03/04/2014

Microsoft gives Windows Phone away

Microsoft, who aren't known for giving away anything for free, have decided to drop licensing fees for Windows Phone 8 (for devices with displaces less than 9 inches). Though it only has about 3% of the phone market, that's still quite a big hit to cope with as current fees are around $5 - $15 per phone, though that's estimated to be less than $1bn per year.

Of course Microsoft do get a nice revenue stream from Android licensees as they still have to pay royalties to Microsoft for their mobile patents.

This might just tip the balance and get more handset manufacturers to switch to Windows Phone and though Microsoft won't get direct revenue for the OS, they will get revenue from the add-on services such as Office 365 which users are encouraged to sign-up to.

Ada Lovelace the future of schools

Ben Southworth has launched the website for the Ada Lovelace Academy which wants to train the next generation of entrepreneurs in Hackney, giving them the skills to succeed in the new digital age.

The Academy is looking for a home and will teach children aged 16 - 19, hopefully opening in 2015.

The skills on offer will be: -

  • Design & Digital Comms
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Business Skills
  • Presentation Skills
  • Latest Technologies
  • A sense of community
Ben has already been involved with education designing courses for both General Assembly and Decoded. He spent a year with Government being the Deputy CEO of TCIO (or as it known now as TechCityUK) and now is on several boards.

This is a great initiative and anyone wanting to help should contact Ben. It's also possible to donate on the site itself.

02/04/2014

Ofcom statement on utilising 870 to 876 MHz and 915 to 921 MHz for SRDs

Ofcom, the Super regulator, has made a statement allowing the use of short range devices to use the spectrum in 870 to 876 MHz and 915 to 921 MHz.

The spectrum will be made available in a license exempt manner and Ofcom expect to publish the technical requirements in April 2014, though there may be changes to allow higher power and duty cycles (suitable for use as network relay point for Internet of Things devices) which will be published later in the year which should allow implementation in Q4 2014.

The main objection seems to come fem the railway industry as these bands may interfere with proposed railway GSM systems (E-GSM-R) though they are not in use at this time. The UK met office also uses potentially conflicting frequencies for wind profiling radars. Ofcom will monitor the situation.

The full statement is on-line as a PDF

01/04/2014

Ofcom proposing upping power on 1800MHz bands

Ofcom, the Super regulator, who look after radio spectrum is proposing to allow increasing the transmit power on the 1800MHz PCN band. Ofcom varied the original licenses so the band could be used for UMTS, LTE and WiMAX services. The new variation would allow a 3dB to 65 dBm per carrier for 3G and 3dB to 65dBm on the 5MHz channels for LTE and WiMAX.

EE Limited (“EE”), Hutchison 3G UK Limited (“H3G”), Telefonica UK Limited (“Telefonica”) and Vodafone Limited (“Vodafone”) have all requested that their 1800 MHz licences be amended in this way.

Ofcom's preliminary verdict is to allow these variations, however the results of the consultation will be taken into consideration.

Any stakeholders may respond to the consultation on-line.

06/03/2014

Apple announces Carplay, but what's underneath the hood?

Apple wants to own the entertainment space, it first created the iPod with its companion iTunes which soon completely disrupted the music industry. With the advent of iPods and iPhones which could play video, Apple then went into the film distribution and rental business too.

Now it's the car industry that is getting the Apple makeover with a play (Carplay to be exact) to integrate your iPhone into your car experience which when you plug your iPhone in, will now support Apple services such as Maps (maybe you'll get to where you want, though Apple is improving Maps all the time), iTunes, messaging and other services. Everything can be voice controlled through Siri or the car's own voice recognition system.

Though Apple is meant to be announcing embedded iOS 7 for exactly these types of applications, it seems that Carplay actually uses Blackberry's QNX (Blackberry purchased QNX a while back and it's now the basis of BB10). QNX is a "micro" kernel realtime operating system and has been around for a long time and powers many ATMs and devices such as that. QNX also pushes their OS to auto manufacture to power their "infotainment" systems (formally known as ICE or In Car Entertainment) and it's exactly this use that powers Carplay.

The first cars to support Carplay will be Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, followed by BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover.

If Carplay gets widely deployed, it could be Blackberry's saving grace, though maybe Apple will just buy them.

13/02/2014

Ofcom makes Earth Stations on mobile platforms license exempt'ish

Ofcom, the Super regulator has decided to make the use of Earth Stations on Mobile Platforms (ESOMP) license except, but in conjunction with existing mobile licenses such as ship or aircraft radio licenses.

This should allow ships and aircraft to offer mobile broadband services with downlink speeds of around 50Mb/s from a single satellite, which would equate to about 10Mb/s to each passenger (multiple satellites can be used).

Ofcom is making available 4,128 MHz worth of spectrum in the following bands: 27.5 – 27.8185 GHz (transmit); 28.4545 – 28.8265 GHz (transmit); 29.4625 – 30 GHz (transmit); and 17.3 – 20.2 GHz (receive) which is a fair chunk of spectrum.

Ship's use should come into force this month and aviation, in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), by summer 2014.

The full statement is here.

Ofcom proposes to allow 3G and 4G on Aircraft

Ofcom, the Super regulator is proposing to allow the use of UMTS 2100 and LTE 1800 license free in aircraft. The use of 2G on the 1800MHz bands has been allowed since 2008. This is in-line with European spectrum frameworks.

This extends the harmonisation of mobile communications service on Aircraft (MCA) services to cover 3G technologies in 1920 -1980 MHz and 2110 - 2170 MHz (the "2100 MHz" frequency band) and 4G in 1710-1785 MHz and 1805 - 1880 MHz (the "1800 MHz" frequency band).

