The Future Of Moore’s Law Questioned

The Future Of Moore's Law QuestionedFor over forty years Moore’s Law has stood to be correct. It’s now being questioned as to whether it will continue.

Named after co-founder of Intel, Gordon Moore (pictured), Moore’s Law stated that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years.

Len Jelinek, director and chief analyst, semiconductor manufacturing, for research company iSuppli, has raised the flag that given the economics of the chip business, it could well come to an end, in around 2014.

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Microsoft Stumble On Open Doc Standard

Microsoft Stumble On Open Doc StandardThere’s been general surprise at Microsoft’s failure to secure their ‘Open XML’ interchangeable document standard to be accepted by the ISO – International Standards Committee – and the IEC – International Electronic Commission.

It is important to Microsoft as Governments around the world are looking to allow simple document interchange between all of their systems.
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AVS: China’s H.264 Rival In Testing By China Telecom

AVS: China's H.264 Rival In Testing By China Telecom It’s clear that China like to do things their own way.

The latest in the list is a video CoDec’s, the algorithm that is used to compress/decompress video signals. Much of the world currently uses H.264, but China has developed its own equivalent, that they call AVS, standing for Audio Video coding Standard – an acronym that is bound to cause confusions with the Microsoft-backed AVC.
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Kendra Initiative Cross-Media Summit for Content Discovery

The Kendra Initiative is hosting a Cross-Media Summit about Content Delivery next week, on Friday 9th March in London.

The full day event, running at the Frontline Club, is billed as “The Strategy, Technology and Business Case for Content Description, Visibility, Search and Discovery.”

The event is aiming to tackle one of Digital-Lifestyles hobby horses – In a sea of infinite content, how do you, as a willing content consumer, locate the content you want to use? As Peter Buckingham, Head Of Distribution and Exhibition, UK Film Council puts it, “The biggest threat is obscurity.”

The approach of this free-to-attend event is from the content owners perspective, looking at what is the weakness of current metadata standards; if they can be adapted to work better; if not, what is the appetite for more metadata standards for cross-media description?

Metadata standard are all very well, but often live within a bubble of non-implementation. The need for metadata-creation tools and how to persuade the industry to use them will also be covered.

We spoke to Daniel Harris (mug shot above), founder of Kendra, “It’s all about making things work, making the open marketplace work together. We’re really pleased to see how many people are coming along to it, creating a universal meta data.”

“As with all industries that involve connecting people, some people [involved in this] gain from there being a problem, but people are seeing that they can work outside their industry sector. This is a cross-industry problem that we’re trying to solve.”

So far around fifty people have signed up including representatives from important players such as Patrick Attallah, CEO, ISAN (International Standard Audiovisual Number); Keith Hill, Head of R&D, MCPS-PRS Alliance; Mark Stuart, Principal Engineer, Pioneer Digital Design; Iain McNay, Board Member, AIM (Association of Independent Music) and Chairman, Cherry Red Records; Rich Lappenbusch, Director, Microsoft Entertainment and Board Member, DDEX (Digital Data Exchange).

Being tech driven, those not able to physically attend will be able to hook in via Instant messaging and Skype.

The event will be free and sponsored by Makeni.

Kendra Initiative Cross-Media Summit for Content Discovery

Telewest Get ASA Dodgy Advert Slapdown

Telewest Get ASA Dodgy Advert SlapdownBroadband giants Telewest have had to bend over and feel the sharp swish of the Advertising Standards Agency’s corrective ruler on their ample rumps after their broadband radio advert was deemed ‘misleading.’

The advert seemed straightforward enough:

“… getting broadband couldn’t be easier. Telewest even install it for you. Get unlimited broadband and you can also have digital TV and a phone line, all three for £30 a month. If you live in a Telewest area and you want all three for £30 a month for a year call xxxx or go to Available to customers taking new services. Minimum term contract and conditions apply.”

