17/12/2010

Ofcom wants numbers to be easier to use

Ofcom the Super Regulator is holding a consultation on non-geiographic numbers and making them easier to understand and fixing the several issues that exist i.e. 0800 numbers not being free from mobiles (companies should also publish 03 numbers which are always local and can be included in call bundles).

The full ranges in question are 03, 05, 070/076, 080, 0845, 0870, 083/4, 0871, 09, 116 and 118.

Ofcom wants charges made clearer and so premium rate numbers would have to state something like "this call will cost £1.50 per minute plus your network operator's charges".

More information is available from the Ofcom site. The consultation closes on 10th March 2011 and stakeholders may respond on-line.

13/12/2010

Ofcom reservers 2.6GHz for wireless cameras during Olympics

Ofcom the Super Regulator has published a statement on the 2.6GHz (2600MHz) band which is being reserved for use by wireless cameras during the London Olympic Games.

The 2.6GHz band has been contentious as Ofcom initially wanted to auction it in 2007 but were blocked by the mobile operators. The auction has now slipped until late 2012 at the earliest, especially now since the Olympics are taking place from 27 July until 9 September 2012.

There has been some worry about interference to Civil Aviation Authority radars that operate in 2.7GHz from wireless mobile camera, but Ofcom deemed that they only transmit at low power so interference issues are minimal.

07/12/2010

Canon's EF lenses can suit everybody

Canon have a wide range of lenses available that can be used to suit every occasion and situation. All the EF lenses will fit every model of Canon EOS cameras and Canon have produced a video to show what's available.


Canon probably produce the widest range of lenses from multipurpose cost-effective ones through extremely expensive dedicated lenses that professional photographers use.

25/11/2010

Ofcom to start charging for number allocation

Ofcom, the super regulator is holding a consultation on the future of number in the UK. There's nothing too exciting about that, except that in certain areas numbers are running out and (there's 680 regional codes in the UK and 58 of those have less than 100 blocks available - numbers are allocated in blocks of 1,000).

Though many other countries have charged for number allocation, the UK has remained the exception. Now Ofcom intends to pilot charging in these number restricted areas and will charge 10p per number per year. That's above the European average of 7p pa (pricing varies from 0.06p to 27p).

Ofcom has seen a large rise in the allocation of number blocks with the likes of VoIP providers and other new entrants who can request numbers directly from Ofcom in-line with the Communications Act which allows anyone to become a Communications Provider.

Unfortunately Ofcom has to allocate 1,000 number blocks as the UK has not migrated to NGN's (next generation networks) as fast as Ofcom had hoped and old equipment can only take these large blocks (Ofcom used to allocate 10,000 number blocks, so there's some improvement).

If everyone had adopted ENUM then numbers could be allocated individually, but that's a long way off and unlikely to ever be adopted by everyone.

Though currently this is only a consultation, it's likely to be implemented and then there's no reason they wont expand this to all areas and even implement retrospective charges for existing number blocks, which could be expensive for providers holding large blocks of numbers.

The consultation is available from here, it ends on 18 February 2011 and it's possible to respond on-line.

19/11/2010

Ofcom wants mobile phone license exempt on boats

Ofcom is holding a consultation to make mobile terminals (phone) license exempt when used on boats.

Generally the boat (like a cruise liner) will have one or more pico cells on-board and then connect back to a base station. Ofcom will license the mobile base-stations and then the phone licenses are part of that. This is in-line with harmonise European legislation on marine communication service on board vessels.

The consultation is available on Ofcom's site and runs from 19/11/10 to 22/12/10.

Stakeholders can respond on-line.

18/11/2010

HTC Wildfire fired into the wild

HTC have released their new Wildfire phone running Android 2.1 (Eclair) and HTC Sense with a suite of social networking tools built in (Facebook, Twitter and Flickr) and many more on Android Marketplace.

The CPU isn't brilliant (only 528MHz) and the display is only QVGA (240 x 320) and os 3.2", but it does have a 5MP auto-focus camera with flash, 512MB ROM and 384MB RAM. It supports 3G, EDGE, GPRS and WiFi (b/g), Bluetooth 2.1 and an FM radio.

There's a multitude of sensors, including G-Sensor, digital compass, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor.

Here's a video of what it can do



More info can be found at the HTC site.

Qualcomm Snapdragons pack more byte for buck

Yesterday Qualcomm announced their new Snapdragon MSM8960™ chipset. Though based on the original (ARM) Snapdragon system, the new chip is dual core with the new micro-architecture that delivers 5 times the performance while using 75% less power.

The processor has a built-in mult-modem support all 3G modes as well as LTE, new graphics that operate at 4 times the speed and built-in support for WLAN, GPS, Bluetooth and FM.

The chip is based on a 28nm process and will be available in early 2011.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon is already used in many high-end smart-phones and tablets and the new chip should really give them a lead in the high end market against rivals such as Samsung and even Apple.

17/11/2010

Ofcom consultation on "whitespace" use and Gelocation

There's lots of spectrum around, but it's a crowded space and so much of it is licensed by Ofcom i.e. in order to utilise equipment that transmits or receives data in that spectrum a "use" license is required. This is why a TV license is required. Mobile phones also require a license, but that's paid as part of the license that the mobile network operators have (and have paid for).

Various parts of the spectrum have been made license exempt such as 2.4GHz which is used by WiFi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth and other systems like Zigbee. Licenses exempt status means that a user doesn't need to get a specific license if they use the equipment in accordance with the rules that Ofcom have published (i.e. Ofcom publish a "blanket" license and as long as the equipment in use doesn't get used outside the licensing framework, then the use doesn't need to get a license themselves). Any WiFi or Bluetooth systems will comply with Ofcom's licensing regime.

In the past Ofcom has bowed to public pressure and made certain equipment license exempt such as low power FM transmitters than can connect to MP3 and other music devices and transmit a short range to a radio (usually in a car). As they're low power, they wont interfere with the commercial radio stations (at least to other users) who have paid a lot of money for the licenses to transmit in the commercial radio bands.

Another big chunk of spectrum is in the TV bands and some of this is reserved so that interference between bands doesn't happen. The TV bands have much better propagation characteristics than say 2.4GHz which is used by WiFi and Ofcom are looking at ways of using the "dead" space for short-range low power devices which could be used say to transmit video signals between systems in the home. The whitespace could also be used for higher power rural broadband access.

They would work by looking at the bands and finding these dead areas known as whitespace and then those frequencies would be potential candidates for local transmission. However this could rapidly lead to interference between neighbouring systems (say in a neighbours house), so Ofcom wants the systems to consult a geolocation database (hosted by Ofcom) that the system could register with and ensure the whitespace was suitable for use in that area.

There would be a "master" device that would communicate with Ofcom's database and report the power and frequencies it was using and any connected devices (slaves, that wouldn't need to connect to the database themselves). The whitespace devices will be license exempt. Though Ofcom will initially run any database required, they don't evisage running the database in the future as that is best left to commercial organisations and Ofcom would like interested parties to contact them.

Though Ofcom are consulting now (the consultation runs from 09/11/10 to 07/12/10) they don't expect whitespace devices to appear until 2014.

