Archive for category Technology
Software patents have become an unnecessary obstruction to innovation. Company that used to oppose software patent are spending billions to acquire them (including Google). Small time developers (which could include open source and Smart-phones/Tablets Apps developer) are now being targeted. Software patent produces opposite effect of what patents are designed to do – i.e. promote innovation.It should therefore be abolished as soon as possible.
This Guardian article describe it well.
Patents are now a multibillion-dollar industry in which companies find it more attractive to make money suing each other for infringement than actually making things…..
Patents were supposed to protect innovation. Now they risk throttling it. ….software patents have provided no net benefit to the software industry, let alone to society as a whole…..
Tragically, because so many corporations which formerly opposed software patents have now joined the system, an effective solution will be harder to find. Once again consumers are pitted against the corporations. Where are the regulators when they are needed?
In a demonstration of the ridiculousness of our current patent law, Apple is using patent to stifle competition and innovation. In Apple’s claim against one of Android tablet maker Motorola, it does not even have anything to do with hardware or software but only with the aesthetic effect. Apple managed to get injunction against Samsung’s launch in Europe. Tablet is not an invention of Apple. In Apple’s ideal world, all innovation and the burgeoning Android open source and free software innovation should cease so that they can continue to charge more for their iPad than the manufacturer of Android. That’s why the Pirate Party of Canada had proposed abolition of software patent and Electronic Frontier Foundation have been working hard to fight “bogus software patent”. Software developer and industry are being handcuffed by Patent trolls using our antiquated patent laws as their weapons. Microsoft and Oracle is also going after Android using the patent law. It is time we reform our patent law to encourage innovation, not protect anti-competitive business practices. Motorola have also went after Apple. Not sure if it’s a pre-emptive attack on expected Apple’s Patent lawsuit but Motorola have equally dubious claim on such things as antenna design, proximity sensing, and software management. A lot of these stuff are inevitable that it will end up being the same. Like how do you cross the ocean? You build a boat. Can the first one who set sail claim patent and prevent everyone else from crossing the ocean? The obsolete patent law is just slowing down innovation and getting it mired in business malpractices.
In other news, Riley Hassell, a mobile security expert claimed to have identified a security flaw in Google’s Android system. I don’t totally agree with one expert argument that Riley should have kept quiet since there is no fix yet. Microsoft on a lot of cases have been forced to act only after public disclosure by independent security expert. Have their been no public disclosure, only the rogue security expert would know and take advantage of it with people being unaware of it. That way they have a Zero day exploit they can use for longer time. Zero day is a term used to described a security flaw such as viruses or bugs that is so new nobody have a fix for it yet. Without public disclosure, Microsoft and Google might continue to be unaware, or content to fix it at a slower pace. And there are examples of that in the past. In this case, Google still deny a flaw exist. But now that everyone can verify the flaw, if the claim is true, then Google will be pressured to act sooner to fix it. If a fix can’t be done in short period of time, the public still needs to know and decide based on their comfort level whether to use the offending app or not. And Google can help its user by issuing an advisory.
A judge have ruled that Twitter must give up some of their user’s information to the U.S. government as part of their Wikileaks probe. This pertains to the secret court order mentioned in my previous blog – Patriot Act Being Used to Crackdown on Wikileak’s Supporters. The lawyers of some of these users are vowing to appeal.
Steven Aftergood, who works on government secrecy policy for the Federation of American Scientists, said the government’s aggressive pursuit of the Twitter accounts reflects one of two possibilities.
“Either the government is being extremely diligent in crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’. Or the other possibility is that they have no case whatsoever and they’re tallying up all conceivable leads,” he said. “The information they’re going to get from Twitter is indirect evidence at best.”
The same Virginia magistrate judge, Theresa Carroll Buchanan, was also the one who issued the original order, wherein Twitter was asked to keep the handover of user’s information secret.
Buchanan also rejected a request that would have required the government to disclose whether it sought similar records from other social networking sites like Facebook.
Update: She ruled that user have no expectation of privacy since they shared their information with Twitter. Those information being sought by the government includes:
full contact details for the accounts (phone numbers and addresses), IP addresses used to access the accounts, connection records (“records of session times and durations”) and data transfer information, such as the size of data file sent to someone else and the destination IP.