Telewest Get ASA Dodgy Advert SlapdownA Telewest customer – clearly already living in a Telewest area – liked the sound of the deal so much they rang up to sign on, only to find that they were clearly in the wrong sort of ‘Telewest area.’

When the customer was told that the full range of Telewest products was not in fact available, a stroppy mail was despatched to ASA who made short thrift of Telewest’s insistence that their “Conditions apply” caveat covered their ass.

With Telewest admitting that they were unable to offer digital services to 100% of their customers as 3.7% were situated in non-digital areas, the bendy ruler of the ASA was administered with relish as the complaint was upheld.

Telewest Get ASA Dodgy Advert SlapdownThe ASA concluded, “We considered this important restriction should have been explained in the ad and that “Conditions apply” had not been adequate to cover such a significant condition to the offer. The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) Radio Advertising Standards Code section 2, rule 3.”


One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The Impact

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The ImpactThe $100 laptop project launched by MIT Media Lab, gained a big boost yesterday when the labs Nicholas Negroponte met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

Kofi Annan opening address summed up the project and its hopes succinctly, “The true meaning of one laptop per child, is not a matter of just giving a laptop to a child, as if bestowing on them some magic charm. The magic lies within. Within each child there is a scientist, scholar, or just plain citizen in the making. This initiative is design to bring it forth into the light of day.”

No right thinking individual could possibly doubt the value of this project. There may be a lot of commercial concerns, but we’ll get to that later on.

The Specs
It will be Linux-based, full-colour laptop that uses a wind-up handle as a power source. Run at 500MHz, with 1GB of memory and a built in 1 Megapixel camera it should run most applications that could be required (remember Linux doesn’t suck up a lot of the processors power). Just the laptop screen alone is expected to cost around $35, pretty good when a screen on a laptop is normally $150 alone.

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The Impact“USB ports galore” will be provided as will built-in WiFi. The only thing it will be missing is a hard drive. We’d imagine that this will be down to the additional power drain they have, and to try and maintain the necessary ruggedness. The networking will be via a wireless mesh.

The driving theory of the project is that Learning is seamless – not just something that you do at school. This has lead to the need for an adaptable design, enabling it to be used as an electronic book (with the fingers at the back controlling the cursor), a games machine, TV set and, of course, laptop.

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The ImpactAll software will be open source as in Negroponte view “open source software is the key to innovation in software and learning technology.”

It’s been reported that Steve Jobs had offered Apple OSX for nothing for use in the project, but it was turned down as it wasn’t open source.

Availability and impact
The laptops will be financed though domestic resources (ie the countries government), donors, and what was rather mysteriously described as “other arrangements.” It will be at no cost to the recipients themselves.

The current plans call for producing five to ten million units near the start of late 2006 or early 2007, launching in six countries. Not bad considering that Negroponte first publicly announced it in January 2005. The promise is to bring the price down at each technical advance.

Negroponte spoke about “the same laptop being commercially available, at say $200” for small businesses. They hope to announce the construction partners soon.

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The ImpactThe impact of this project could be huge on many fronts – if it comes into being – and we’ve no reason to imagine that it won’t. Giving any and every child access to a computer, and teaching them to use it and inspiring them will be the start of a revolution bring free communication and equal learning to all citizens.

We don’t think that the impact will stop there. If the world is aware that there are laptops, perfectly able to carry out most daily required computing functions, that only cost $100, why would anyone want to pay for other ‘full price’ machines? The impact on the supply of hardware in the part of the world that already has computers will be huge.

All power to this project. Let’s help technology change the world for the better.

MIT Media Lab One Laptop Per Child
Watch the Launch video(Real video)

HomePlug AV Now Official

HomePlug AV Now OfficialThe long-anticipated launch of HomePlug AV specification has finally reached its public release on Thursday last week.

HomePlug, or the HomePlug Powerline Alliance to give it its full grand title, is a trade and standards body representing over 50 companies that promote the use of the internal power wiring of a house as a means of providing cheap and quick networking.