Interested parties can respond to the consultation on-line.

Ofcom issues new spectrum for Transportable Earth Stations

Due to the demand for extra capacity for Transportable Earth Stations (TES) i.e. mobile satellite systems, Ofcom has made available more spectrum for its use.

The following frequencies may be used for satellite uplinks

C band: 5925 - 7075 MHz

Ka band: 27.5 - 27.8185 GHz, 28.4545 - 28.8265 GHz, 29.4625 - 30 GHz

The pricing for licenses will be equivalent to those in the Ku band (13.78 - 14.5 GHz).

This follows a previous Ofcom consultation and though most responses were favourable, there were some objections from fixed earth station users, though Ofcom felt that opening up the C and Ka bands was more favourable than doing nothing with them.

The full statement may be seen on Ofcom's site

02/11/2010

Nokia releases MeeGo v1.1

Nokia has released version 1.1 of the MeeGo Operating System (OS) which contains Linux Kernel 2.6.35, X.org server 1.9.0, Web Runtime, Qt 4.7, and Qt Mobility 1.0.2. It's available in several versions optimised for the devices that they run on i.e. MeeGo for Handsets, MeeGo for Netbooks, MeeGo for In-Vehicle Entertainment.

The Netbook version is actually 2 versions, one with the completely open source Google Chromium browser and the other with Google's Chrome browser which requires the suer to agree to Google's EULA.

Though the handset version supports Nokia's N900, they say it works but it's not really for end-users yet and the the user interface (UI) isn't ready for prime-time.

The IVE release supports text-to-speech using the open source Festival speech engine and speech recognition using PocketSphynx (which is based on the open source Sphynx speech-to-text system).

Though Nokia are developing MeeGo (which is the combination of Nokia Maemo OS and Intel's Moblin OS) it may be another dead-end OS as Android is starting to dominate the smart-phone market and Google will release their ChromeOS for Netbooks (though Android is already being used on tablets).

Qt (the cross-platform toolset that Nokia acquired with Trolltech) is the key technology that Nokia want to push (it sits on top of MeeGo and Symbian as well as MacOS and Windows) and MeeGo may just be a way to ensure they have an in-house development platform that's use don live devices, but that cant be a long-term strategy (MeeGo is only officially supported on the N900 and Aava devices in terms of handsets).

MeeGo version 1.2 can be expected in 6 months i.e. April and will include a more polished UI and other new features.

28/10/2010

Ofcom proposes to allow GSM refarming

As expected, Ofcom the super regulator is proposing to allow GSM refarming such that mobile network operators can utilise their GSM/PCN frequencies for 3G (UMTS) use.

This is in-line with European legislation and Ofcom have already written a statement to the Government showing the consumer benefit and thus it is expected that Government will change the Wireless Telegraphy Act to allow the frequencies to be reused.

Ofcom's proposal is available here.

This is still a potential minefield as now Everything Everywhere (the combined entity of T-Mobile and Orange) have excess spectrum according to their licenses and there's still debate as to how much spectrum Vodafone and O2 should have in 900MHz which has much better in-building characteristics than the PCN networks at 1.8GHz (or 1800MHz) and 2.1GHz (2100MHz) of 3G. Once everything settles, it will be better for the consumer as allowing 3G use in both 900MHz and 1800MHz will allow the networks to phase out GSM and replace with 3G services allowing for greater data capacity etc.

21/10/2010

DBVu in line-up for Best Startup 2010

It's the time of year again when TechCrunch Europe host the Europas and DBVu have been nominated for a Best New Startup 2010 so please get voting.

It would be a great honour to get shortlisted.

20/10/2010

Ofcom liberalises the WTA

Ofcom the super regulator will changes to the Wireless Telegraphy Act to come into force on 1st November 2010 that will allow the following to be used in a license exempt manner: -

* Railway level-crossing radars at 24 GHz.

* Fixed Wireless Services (FWS) at 59.1 to 63.9 GHz.

* 900 and 1800 MHz Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) terminals.

The changes also liberalise the technical specifications for the following: -

* Short Range Devices (SRDs) below 30 MHz when operating underwater.

* High Density Fixed Satellite Services (HDFSS).

* SRDs covered by the Commission Decision of 30 June 2010 amending Decision 2006/771/EC on harmonisation of the radio spectrum for use by short-range devices (the SRD Decision).

Though railway enthusiasts may be happy that railway crossing radars no longer need a license, the interesting ones for the general public are that FWS at 59.1 to 63.9 GHz (60GHz) are now license exempt as are 900 and 1800 MHz UMTS (i.e. 3G) terminals.

FWS at 60GHz will allow for very high-speed short range wireless links which will be suitable for in-room transmissions e.g. video links from a set-top-box to a TV mounted on a wall without using wires. Equipment is also expected for connecting USB equipment over wireless.

The 3G terminals at 900/1800 MHz opens the way for refarming the 2G networks so that they can be used for 3G services. When Ofcom sort this out, it should increase 3G coverage and make life easier for everyone.

The full statement is available from Ofcom.

Ofcom reviews Alternative Dispute Resolution Schemes

Anyone offering a communication service is obliged to register with an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Service so that if consumers are not able to resolve a dispute with their provider, they have the option to take it further through an ADR.

Currently there are two approved ADRs who are CISAS and Otelo.

Ofcom is obliged to review how the ADRs on a regular basis, so is consulting on how they doing.

The consultation is available on Ofcom's site.

19/10/2010

Competition try to tear Canvas

Project Canvas, the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva which will deliver TV channels through a set top box (which is connected to an aerial for receiving DTV and the Internet for IPTV) and is now known as Youview has been given the go-ahead by Ofcom.

Actually Ofcom has decided not to accept complaints from Virgin Media, IP Vision and 11 other parties including BSkyB.

Ofcom's reasons are that the IP TV market is still fledgeling and it's too soon to see if Youview will make a difference in the market, Youview should benefit consumers and if they do harm the competition will the harm outweigh the benefit and the alleged harm may not occur depending on the technical specifications of the system.

Youview has gone through many iterations and current traditional pap-per-view systems like Virgin and Sky have the most to lose if a generic IP TV system can be brought into play that utilises people's broadband to deliver high quality IP TV services. Both BT and TalkTalk are part of the project and will be delivering fibre-to-the-street cabinet/premises (FTTC/FTTP) services which will deliver 40Mb/s - 100Mb/s to the home, which is enough for HDTV, thus negating the need for people to buy satellite TV or cable TV.

The fill press release is available from Ofcom

18/10/2010

Ofcom consulting on advertising an "additional services license"

Anyone want a national license to use for carrying data? Well Ofcom are advertising one. It's part of the spectrum allocated to Classic FM and it's currently used by ITIS Holdings PLC to transmit traffic information for use by in-car navigation systems. The license will expire on 31st December 2011.

There are various complexities such as the license can be no longer than 6 years 1 month as it's inextricably linked to the Classic FM license for voice which will expire in Jan 2018.

Ofcom wants to hold an auction with cash bids.

More info can be found on the consultation site.

Ofcom updates Olympic Spectrum Plan

Ofcom the super regulator has updated it's plans for spectrum use for the London Olympic Games in 2012.