…She further ruled that the request did not violate the account holder’s First Amendment rights since the order did not seek to control their speech or their associations. Nor did it violate the Fourth Amendment because the accountholders did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over subscriber information they freely provided to Twitter. (ars technica)
BANDWIDTH CAPACITY AND SPEED STATS COMPARISONS
High speed cable broadband (on a coaxial) has about 52 Mbps bandwidth (capacity). Actual speed per household is more likely around 6 Mbps, maxing out at 10 Mbps. Below is a table comparing the different speed and download speed for various applications.
|WAN (Wide Area Network – 10Base-T)||10 Mbps|
|Wireless G (802.11g)||54 Mbps|
|LAN (Fast Ethernet – 100Base-T)||100 Mbps|
|Cable broadband||52 Mbps (Coaxial)|
|OC-3||155 Mbps (Optical fiber)|
|T4||274 Mbps (Optical fiber)|
|OC-12||600 Mbps (Optical fiber)|
|OC-24||1.244 Gbps (Internet backbone)|
|OC-48||2.488 Gbps (Internet backbone)|
|OC-192||10 Gbps (Backbone)|
|OC-256||13.271 Gbps (Backbone)|
|Applications Transfer Rate|
|Web page or E-mails||very minimal|
|Apple iTunes||128 Kbps|
|Music Streaming or Download||192 Kbps to 256 Kbps|
|Webcam video 352×288 at 15 fps||298 Kbps|
|Skype high quality video chat||400 Kbps|
|Netflix Standard Video||1,500 Kbps|
|Netflix HD video||3,800 Kbps|
|World’s Ave. Download Speed|
|South Korea (World’s Top)||37.62 Mbps|
|Singapore, Singapore (30th World City Rank)||18.47 Mbps|
|North America||8.51 Mbps|
|Canada (38th Country’s ranking)||9.79 Mbps|
Source: Net Index as of March 3/11
Bandwidth Capacity and Reasonable Caps
Canada’s internet backbone consist of at least multiple OC-192 with ever increasing number of channels on each. A heavy users that could affect the bandwidth will be one who download at maximum transfer rate of 10 Mbps for 24 hours a day. That’s 100 GB per day. Average user would only use the internet for about 4 to 5 hours a day (less if they watch cable or normal TV also). And is not likely to be anywhere near the 6 Mbps to 10 Mbps of sustained transfer rate. Web browsing and e-mail usage have negligible effect on bandwidth usage. Netflix at HD is at the higher end of usage for average user, who would only watch 3 or 4 hours at that transfer rate in a day. That is less than half of the per household bandwidth capacity. If heavy users hogging the bandwidth is the real concern, then a minimum of 250 GB monthly cap would be a good starting point for low end users. A real bandwidth hog (which make up only a very small percentage of users) will quickly reach that cap in couple of days. Otherwise, users who only reaches 250GB in a month poses no real threat to the bandwidth capacity.
From a casual survey of people’s surfing habit, there is indication that there were more people downloading larger movie files before Netflix was introduced. And back then you don’t hear the ISP’s crying about reaching bandwidth capacity. Now that Canada have multiple of the faster OC-192 backbone, and people are turning to the lower bandwidth Netflix videos, there is suddenly an outcry about reaching capacity and the need to crackdown on “bandwidth hog”.
Study and Data Contradicts CRTC’s Assertion
The fiber optic backbone is continuously being developed to allow even higher capacity. As with everything to do with computers and technology, the prices also continue to come down. Meanwhile, the fiber transmission capacity have grown by a factor of 200 in the last decade, far outpacing the rise in internet demand by a wide margin. Graph below shows increasing bandwidth along with increasing # of channels.
In fact, data transmission capacity is growing faster than data storage and computational power, leading some to predict that the transmission limitation, in the optical data delivery backbone system, will become obsolete.
Furthermore, a study conducted by University of Minnesota at the end of 2009 have shown that internet growth in the U.S. have slowed from the normal 50-60% down to 40-50%. A study by North American Network Operating Group (NANOG) agree with MINTS and CISCO’s study, which shows a manageable growth of 50% and dispelling the false notion of “Exaflood” bogging down the network.
South Korea, Japan, Singapore and China are on track to implementing Fiber-to-home network that would significantly boost the bandwidth in each household, providing 100 Mbps at an affordable price. Meanwhile, CRTC’s planned UBB would create an artificial limit on bandwidth capacity. This would eliminate the need for major ISP to spend money to improve the network. Canadians will be left behind with 20th century network technology while other country advances.