The theory behind HomePlug is that you simply buy HomePlug compliant equipment, plug it in to a main socket in your house and you have a home network. A boon you would imagine where the property is a few years old and wasn’t wired for networks when built.

In practice there have been some problems with it, the most glaring being that if a vacuum cleaner is plugged into the house’s mains and used, its interference reduces the data flow to a trickle. At this time, we are not aware if this has been addresses in the AV standard.

HomePlug AV Now OfficialThe body started in Q1 2000 and knocked out its first specification, HomePlug 1.0 in spring 2001. 1.0 was intended for relatively low bandwidth applications, as it ran at 14 Mbps.

In October 2002, they started discussing the idea of HomePlug AV, a much higher bandwidth version that would enable the passing of digitised video around the house – not only Standard Def (SD) TV, but High Def (HD) too.

Needing to run video, never mind HD video, required lots more bandwidth, so the theoretical speed to HomePlug AV is 200Mbps, with the 100Mbps (again theoretical) being available for use. The AV release also has good things like Quality of Service (QoS), useful when delivery video and voice around the network, as well as strong security, 128-bit AES vs 56-bit DES of version 1.0.

HomePlug AV Now OfficialThey intend the chips and products which are HomePlug Av compliant to be hitting the market in 3-6 months. We find this pretty surprising given how long the idea has been in gestation, and how many of these standards bodies have pretty open secrets as to which spec they’re going to be running with, well in advance its the public release.

HomePlug Powerline Alliance

People Prefer Real Live Customer Service

People Prefer Real Live Customer ServiceIt’s hardly revelatory stuff, but a study by J.D. Power and Associates has revealed that customer service issues dealt with by living, breathing human beings create significantly higher customer care ratings than those with computer-generated interaction.

The 2005 Wireless Customer Care Performance Study, now in its third year, examines customer experiences in three point-of-contact methods: on the blower with a service representative and/or automated response system (ARS); walk-in at a retail store; and online Internet connection.

The men in the white lab coats examined processing issues such as problem resolution efficiency and the time customers were left listening to cheesy on-hold music and drew up a customer satisfaction index.

Customers dealing with service representatives over the phone registered an average index score of 109, well above the industry average score of 100.

At the retail store, things weren’t quite so positive, but still returned an above-average score of 102.

However, when it came to customers contacting their carrier with a problem and being left to deal with a gibbering box of wires in an ARS system, the index score plummeted down to 85.

Trying to get an answer online proved to be even more frustrating, with the index score plunging down to just 75.

The study reveals that customers didn’t like the inflexibility of automated systems, noting that a service representative-either over the phone or in person-can answer customer questions and clarify answers given.

Not surprisingly, this compares favourably to spending an eternity on the phone being told to endlessly bash different numbers on a keypad.

People Prefer Real Live Customer Service“As more companies encourage customers to contact Internet and computer-based customer service programs to save operating costs, they run the risk of increasing churn [techie word for a customer switching carriers] as the number of contacts needed to resolve a customer complaint or issue rises,” said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates.

“Since future churn levels are four times as high among those who rate their wireless carrier below average in customer care, the challenge for wireless providers is to offer an easy and efficient customer care transaction experience.”

Contrary to my personal experience, T-Mobile US ranked highest among the six big-boy wireless service providers in “creating a positive experience among customers who contact their providers for service or assistance.”

Victorious for the second consecutive year, T-Mobile notched up an index score of 108, and was seen as performing particularly well across all factors, especially hold-time duration and problem resolution efficiency.

Additionally, T-Mobile customers’ average hold times before waiting to speak with a service representative were an impressive 34 percent less than the industry average (2.27 minutes versus 3.44 minutes).

Verizon Wireless, Nextel and ALLTEL were also noted as performing at or above the industry average.

The study also found that more 54% of wireless users have contacted the customer service department for assistance within the past year – up slightly from last year’s 52%.

Most customers prefer to contact their carriers via the telephone (71%), with 26% using email and only 3% using e-mail/Internet contacts.