The main spectrum use will be for wireless cameras and due to recent negotiations with the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) arrangements have been made for access to spectrum in the range 2700-3100 MHz and 3400-3600 MHz.

Private Mobile Radio (PMR), Talkback and Telemetry spectrum will be avilable through the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd (LOCOG) or the Emergency and Public Safety Services (E&PSS) network operated by Airwave Solutions Ltd with 430-478 MHz being conserved for national use (the Torch procession requires spectrum across the UK).

Wireless microphones and in-ear monitors will use UHF Bands IV and V (470-862 MHz, channels 21 to 69) which includes the 800MHz band freed up by the the digital television switchover which should have completed by then.

Satellite News Gathering will have additional spectrum made available for use by Transportable Earth Station (TES) satellite uplinks in the frequency bands 5.925-7.075 GHz (referred to as "C band") and 27.5-27.8185 GHz, 28.4545-28.8265 GHz and 29.4625-30 GHz (collectively referred to as "Ka band").

The 2.6GHz band (2500-2690 MHz) which Ofcom wanted to make available for wireless cameras etc. has still not been decided as there has been arguments against this use that the commercials may not stack up and the spectrum could be used for other services (nationally for wireless broadband etc). That's a big chunk of spectrum that 3G operators would like to get their hands on (it was originally reserved for 3G use).

The Ofcom statement.

12/10/2010

Total Hotspots hits Android

Total Hotspots the WiFi locating application that's been available on iPhone for a while has now been officially released for Android.

The Total Hotspots service is powered by the Rummble API and acquired by Rummble in 2009 now contains over 250,000 WiFi locations.

Total Hotspots gets the WiFi location data from multiple sources including user input, but it's all user rated, so users get a personalised rating that's relevant to them.

More information can be found on Rummble's site.

08/10/2010

FLO TV is dead, Long Live FLO Data?

As predicted Qualcomm have killed off their FLO TV service in the US which uses Qualcomm's Media FLO technology (you could buy an adapter for Android and other devices that was a radio receiver and some decode bits that allowed you to watch Media FLO channels on your phone).

What this means for the UK is still uncertain, as Qualcomm paid a considerable fee for a national license to run their Media FLO services.

Now Qualcomm are pushing to utilise the spectrum for data offload from existing mobile networks and this may be a winning strategy, though in Europe there's already spectrum coming available in 2.6GHz (a BUG chunk) as well as the old TV channels etc.

Qualcomm invested heavily in Media FLO technology and buying spectrum, which many believed was a white elephant and has been proved to be so. There's probably going to be a fire-sale of spectrum now.

07/10/2010

Stardoll Party

Last night (07/10/10) in the depths of central London (well Jalouse in Hanover Square), Stardoll held a party for with various bands and singers throughout the evening including Kym Mazelle, Robbie McDade and The Kixx.

A jolly good time was had by all and Mr Paul Clarke took some great photos.

Thanks to Joan Lockwood for the invite.

05/10/2010

Samsung drops Symbian

Following on from the announcement by SonyEricsson that it would not be producing anymore handsets based on Symbian to concentrate on Android, Samsung has also announced it's dropping Symbian and will be developing new handsets based on Android and Windows Phone 7.

This must be a blow for Nokia who are still pushing Symbian and hoping that Symbian^3, now open sourced, would be a competitor to Google's Android and Apple's iOS and to some degree Microsoft's WP7 though earlier version of Windows Mobile haven't been too successful.

Nokia have a confused approach and are utilising MeeGo (their joint Linux venture with Intel combining the best features of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's Moblin) as their smartphone operating system, though Symbian^3 also offers smartphone features (though can also be cut down as a dumb OS for cheaper phones).

Though Nokia are still dominant in the phone arena, selling 1.4m phones per day, it's a costly exercise to keep development teams for MeeGo and Symbian when no-one apart from Nokia is using them and Android is becoming the default OS for smartphones (apart from Apple's iOS which they are unlikely to license to other phone vendors).

Maybe Nokia should drop MeeGo, move to Android and admit Google have won and just develop Symbian as a 'dumb' OS for the non smartphone market.

01/10/2010

Ofcom makes a silent statement on calls

Ofcom the regulator for Communications (and other things) has published a statement on"tackling and handling silent calls".

Now companies are only allowed to make automated calls once per day, unless they are handled by real people. Ofcom has the power to fine any company that abuses this, though it can be difficult to regulate as often silent calls will not have an exposed CLI (caller line identifier) or the call may come from outside the UK.

At least they're making an effort to stop these annoying calls though.

24/09/2010

Blackberry Tablet expected soon

RIM's Blackberry Tablet or "blackpad" is due for imminent release. Surprisingly it's based on a version of QNX operating system not the Blackberry OS (RIM purchased QNX a while ago). QNX has produced embedded POSIX operating systems such as Neutrino for a while and now it's rumoured that that in the future RIM will utilise Neutrino (or another OS from QNX) as the basis for all the Blackberry products, bye bye Blackberry OS.

RIM's Blackberry OS though optimised for their handsets, is proprietary and must take a huge amount of resource to keep going. QNX on the other hand has been making real-time embedded operating systems for many years (well before RIM came on the scene), it's been ported to many CPU architectures and 'just works'. As a POSIX OS it's also relatively easy to port from other more common operating systems such as Linux.

As long as all the Blackberry functionality is maintained (i.e. Push Email, BIS/BES support) which are really just applications, they should also work on a QNX OS. This will also allow RIM to support modern processors and rapidly deploy new smartphones as the hardware becomes available.

It might just give them the edge again and RIM can put the Blackberry back into the enterprise market while still keeping the youth market by making their phones sexy too.

22/09/2010

It's that FOWA time of year again

Oct 6th sees the Carsonified put on the The Future of Web Apps or FOWA.

As with the FOWD it's taking place in London at The Brewery which is a great venue and if they pull off the same level of professionalism it will be a great conference. They even get the networking right with high speed wireless and wired connections (almost a LAN port to every chair and WiFi for the rest).

Jason Calacanis, Mike McDerment, Cal Henderson and Brad Neuberg are amongst the speakers with the complete line-up here.

The actual conference takes place on Oct 4th and 5th and workshops on the 6th.

There's a 15% discount for anyone using the code 15DISC at the check-out when buying tickets on-line.

20/09/2010

Ofcom passes-on responsibility for VOD editortial

Ofcom the Super regulator that deals with regulation of broadcasters, communications, radio spectrum etc. has today passed on all complaints handling relating to editorial content on UK based Video on demand services to it's co-regulatory partner the Association for Television on Demand ATVOD.

Ofcom designated ATVOD it's co-regulation partner back in March. This has implications for anyone doing VoD type broadcasts on the Internet (though it specifically does not include crowd sourced content) and puts them in the same regulatory bracket as traditional broadcasters - in order to level the playing field.

It does mean some Internet broadcasters will have to look carefully at what they're doing (if they're based in the UK at least) to ensure they re compliant.

