussard, CEO of 3D Realms commented on the choice: “We evaluated several physics SDK’s and Meqon was really fast, had the cleanest interface and integrated into our game very quickly.”

The original Duke Nukem shot to fame in 1991, but it wasn’t until 1996’s Duke Nukem 3D that players discovered the joys of shooting fire extinguishers and laying traps that the series reached legendary status. Since then 3D realms have had a number of hits, including May Payne and of course Wolfenstein 3D.

3D Realms


In other gaming news, SN Systems have released a development kit for Sony’s PSP handheld. Their ProDG tools are available to registered developers on the PSP hardware, and include a compiler, assembler, linker and debugger – with full integration with .NET.

Andy Beveridge Co-Founder and Director of SN Systems said in a statement: “It’s been a very exciting time for us, getting hold of the new hardware and seeing what it can do is always fascinating. We’ve put a lot of hours into this latest line of ProDG and we’re really pleased with the results. It doesn’t stop there though; developers choosing ProDG for PSPTM are going to have a few more toys to play with in the near future, I just can’t mention them all right now.”

The development tools are backed by Sega’s Yuji Naka, R&D Creative Officer: “ProDG for PSP has rich functions and is very stable while keeping up with fast changes of development environments. SEGA is very satisfied especially with the fact that important functions such as .NET integration, fast compile speed, and good GUI of debugger are equipped from the early version.”

SN Systems

Interactive TV Advertising & Enhanced TV

Day one – gives a complete overview of iTV advertising from the latest case studies in the market, and the creative and planning aspects of a campaign, to likely response rates, ROI, and the importance of the introduction of PVR’s. Day 2 – focuses on enhanced TV starting to produce new programme formats and linking closely with reality TV programs. This is emerging as a key revenue driving potential for broadcasters, and the integration with SMS and mobile technologies will be covered.CBI Conference center, London

Roobarb and Custard in the 21st Century

Roobarb & Custard30-something nostalgics, rejoice: a new series of Roobarb and Custard is in production. IP owners and new series Executive Producers, A+B Productions have started work at Monster Animation Studios in Dublin. To be distributed by Celador, Roobarb and Custard Too uses hand-drawn and hand-animated cells coupled with modern production processes to produce a cartoon that is faithful to the original series.

Hardcore R&C fans will be relieved to hear that there is no dodgy computer graphics work in the new version, and that the classic look has not been messed around with. Having done a side-by-side comparison with an early animation sample, I was very impressed by the R&C Too, and was keen to find out how they managed to recreate the distinctive look of the original. Adam Sharp, co-founder of A+B Productions told us “We’re using innovative ways to bring back the classic feel the original hand drawn series had.”

I spoke to Gerard O’Rourke at Monster Animation Studios about the painstaking process that A+B and Monster went through to get the correct look and feel: “Everything is hand-drawn. It’s then traditionally scanned into a computer and digitised. It’s then animated by hand, using a graphics tablet and is then rendered using a combination of Photoshop and Painter to achieve that marker pen feel. From there it’s composited together in After Effects – and then it’s over to post production to do the sound.”

And how did they reproduce the wobbly lines? “They recreate the drawing a number of times – when it’s played back if gives you the wobbly lines. Because you have to replicate the drawing a number of times, you have to do extra and copy them and offset them,” Gerard told us.

“The old version was done in the 70s, and you’ve probably heard the stories of them getting unemployed brickies and everyone they could find to work on Roobarb and Custard – and the reason they had that look that the markers had run out was because the markers had run out! They didn’t use animators all the time, but it did create its own feel and look – and we’ve been trying to increase the production values but not lose the charm of the programme.”

What about people who may be worried that it’s just a Flash update?

“We don’t want people to think that it’s a Flash project, because Flash can tend to be very flat and internet-based, but it is a great animating tool. But it really is only a tool like Word and Excel. It’s how you use it afterwards – take the different functions out of it and then use them with your own techniques and methods. We’ve taken all our software to its limits and used all the libraries and tools that we could get.”

Gerard seems very pleased with amount of care that A+B have been putting in to the new series: “Richard Bryers is narrating the series again, he’s doing all the voices. Grange Caveley, creator and writer has written all the new scripts.”

“It’s very much Roobarb and Custard 1974.”

Monster Animation

If you just can’t wait for the new version of Roobarb and Custard, here’s a selection of can-buy products from Amazon
DVD: Roobarb And Custard – The Complete Roobarb And Custard [1974]
VHS: Roobarb And Custard