The 2005 Wireless Customer Care Performance Study was based on responses from more than 8,600 wireless users who had contacted customer care over the past year.

JD Power

Mobile Web Initiative Launched By The W3C

Mobile Web Initiative Launched By The W3CIf you’ve ever accessed the Web through a mobile phone or PDA, you may be familiar with the annoyance of finding some sites inaccessible, hard to read or just a right royal pain in the Bluetooth.

Hopefully, such experiences will soon become a distant nightmare thanks to the good folks at W3C, who have just launched their Mobile Web Initiative (MWI), designed to make browsing the Web from mobile devices a much happier experience.

The problem has traditionally been that content providers have difficulties building Web sites that work well on all types and configurations of mobile phones, so two working groups have been formed by the W3C to push the adoption of its standards for browsing on mobile devices

Mobile Web Initiative Launched By The W3C“Mobile access to the Web has been a second-class experience for far too long,” Web founding father and W3C director Tim Berners-Lee said in a statement. “MWI recognizes the mobile device as a first-class participant, and will produce materials to help developers make the mobile Web experience worthwhile.”

The MWI, first proposed late last year, is composed of two working groups: The Best Practices Working Group – who will publish guidelines and best practices for Web content authors – and The Device Description Working Group, tasked with publishing a database with descriptions that content authors can use for tailoring their pages to various devices.

It’s not the first time that the W3C has focused on the actual application of its recommendations rather than their design, with their 1997 Web Accessibility Initiative focusing on education, advocacy and technical development to make the Web more accessible to people with disabilities.

Mobile Web Initiative Launched By The W3C“Web access today is so fundamental, that it shouldn’t be hampered by wires,” table-thumped Philipp Hoschka, W3C’s deputy director for Europe.

“Through this initiative, we’re committed to improving the state of the art in mobile Web content production and mobile access,” he added.


FireFox Browser Gains Popularity

FireFox Browser Gains PopularityThe open source Web browser FireFox, has experienced a humongous surge in popularity over the last year according to a report by Nielsen//NetRatings.

In March last year, the Internet research firm reported that had a unique audience of 1.1 million home and work Internet users in the US – and that number has now soared 284% to 4.1 million unique users last month.

Similarly, the Firefox home page has been given a right royal battering, with figures from Nielsen/NetRatings recording a unique audience of 2.7 million, up 237% from the 795,000 it drew in June 2004.

(It seems that someone must be telling porky pies here, because the SpreadFirefox community marketing site has claimed that Firefox has been downloaded approximately 44.7 million times thus far.)

“The search for an alternative browser has grown in recent years, as the Internet’s early adopters have begun to think of the browser as something other than a commodity,” says Ken Cassar, director of strategic analytics for Nielsen/NetRatings.

FireFox Browser Gains Popularity“FireFox gives Web surfers a simple tool that blocks unsolicited windows, is less susceptible to virus attacks and offers a unique means of navigating multiple sites within a single browser”, Cassar added.

For reasons best known to themselves, Nielsen/NetRatings also broke down the audience by sex and – not surprisingly – discovered that gadget-tastic, tech-loving blokes accounted for 71% – or nearly 1.9 million site visitors – compared to the lay-deees who comprised just 29% of traffic.

FireFox was created by a group of former Netscape programmers under the banner of the Mozilla Foundation, and its extra security features – such as the ability to block all pop-up ads and protect against spyware – has led to a steady exodus from Microsoft’s all-conquering Internet Explorer browser.

The browser is also supported by an enthusiastic coding community who offer a raft of free add ons, browser themes and extensions.

FireFox Browser Gains PopularityAlthough Microsoft is expected to adopt many of FireFox’s features in its new Internet Explorer version 7.0 (expected this summer), the browser’s exponential growth may force lazy coders to ensure that their sites are also compatible with the upstart browser.

Moreover, FireFox’s growth may have a significant impact on online marketing, with its cookie blocking measures wreaking havoc with companies tracking the results of third party ad campaigns.

What a shame!

Firefox (