17/09/2010

Ofcom changes billing rules

Ofcom are holding a consultation that closes on 18th Oct 2010 about changing the rules how Communications Providers or CPs (who earn more than £40m pa) have to have their billing systems independently checked for accuracy.

Currently CPs can use the Oftel Guidelines from 2003 or the Ofcom Guidelines from 2008, now Ofcom are mandating the Ofcom 2008 Guidelines, but with changes to the way some tolerances are measured.

Though important, it only affects the bigger CPs in the UK.

The full consultation is available here and the on-line response form is here.

16/09/2010

Project Canvas becomes Youview

The hotly debated TV service known as Project Canvas has now come out of hiding to be called Youview TV Ltd and known as Youview.

Youview has several main partners, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, BT, TalkTalk and Arquiva with innovation partners from Cisco, Humax and Technicolor.

Youview will be available through a set-top-box which connects to your TV aerial and your broadband connection offering access to standard TV services (which can be watched as they're broadcast or after). The standard services will be free, though PayTV options will also be available giving access to movies and other premium content (like shows).

The obvious company that isn't a partner is BSkyB and they tried to kill Project Canvas off initially as a major threat to their PayTV services.

Youview has also published various technical documents which should allow anyone to develop for the platform, provide content services and even build set-top-boxes. How open they'll actually be is as yet unknown as only the original players are currently content providers.

In the US Apple TV (with it's reduced price of $99 for the box) is seen as a threat to traditional broadcasters and more so with services such as here and it's possible to respond on-line.

Ofcom reduces the permitted power for UWB

Ofcom has published a consultation on reducing the permitted power in the 4.2 to 4.8 GHz band for UWB devices. The power is being reduced from -41.3 dBm/MHz EIRP to a maximum mean EIRP density of no greater than -70 dBm/MHz (unless interference mitigation techniques are used, in which case the original power limits can be maintained).

On automotive and railway vehicles the limits are being reduced from -53.3 dBm/MHz to -70 dBm/MHz (unless interference mitigation techniques are used).

This is in-line with harmonised European spectrum regulation.

The full consultation is available here.

It's possible to respond on-line and the consultation closes on 18 October 2010.

UWB (or ultra wide band) is a system whereby signals are spread across multiple parts of the spectrum, so it appears as background noise for non-UWB devices however as a lot of spectrum is used (as in a wide band) a lot of information may be transmitted allowing multi-gigabit/s data to be sent over short-distances. UWB is suitable for in-room transmission of video signals and wire replacement systems.

13/09/2010

Ofcom wants to increases spectrum for outside broadcast units

Ofcom is holding a consultation on whether to allow increased spectrum for satellite earth stations (or to be specific Transportable Earth Stations or TES).

The current usable band is 13.78 - 14.5 GHz known as the "Ku band" and Ofcom wants to make the 5.925 - 7.075 GHz band (known a "C band") and 27.5 - 27.8185 GHz, 28.4545 - 28.8265 GHz and 29.4625 - 30 GHz collectively known as the "Ka band" available. C band users will mainly be foreign broadcasters reporting on UK events.

The new allocation will approximately triple the available bandwidth available.

The consultation closes on 11 October 2010 and interested stakeholders can apply on-line here.

08/09/2010

Ofcom wants to allow 3G operators to up power levels

Ofcom the super regulator is proposing to up the in-band power lever from 62dBm to 65dBm eirp per carrier in the FDD part of the 3G spectrum (and future 2 GHz MSS/CGC licenses).

Vodafone originally requested a license variance and the other 4 MNOs supported it, Ofcom then proposed to raise the level to 68dBm eirp, but there were objections, so Ofcom are now supporting the 65dBm eirp power levels.

The statement from Ofcom may be found here.

07/09/2010

Google gets ballsey on the UK homepage

It's Sept 7th 2010 which must be special (for Google anyway) as their UK homepage now has a set of balls (or are they balloons) that swirl around as the mouse goes near them and then they settle back into the semblance of the Google logo.

Google usually modify their homepage on specific anniversaries and it could be the date Google opened their doors in Menlo Park on Sept 7th 1998, which they have celebrated previously so it would make it the 12th anniversary, but why bouncing balls which look more particle physics?

Chris Heilmann who's Yahoo's Developer Network evangelist has published the source code (reverse engineered) to how they've done it based on HTML/Javascript and CSS.

Google do publish a list of their logos but today isn't on there yet.

23/08/2010

Ofcom proposes wireless cameras to use 2.6GHz band for the London Olympics

Ofcom the super regulator is holding a consultation on utilising the 2.6GHz band for use by wireless cameras for the 2012 London Olympics. The full consultation may be seen here.

The band (actually 2500 - 2690 MHz) which offers 190MHz of prime spectrum has been the centre of various legal disputes between Ofcom and the various mobile network operators. Originally reserved for IMT-2000 use (which is the technical name for 3G) Ofcom planned to auction the band in 2007 which would have pu the UK in the lead for putting the spectrum to good use. Unfortunately due to the legal issues the spectrum auction was delayed and the band is not expected to be avilable until 2012 at the earliest. The 190MHz of specrtrum is more than all of the current 3G operators have currently and would be useful for 3G/4G data services
or wireless broadband.

Now Ofcom are proposing to reserve the whole band for use by wireless cameras for use during the London Olympic games which take place between 27th of July and 9th of September 2012.

Ofcom also completely underestimated the bandwith requirement for new services such as 3D TV which will be made available during the Olympics and as such require extra bandwith which is outside Ofcom's original spectrum allocation plans.

Though the auction of this band is expected to generate significant revenues, as well as legal challenges there are physical constraints to a national auction including military radars which are using adjacent spectrum at 2.7GHz which are being upgraded but the program will not finish by 2012.

Ofcom have tried to be a leader in spectrum auctions, with the UK going to be the first country to auction the 2.6GHz band, it now looks like the UK will be at the tail end of European countries to auction it.

Anyone wishing to respond may do so here

29/07/2010

It's all go for 2.6GHz spectrum auctions (next year)

At least the UK Government and Ofcom have made up their minds (and fought of legal battles) and announced that the 2.6GHz chunk of spectrum (all 190MHz of it) will be auctioned at the end of 2011.

At the same time they'll auction off the old 800MHz spectrum which comes from the digital dividend. It's all prime spectrum as it has extremely good propagation characteristics i.e. it goes through walls well.

Ofcom at the same time will allow refarming of the 900MHz and 1800MHz GSM/PCN spectrum so that it can be used for 3G (or 4G/LTE) services, which is currently not allowed under the GSM laws. The existing 3G licenses (which expire in 2021) will be made indefinite with the licensees paying a yearly fee post 2021 to Ofcom.

BT was expected to bid for the 2.6GHz spectrum when it was originally meant to become available (late 2007/2008) but now it's likely they'll just expand their WiFi and MVNO offerings as the cost of the spectrum is expected to be extremely high and they're already spending a fortune expanding their fibre roll-out to most of the UK.

It's likely the spectrum will be snapped up by the existing Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) who will use it for high speed data services using LTE, though an outsider could come in and use it to offer wireless broadband or even 3G services of their own.