CRTC needs to be reformed and staffed with experts of the new information technology. It needs to shift away from a board totally dominated by ex-executives of the telecommunication firm they are supposed to be regulating.
Bell is promoting their high speed HSPA network as 4G. 4G is 4th generation cellular wireless standard with peak download speed of 1 Gbit/sec (stationary) to 100 Mbits/sec (on cars or train). Bell and other companies current speed is HSPA with speed of up to 7.2 Mbits/sec only. HSPA+ maximum speed is 21 Mbits/sec and is a 3.5G NOT 4G. Bell points to the U.N. body, ITU (International Telecommunications Union), redefining of faster 3G as 4G as a license for them to now market the same HSPA network as 4G. ITU’s re-definition of 3G as 4G is creating confusion and could lead to people being mislead into thinking they now have the next generation high speed wireless network when they do not.
ABI Research analyst Philip Solis points out that the true next generation will come with ODFMA and not HSPA. For the average consumer who is not too concern nor need such a speed, they probably won’t mind the relabeling. But it is causing unnecessary confusion in the technology standardization sector.
Another case of Bell overcharging on data usage was reported by CBC today. A couple in BC was charged thousands of dollars for data usage. It took them months of fighting Bell and hiring a lawyer before their bill was reversed. And then they were charged a thousand dollar again. Bell claimed that someone might be accessing their internet by connecting to their phone (with their phone acting as a hotspot). They said it is impossible because their phone was off when the supposed data usage occurred. Bell is still investigating the cause of the error.
This is the second reported incident in a month. The first one involved several people who have noticed that they were being charged exorbitant data usage fees when they have not used their internet that much.
UBB (Usage Based Billing) is highly controversial and the excuses being used by the telecom companies and CRTC is that there is a strain on the internet backbone or network. The truth is there is no evidence of internet backbones reaching its capacity. Speed slowdown are usually due to speed throttling by the major ISP. The pro-major carrier policy has lead to mass outraged among Canadians. It has forced the Harper government, who could be facing an election this spring, to take action and stop the CRTC’s lopsided UBB policy. How much effect this would have remains to be seen since UBB were already in place at Bell and Rogers even before the CRTC’s ruling. It might temporarily help prevent the smaller ISP from being metered on the wholesale price being paid to the major carrier.
This might be a temporary relief only and the issue might come back after the election since CRTC is still not backing down and might end up having its way in the end. A signature campaign ran by Open Media have solicited more than 400,000 signatures so far. The petition can be found here: http://www.stopthemeter.ca
Previous blogs related to UBB:
In another positive development for the pro-democracy group, thousands of workers across the country have gone on strike. They include newspaper workers and railway workers.Telecom workers are also said to be blocking some roads.
Vice President Soleiman, who is increasingly becoming the voice of the government and appears to be calling the shots, warned protesters that he would use “police tools” or there would be a coup if they don’t give up. Soleiman have previously talked about the protesters in condescending tone treating the youth protesters like kids saying he would ask their parents to take them home. In threatening them with police force and coup, he said he foresaw:
“the dark bats of the night emerging to terrorize the people” if the situation is not resolved.
Scattered military deployment have been reported. Another million man march is being called for Friday. It is being called “Friday of Martyrs”, touted as a massive funeral to honor those who have died.
In Kharga, al-Wadi al-Gadid province South of Cairo, protesters were voicing objection to the re-instatement of an officer they said is “authoritative”. Riot broke out and security services reportedly opened fire killing at least 3 and injuring about 100, lots of them with severe injuries.
In an embarrassing development for U.S. President Obama, report have came out about testy exchange of phone conversation with Saudi Arabia where Obama was told that he must support Mubarak and allow him to stay in power to oversee the transition. Saudi went on to say that if U.S. withdraw their aid then Saudi will bankroll Egypt. This conversation was held on January 29. Obama have repeatedly voiced support for an “orderly transition” and have not specifically called for Mubarak to step down.
Al Jazeera’s summary of the days events:
Social Media Hype?
The role of the social media have been discussed by various media a lot. Some have coined the term “Facebook revolution”. I think that is like calling some past revolution a TV revolution or radio revolution. Maybe we should not be overhyping and sensationalizing it too much. Instead focus on what the revolution is all about. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great tool, one that would probably also be used for propaganda eventually (if it is not already being used). Instead of focusing on specific social media brand it is more important to focus on the infrastructure or internet backbone and make sure free flow of information continue and any new restrictive censorship law are quashed.