Though MCA services are not mandatory, more and more airlines are installing MCA services and they will be responsible for the installation and operation of such services and to ensure they don't interfere with ground based systems.

The consultation is available on-line and closes on 12 March 2014 and Ofcom is proposing to bring the regulations into force by May 2014.

HTC predicts the future of football

HTC the company that produces innovative mobile phones and Futurizon have produced "The Future of Football" report.

They have made some predictions (that may or not become actual reality).

Ones that are more realistic are: -

  • By 2020 footballs will have impact sensors and accelerometers embedded in the ball, as well as in the kit that players wear, which will allow precise measurements on how players are playing and what the ball is doing.
  • By 2014 players could have 'active skin' which could entail electronics printed on to the skin (or built into the materials of the clothing players wear) which can measure such things as blood chemistry and even link to their nervous system which will be linked to external monitoring system.

Some of the more "interesting" predictions are: -

  • By 2050 fans will be able to receive full sensory information so they will 'feel' like it's like to actually be playing on the pitch.
  • By 2060 Android (as in robotic humans, not the Google OS) players remotely controlled by fans.
They have also produced an infographic
about football.

By 2018 fans will be able to hold a small flexible card display displaying players and info about them as well as links to social networks etc.

Then by 2045, phones will have 3D holographic type displays which can display the action in realtime.

And (this is more realistic, though maybe not in insect form) there will be tiny drones giving access to views that aren't possible now.

Isn't the future going to be fun.

16/01/2014

Nominet "knee jerk" reaction to Lord Macdonald QC

Nominet are the domain registry for .uk (i.e. all domains ending in the UK suffix), which is a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) - as an aside it should really be .gb but companies such as Demon Internet broke that it in the early 90's.

Nominet have generally been very sensible in the past when it comes to domain registration policy and other matters relating to the UK domain space.

Now Lord Macdonald QC has published (PDF) a "Review of .uk Registration Policy" and made some recommendations which Nominet have now adopted.

The summary of the report is this: -

  • Nominet should remain an open registry. Amongst other reasons set out in the body of this Review, this is because the market in domain names requires a speedy and efficient registration process and because the screening technology currently available is blunt and incapable of judging context. In circumstances where Nominet registers between 150,000-200,000 new domain names every month, this inevitably means that any pre-registration scrutiny of applications will throw up unmanageable numbers of false positives, slowing down registrations to no purpose and to a point that is likely to become commercially unviable.
  • Nominet should consider instituting a system of post-registration screening, to be conducted within 48 hours of registration, for domain names that appear to signal sex crime content, or to amount in themselves to sex crimes. Where examples in this category are discovered, they should be reported to the police and suspended or de-registered. This process, in so far as it is designed to detect grave criminality, is plainly consistent with an open registration policy.
  • Nominet should restrict post registration scrutiny to domain names in the serious sex crime category. This is because the relevant screening terms for sex crime are highly specific and have a stronger chance of identifying true positives. Post-registration screening for other forms of criminality will inevitably rely on very general terms that are bound to throw up unmanageable numbers of false positives.
  • Nominet, which is a private company, should have no role in policing questions of taste or offensiveness on the Internet. It is not set up, trained or by culture competent to act as Internet censor, in contrast to identifying possible examples of criminality for onward reporting to the police. Furthermore, there are no objective, generally accepted standards of taste that could guide Nominet in undertaking such a role. This means that any decision- making on its part would risk uncertainty and inconsistency, which are highly undesirable ingredients where the restriction of free expression rights is concerned. Nominet would not have public confidence as censor, and it should not be expected to assume such a role in circumstances where government and police are content not to act.
  • Where domain names that are alleged to signal criminal content, or to amount to crimes in themselves, or to be attached to criminal content, are brought to Nominet’s attention, Nominet should, if it agrees that they might fall into any of those categories, refer these cases to the police for further action. In consultation with the police, this could include suspension or de-registration. It is only in these circumstances that Nominet, which is not a content provider, should involve itself in the examination of website content for any regulatory purpose.
  • Nominet should amend its terms and conditions to make it clear that any registration of a domain name that signals criminal content, or amounts in itself to a crime, will constitute a breach of Nominet’s terms of business, and is liable to be reported to the police and suspended or de-registered.

This all sounds very reasonable at face value, however this can lead to lots of ambiguities ... as Adrian Kennard points out in his well written blog piece ... so someone registering therapist.co.uk can fall foul of these recommendations as it may be interpreted as TheRapist.co.uk which is a sex crime.

A registrant could quite happily register murderwhoever.co.uk as this is NOT a sex crime.

It's also quite easy to circumvent as Nominet will only check the top level domain, so (again thanks to Mr Kennard) children.co.uk can be registered with no problem, and then the registrant can just use a sub-domain like f*ck.children.co.uk which Nominet have NO control over.

The law is an ass and this is a good example where it can rapidly lead to a horrible mess.

19/12/2013

USC develops restoration software

The University of Southern California (USC) hosts the Shoah Foundation and it's video testimonial archive (set-up by Steven Spielberg).

The archive has video testimonials of 52,000 survivors (including my father's testimonial which was so long it was in two parts which can be seen here and here), unfortunately around 5% of these had degraded audio and/or video due to errors in the recording equipment in use at the time (Betamax SP video cameras which is 20 year old technology).

Ryan Fenton-Strauss, video archive and post-production manager at ITS was takes with the restoration project. He worked out that the videos could be broken down into sequences of individual frames and used Google's Picasso which could do facial recognition and then duplicate previous good frames into where a frame was corrupt.

The system now uses Nation Instruments Vision Builder to automate the process which now requires almost no manual intervention and Ryan hopes to go into production with this system early next year.