There's still a decision to be made on how the 900MHz spectrum (currently owned by O2/Telefonica and Vodafone) should be re-allocated and also the 1800MHz and 2.1GHz spectrum that Orange and T-Mobile own as they're now a single entity (in regulatory terms anyway) which means they own too much spectrum for a single network as per the 3G license.

So though it's a good move by the Government there's still a few issues to iron out, including the big issue of Ofcom itself as the Government is also trying to reduce spending on the Quangos that are currently in operation, Ofcom being a major one. Though licensing spectrum could be a big earner (especially the 2.6GHz and 800MHz chunks) which could pay for Ofcom for a few years.

28/07/2010

New 116 Numbers go live in the UK

Ofcom has announced that it is making two numbers in the 116 range live which are pan-European numbers.

116 006 which is a freephone number for victims of crime. The number will be free unless there is a pre-announcement stating that the number isn't free (which could happen from mobile networks).

116 117 is a freephone number for non-emergency medical help which is always free from any network.

More information can be found from Ofcom though this is another confusing number range where sometimes calls are free and sometimes they're not.

26/07/2010

Don't try and recycle that stolen phone anymore!

In the UK each of the mobile operators maintain a list of stolen phones and that's shared between all the operators and is disseminated within 48 hours of the phone being reported stolen.

That has worked pretty well within the UK and has stopped a lot of stolen phones being reused and caused difficulties for a few people who've had their IMEI blocked by mistake as the only recourse is to complain to their operator as users have no direct access to the block list. However there's been a massive loophole and that's selling phones to a recycling company as they tend to sell them on to operators abroad and up until now, there's been no checks to see whether the phone is on any stolen phone list. It's believed that this has led to around 100,000 stolen phones going abroad a year.

That's now changing and Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire has stated "By joining forces with the police, the mobile phone industry is closing a multi-million pound loophole that has been exploited by criminals and the industry should be congratulated. Alongside the impressive work on blocking stolen phones, this code will make mobile phone theft an even less profitable crime."

The Telecommunications Fraud Forum known as TUFF has drawn up a code of practice alongside the Government and Police and TUFF will administer it. So far 20 mobile phone recyclers have joined the scheme which represent 90% of the industry and the others are expected to follow suit.

Now if anyone tries to sell a stolen phone, the phone will will not be accepted and they will be reported to the Police.

Now the Government just needs a way to somehow track gold items and regulate the on-line/postal gold services who will also buy pretty much any gold item and immediately melt it down before anyone can complain.

22/07/2010

BT rejects GPRS for meter reading

BT has plans to build a system that will allow companies to wirelessly read meters in tune with government recommendations.

BT is teaming up with Arqiva and consultancy Detica and plans to use US-based Sensus' FlexNet long range wireless solution that operates in the 400MHz band (which has good building penetration characteristics).

Unsurprisingly the UK mobile network operators aren't too pleased as the original plans were to use GPRS connectivity which would have meant at least 26m GPRS systems installed by 2020 which would be a massive boost to one or more of the networks.

BT may not be successful and another consortium may still win the contract.

14/07/2010

The night of 1000 flowers

Last night was the inaugural Flowery Tweetup organised by Stewart Townsend and Stuart Witts and kindly sponsored by Blaqua (a fine purveyor of floral attire). Music came from the Bikini Beach Band who provided various musical numbers ranging from The Beach Boys to Madness and back through New Order.

For once the event wasn't just the same tech people who normally attend this sort of thing, but a mixture of Londoners who seem to have a passion for things flowery. There's some Facebook pictures of the evening.

13/07/2010

Google makes developing Android apps easy-as-pie

Google has made available App Inventor for Android that allows anyone to develop an Android application with minimal programming (if any) knowledge.

The website has uses visual building blocks which are dragged on to the 'canvas' and these can link to other functions. Access to the lower level Android functions (like GPS location and SMS) are available.

There are basic functions like buttons, canvas, checkboxes, etc and then media, animation, social, sensors and screen arrangement functions allowing complex applications to be constructed. It uses the Open Blocks Java library, which is distributed by MIT's (Massachusetts Institute of Technology's) Scheller Teacher Education Program which was used to develop the Scratch programming language. The compiler that converts the visual framework to a native Android app uses the Kawa language.

App Inventor for Android isn't openly available yet and potential users have to complete a form (using a GMail address) entering information about what App Inventor will be used for.

There are around 60,000+ apps in Android Marketplace, compared to over 200,000 in Apples app store, maybe this could redress the balance.

12/07/2010

New Storage service to compete with Amazon S3?

A new service has been announced called S4 or Super Simple Storage Service which promises to undercut Amazon S3 and other storage services by magnitudes. It's not clear what back-end S4 are using, but they are providing various interfaces to their system including direct web upload,  http get and put methods and a SOAP and REST API for write-only access.

S4 will store as much data as you throw at it and they offer a full money back guarantee, though at only $1 per TB per month even if they do make a few mistakes, it's not as though it's cost you much. Amazon on the other hand would charge around $153 per month for the same storage (but then you do get read access to the data too).

S4 could be the long term storage solution for those long term (and forgotten) back-ups that your company so desperately needs.

Palm releases WebOS 1.4.5

Palm has release an update to their WebOS taking it to version 1.4.5 which will run on Palm Pre and Pixi devices. Though only a minor update which mainly fixes bugs, it does add 3D support to the Pixi range (and stabilises 3D for the Pre). It also adds supports for the PDK (plug-in development kit) which Palm released a while back. The update will be available immediately to US users on Sprint and French users of SFR. Palm have not said when O2 other other users will be lucky and get their new versions, but generally updates are quickly (within a few days) sent to all operators.

This is the first release since Palm was acquired by HP for $1.2bn and HP has confirmed that WebOS will be used as a future OS for tablet based computers, though it has not confirmed for which tablets or when. HP was going to produce a tablet (known as the Slate) which was going to run Windows 7, but HP pulled it when Apple announced the iPad. Having WebOS will allow HP to develop their own Operating System suitable for the enterprise market and reduce their reliance on Google (for Android or Chrome OS), Microsoft or even Intel/Nokia for MeeGo.

30/06/2010

Apple still leading the smartphone market

Apple managed to get 1.7m iPhone 4's out the door on launch, that's pretty impressive for any phone let alone one that costs £499 or £599 for the 16GB or 32GB versions respectively (admittedly unlocked versions). It's even more impressive considering it took them 3 days to sell 1m 3GS phones in 2009, while the original iPhone took 72 days to sell 1m units.

Though Google recently made a big song and dance about operators selling 160,000 Android based phones per day and though they did grow in terms of market share to 10.6%, Apple grew to 15.4%.

Whatever pills Apple are taking, they seem to be on the right medication and can still push out a world leading product even if the signal reception drops when holding the phone.

Product Placement about to hit a TV near you?

Ofcom the regulator which deals with broadcasters amongst its many remits has today (28/06/2010) published a consultation on product placement in television. Currently no product placement is allowed at all, but it's likely this will change.

There are still various type of programming where product placement will be not allowed (such as news programs)  and some factual programming, but pretty much any other type will be allowed. The separation between editorial and advertising will become more blurred in line with EU legislation. When a program contains product placement, there will be an audio and visual cue (a neutral logo) to indicate it. Ofcom have not yet decided how they should handle story lines that are written specifically to promote products.

Ofcom recently published a statement on VoD players and this implies that they will subject to the same product placement conditions.

The consultation closes on 17/09/2010 and stakeholders may respond on-line (which doesn't seem to be working) or via Email.

19/06/2010

Freedom4 gets sold to UK BroadbandFreedom4 was one of the two operators in the UK with licensed spectrum that were trying to operate a WiMAX network who were sold to the second operator UK Broadband (a subsidiary of PCCW which is owned by Hong Kong Telecom) for £12.5m. The sale came about as Freedom4 was involved in a reverse takeover of Vialtus which later became part of Daisy Telecom, but WiMAX was not part of Daisy's core business.

Freedom4 was one of the two operators in the UK with licensed spectrum that were trying to operate a WiMAX network who were sold to the second operator UK Broadband (a subsidiary of PCCW which is owned by Hong Kong Telecom) for £12.5m. The sale came about as Freedom4 was involved in a reverse takeover of Vialtus which later became part of Daisy Telecom, but WiMAX was not part of Daisy's core business.

Freedom4 used to be what was known as Pipex Wireless, which was separated from the Pipex group when Pipex was sold to Tiscali and became Freedom4 (with some cash from Intel Capital). Freedom4 has two blocks of 84MHz of spectrum in the 3.6GHz t0 4.2GHz bands while UK Broadband has spectrum in the 3.4GHz band.

WiMAX has not faired particularly well in the UK. It was meant to be the saviour in terms of rural broadband but backhaul costs have limited the size of the WiMAX wireless roll-outs (combined with BT installing wired broadband to most parts of the country) so the costs of wireless have tended to be greater than those of wired broadband and the wireless speeds have not been that great.

UK Broadband may be able to leverage the assets of both companies and now use WiMAX for both end-user connections and for wireless backhaul reducing their need for expensive wired connectivity between sites.

The great hope for WiMAX was the auctioning of the 2.6GHz band which was initially meant to take place in 2007 but has been hampered with regulatory issues and is now unlikely to be available before 2011. There was speculation that BT would bid for this spectrum to offer 3G services in urban areas and WiMAX wireless broadband to the rural areas. This is now less likely to be attractive in terms of WiMAX anyway as LTE (a 4G technology) is likely to be prevalent before the spectrum is actually made available.

02/06/2010

Open WIFi is already problematic without any DEAct implications

There's been varied article and Twitter coverage of Ofcom warning that people offering free WiFi are going to be classified as 'subscribers" under the Digital Economy Act (DEA) so they will have copyright infringement notices sent to them rather than their users.

Ofcom's code of practice for the DEA says that they will only regard an ISP as someone with more than 400,000 customers i.e. only covering the big players which cover over 90% of the UK's broadband users. ISPs have to deal with sending notices to users and if necessary cutting them off.

Ofcom have chosen the figure of 400,000 as it makes life easier for everyone, however they can reduce that figure to 1 if smaller players are also consistently having users that share copyrighted data.

Therefore people have seen offering WiFi services as a get-out so that they're classified as an ISP rather than a subscriber as by offering a service to a 3rd party, the DEA defines you as an ISP.

Ofcom have obviously seen the whole in the definition, so they are saying WiFi must be offered as part of a service to be classified as an ISP. So say a coffee establishment can offer WiFi as part of their service as they are charging for the coffee (as could a pub or anyone charging for services including those charging for WiFi services).

Charging for WiFi makes life a lot easier as then you generally know who your users are (or at least have a billing relationship with them, which means Ofcom or the Police have somewhere to start if the user does something wrong).

Offering free WiFi was thought to be another way to get out of the DEA, unfortunately Ofcom have chosen to take the opinion that then the WiFi isn't part of a service which means the ISP excuse cant be used and any copyright infringement notices will be sent to the WiFi operator themselves.

The last section is what's causing people to get upset. However it has ALWAYS been an issue. Altruistic WiFi may sound good on paper, but not knowing who your users are has implecations under the law.

Imagine an open WiFi access point and someone uploads child porn to a known site which the Police monitor. Child porn is illegal (rightly so) and the Police take a dim view of it. So they track where the porn was uploaded from and lo and behold it's appeared from the user running the open WiFi access. The user in question denies all knowledge of the offence as they have an open access point. The Police on the other hand don't quite see their point of view, all the know is that child porn was uploaded from the user's network so the confiscate all their computer hardware - EVERYTHING.

Eventually, after it's gone into the queue of a Police forensics lab (many months), the Police may drop the charges as they find no traces of the child porn on the computers and have discovered the access point is configured as open. Of course they may decide there's other content of a suspicious nature and the user must be good at erasing their data as they are technical, so it may go the other way.

As a technical household there may be many computers, media units, servers, hard drives etc. They will ALL be confiscated and the more there are, the longer the case will take.

(The above has actually happened to an acquaintance)

Now that's just part of it, it's not just the process of uploading child porn (though that's a worst case scenario) the Communications Act covers WiFi etc. It's just that using WiFi as an excuse to get around DEA issues isn't going to work and copyright infringement is probably going to happen more than child porn offences and Ofcom are rightly showing that it's an issue.

Going back to the Communications Act, ANYONE offering communications services is classified an Electronic Communications Network or ECN under the Act. An ECN has obligation under the Act (everybody offering communications services has read the Act and knows their obligations of course - ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law).

If the communications services are offered to the public, they are then considered an Public Electronic Communications Network or PECN which has even more obligations than an ECN.

Mostly it doesn't matter, as Ofcom are never going to go around to everyone who is an ECN and ensure that they're compliant. However they could. Currently only big telcos or ISPs pay fees to Ofcom (they have a turn-over greater than some point set by Ofcom), but if WiFi operators become an issue, they can just say that they'll impose a fee on all ECNs or PECNs or those that meet whatever criteria.

So the issues of open WiFi have been understood for a long time, it's just now Ofcom saying "that under this new law we're not exempting open WiFi users and they have to take responsibility for their networks as the law says they should anyway"

01/06/2010

It's all go with MeeGo (for netbooks anyway)

Nokia have announced the availability of MeeGo v1.0 for netbook type devices. MeeGo is the Linux based OS that is the combined efforts of Nokia's Maemo and Intel's MobLin.

The main features are: -

* Visually rich Netbook user experience, building on the latest open source technologies.

* Instant access to your synchronized calendar, tasks, appointments, recently used files and real-time social networking updates through the home screen.

* Aggregation of your social networking content. This allows you to see your social networking activities on one screen, easily interact with your friends, and update your status and site information.

* Easy to use applications for email, calendar and media player.

* Highly optimized for power and performance.

* Languages: Japanese, Korean, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Swedish, Polish, Finnish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, English, British English

The release comes in two version, one fully open source using Google's Chromium browser and one where the end-user has to agree to Google's EULA for Google Chrome.

The core platform (which is common to all releases) contains: -

* Kernel based on 2.6.33

* DeviceKit and udev for interacting with hardware devices

* Modern 2D / 3D graphics stack including Kernel Mode Setting, non-root X

* Voice and data connectivity with Connman connection manager, Ofono telephony stack and BlueZ Bluetooth

* Qt 4.6

* Universal Plug and Play (gUPnP)

* Media frameworks

* Next generation file system BTRFS, as the default file system

Nokia have also quietly released a version for the N900 smartphone, though Nokia will continue to support Maemo as the "officially" supported N900 OS. It also seems there are ports of MeeGo to the N8x0 units too.

28/05/2010

Online Infringement of Copyright and the Digital Economy Act 2010 | Ofcom

Online Infringement of Copyright and the Digital Economy Act 2010 | Ofcom

Ofcom has published a consultation about the Draft Initial Obligations Code that Ofcom had to produce under the Digital Economy Act 2010.

Ofcom has had to make various statements as to definitions of what is considered an ISP (i.e. an ISP will only be covered if they have more than 400,000 subscribers) and if a someone offers WiFi access then they are considered the subscriber (even though they should be considered an ISP).

The consultation closes on 30th July 2010 and people should respond (it's possible to respond online here

27/05/2010

Spoonfed shoots for the Bullseye

Spoonfed who produce listings of events happening in the London area are launching a new product Bullseye.

Bullseye is aimed at events organisers who can target customers via a variety of channels such as Email, SMS etc. and offer them promotions, through an easy to use web based system. Customers responses can be tracked as well as non-deliveries of Email/SMS/etc.

This compliments the existing free Spoonfed service which is aimed at consumers, while Bullseye is a commercial B2B revenue generating system.

21/05/2010

iPad's are naked without one

A San Francisco company called Dodocase has released what looks to be, THE, case for the iPad and iPad 3G.

It has a leather exterior and bamboo interior that snuggly holds the iPad. With the case open and flipped on its back, it positions the iPad at a good angle to type.

When closed it looks very similar to a traditional Moleskine journal.

At $49.95 they're not even in the silly bracket, every discerning iPad owner needs one now.

Yahoo and Nokia in bed together

Nokia will announce 'Project Nike' on Monday (Nike being the Goddess of Victory rather than anything shoe related). Though it's all rumour, it's expected that Nokia are working on offering services based on Yahoo Mobile.

Microsoft have their mobile OS and that ties into Microsoft's back-end services such as Bing and such like, Google obviously has Android that ties into Google's back-end services (and the phone doesn't really work nicely unless you tie it into Google).

Nokia has err, Nokia which comprises of the Ovi store, Ovi maps and maybe some Ovi email. Yahoo might just give them the back-end mobile services they need to compete in the very competitive smart-phone arena.

Coincidently Gary Gale who was Director of Geo at Yahoo is leaving on Friday and moving on, is it just a coincident, or are the two related?

The Future of Web Design has past

Last week saw the return of FOWD to London (May 17th to 19th). The first day consisted of workshops at Wallace Space (which I didn't attend) then 2 days of conference at the Brewery in Chiswell St.

Compared to last year, well there was no comparison. The venue was great and could easily accommodate the number of attendees (600 plus), even the supplied food was pretty good. Every usable room also had wired or wireless networking that worked throughout the conference, though it slowed a bit at peak times (though being reasonably stable with the number of users was an accomplishment in itself).

There were companies demo'ing their products and all had a hosting/prototyping bent.HammerKit showed their prototyping system which allows a user to rapidly develop a prototype site with working elements, unfortunately you cant take the finished product off their hosting platform, maybe that will come in time. HotGloo have a nice wire-framing on-line system that again allows prototypes to be built on-line to test usability with some sophisticated actions for objects. Adobe were also there with Business Catalyst their on-line web building tool that allows designers to delegate authority to various aspects of the site, so copy writers can add text, but not play with the style etc. Adobe have some sensible pricing plans for the service as they allow an organisation to host their site and their customer sites.

Though there were some excellent talks, some were disappointing such as Paul Boag's which just seemed to be a rant, and not even a rant giving out useful information just a rant with some incorrect information.

Carsonified launched their Think Vitamin Membership service whereby customers subscribe and get access to at least 4 on-line conferences per annum, on-line tutorials and discounts to Carsonified conference such as FOWA/FOWD etc all for $25 per month. Allegedly 1,000 people signed up at FOWD.

Anyway overall definitely recommended even though it's an expensive event, there's always a good glass of speakers and generally a better class of audience where most of the value comes from. Looking forward to next year's event and also FOWA which takes place in the same excellent venue in Oct 2010.

19/05/2010

Google buys GIPS, Skype quakes?

Google has acquired GIPS (Global IP Sound) a vendor of high quality voice and video codecs used by many VoIP players (except Skype).

Skype have over 600m users and developed their own HD voice codec known as SILK.

Google bought Grand Central and then based their Google Voice service on top of it. Google already had their Google Talk service which is just their implementation of Jabber (or the XMPP protocol). It was possible to 'talk' to other users on Google Talk with their Jingle extensions (which Google published). Google Voice is their preferred and proper VoIP service. Unfortunately they didn't have a nice front-end for Google Voice so they acquired Gizmo5 the service from Michael Robertson. Gizmo5 had a reasonable user base and it was standards based using SIP as the VoIP protocol, though the back-end was meant to be based on Asterisk and other open source technologies. Google Voice has a very good back-end and so the tie-up with Gizmo5 gave them a nice front-end and Google could drop the Gizmo5 back-end stuff.

Now with the purchase of GIPS giving Google 'free' access to high quality voice codecs, they look to really threaten Skype's dominance of the VoIP market, especially if the launch Google Voice outside of the US.

Ofcom propsoes to reduce Earth Station regulation

Ofcom is proposing to reduce the regulation on Satellite (Earth Station Network) licenses.

The power limit of a VAST terminal will be increased from 50 to 55dBW EIRP, though limitations still apply within airport boundaries and 2 specific areas (in the UK).

Current applications should be made in the normal way.

17/05/2010

Froyo to be released this week?

Google's Android operating system is to get a new upgrade to version 2.2 (from 2.1 codenamed Eclair) on the Google Nexus One in advance of Google upcoming I/O developer conference in San Francisco this week.

Froyo is meant to be up to 4.5 times faster than Eclair in some cases which should help it support video services better. It's also expected to come with both USB and WiFi tethering so turning a Nexus One into a MiFi device.

Google are trying to remain a step ahead of Apple in terms of software, though they've dropped selling devices directly from their site and will go with the existing channel sales model by selling through carriers. Initially Google were going to sell lots of Android devices through Google directly, but sales of the Nexus One have been slow and customers want support which Google seemed to forget (at least initially).

Other devices will have to wait for the carries or handset vendor to release updates.

13/05/2010

It's not T-Om it's Everything Everywhere

Orange UK and T-Mobile UK will be officially joined at the hip on July 1st when the networks are combined with UK roaming between networks. The new company name is Everything, Everywhere which CEO Tom Alexander said "is their name, vision and ambition". T-Om (T-Mobile - Orange Mobile sounds better though), both the ORange and T-Mobile brands are being retained.

The combined company will have over 700 retail stores and command 37% of the UK market which equates to over 30m users, O2 come second with 28%, Vodafone with 23%, with 3 having a small percentage.

The networks will be fully integrated, any overlaps combined etc. The reduced management overheads (for the two networks and management teams) is expected to bring savings of around £3.5bn, this on a turn-over of £7.7bn is where it all starts to make financial sense.

If they can combine the best assets of both companies (rather than the worst) they have the potential to keep their combined lead and offer innovative new services in both the mobile and fixed markets (Orange has a reasonably large consumer broadband offering).

10/05/2010

Twitter borked again

A certain Mike Butcher published a post on Techcrunch about a twitter bug allowing anyone to type "accept @username" and then username would be listed in their followers.

Twitter seem to have noticed the error (maybe after reading the article) and have then tried to fix it. When users attempted to run the command, they got an "internal server error" message. It also seems everyone's followers and who they're following have been wiped (well the counts reset to zero and the lists not available, though tweets still come through.

There's probably a slight panic going on in Twitter HQ.

As an update, Twitter have recognised the "accept @username" bug, are rolling back all accounts who used the bug (which forced the username to follow you) to the state before using accept. Once that's complete the follow/ing/ers counts are being set back to what they should be.

iPad WiFi issues (techie)

The iPad seems to have a few issues with WiFi which have been documented by Princeton University.

Having observed the iPad it seems the problem is more like: -

* Select WiFi network
* iPad joins network and does a DHCP request
* iPad caches DHCP info

You then switch off or do something else, then turn on iPad again.

* iPad re-joins WiFi network
* iPad renews IP data from cached info (which may now be stale)
* Hitting renew (under DHCP) just reloads cached info

If the iPad detects a duplicate IP address (as it's been allocated to another system) it shuts WiFi interface down, unfortunately bringing it up again just reloads stale IP info.

If the network info is cleared, then the iPad should renew it's DHCP info, but all the WiFi parameters will need to be entered again.

Please Apple fix in a 3.3 release.

07/05/2010

Initial iPad thoughts

The iPad eventually arrived and it was duly unboxed and charged. Of course it wont do anything until you've plugged it into a PC or Mac and linked it to iTunes. Once that's done you can decide what to copy across (address book, calendar, photos and all the normal iTunes music/videos etc).

Using the iPad wirelessly it wont connect to the UK app store (but you can purchase items from the UK store using iTunes on the desktop, unfortunately not all items are available yet such as Keynote, Pages etc).

The screen in incredibly crisp and bright. The default background has some streaks across the sky and they look like the glass is scratched (so much so I assumed it had been damaged in transit). However when the screen was rotated, the 'scratches' moved with the screen, which was a relief.

The iPad can also suck all your email settings from iTunes and it's all very intuitive to use. Reading HTML mail is a joy and being able to pinch and stretch the mail to look at a graphic and then flick it back to the original size or flicking your finger to scroll really works well. When eBooks are available in the UK they'll probably be just as easy and very readable.

The only major flaw with the iPad is the WiFi, it does seem to have problems maintaining a decent connection. Trying to use BT Openzone in a Starbucks failed completely. You can connect to BT Openzone, click on the Starbucks section, enter your login details and 'login' then nothing. It just hangs there with the browser frozen. Using the home button or cancel (if cancel works) jumps you back, but the WiFi disconnects. It seems this has been reported by others and no one has come up with a fix (maybe because iPads aren't meant to be officially in the UK yet, so BT are ignoring the issue?).

However there's one service that may genuinely be THE service which makes the iPad amazing and that's TVcatchup.com it's a free service which gives access to 40 channels of UK television (and lots of radio too). They'll be HD channels coming too soon. Suddenly the iPad is a great little TV that is usable anywhere and the quality is pretty astounding for something that's streamed. There's potential issue with respect to the legality of the service, but while it's there everyone should be using it.

Watching videos is also a joy (purchased or rented via the iTunes store or from elsewhere). Any airline not thinking of loaning iPads to business and first class passengers needs their heads examining, the quality is just so much better than the in-flight entertainment systems. It much be possible for them to locally have movies which passengers download to their iPads during the flight and can watch. Of course the iPad also is the Email client, word processor and whatever other functions business travellers want.

Apple need to fix the WiFi, but it's a great device. Just need to get a 3G version now (and do the downsizing of the 3G SIM card as has been done here.

04/05/2010

HP's saucy acquisition of Palm

HP acquired Palm for $1.2bn and maybe there's method behind the madness, why would they want Palm?

The price seems quite high for a mobile company that isn't quite meeting market expectations and though Palm have some nice devices (the Pixie and Pre) and a new operating system (WebOS) they're not selling brilliantly.

HP make PDAs, they're trying to sell them into the enterprise which is where HP do well. Palm used to sell into the enterprise and do well, but they've lost their way and the introduction of WebOS was too late too little and they've been overtaken by Apple with the iPhone, RIM with their Blackberries and Google with Android based systems. HP license Windows Mobile which hasn't been the huge success that both Microsoft and HP would have liked.

So HP's acquisition of Palm suddenly means they have their own operating system WebOS which they can develop, make shiny and integrate on to their own devices and get their mobile devices back into the enterprise.

There's a second reason too, HP want to make tablets (of the computing variety) and they need an operating system, especially since Microsoft have just dropped their tablet plans. WebOS could fit that bill and again would fit well in HP's core enterprise market. It will need some polishing, but HP have got the clout to push it in the right direction. They can develop a creditable competitor to Apple's OS and Google's Android/Chrome systems and Intel/Nokia's MeeGo.

Maybe the acquisition was too cheap?

The carnival that's FOWD heads into town

It's that time of year again when The Future of Web Design or FOWD comes to London, specifically on the 17th through 19th of May with the first day being made up of workshops and the conference on days 2 and 3.

Like all Carsonified events it's jam packed with hot speakers talking about hot topics.

If anyone wants to go, register here and the first 20 to use promo code FOWD2010 get a 15% discount.

It shoudl be a fun event and on the Monday there's a party too.

30/04/2010

Being Social

There's a 1/2 day conference organised by those nice people at Mashup* taking place on May 13th (hopefully lucky).

The organisers say "Being Social is a half-day conference & masterclass that will provide marketing, advertising, PR and corporate communications executives with the know-how necessary to develop, execute and manage a social media strategy that delivers value."

Contributors include: David Cushman MD of 90:10, Andrew Davies - ex BBC/ Myspace, Gabrielle Lane Peters, Dominic Burch - ASDA, Kristian Carter of IF Communications.

It should actually be a good afternoon of talks and an evening of networking.

More details at Being Social

Also if anyone wants to go (I'm not affiliated to the conference) there's a 15% discount using the following code EJ_INVITE_BS10

Ofcom Review of non-geographic calls services - call for inputs

Ofcom is holding a review on non-geographic numbers and services which may be found here.

They are asking consumers whether regulation is too low, too high, what services work and what don't.

People can respond to the consultation on-line or send email or written responses.

The consultation closes on 30/05/2010

26/04/2010

Natwest goes on Safari

It's taken a while, but it seems Natwest bank in the UK have changed their on-line banking system to recognise Apple's Safari browser. In the past, they would only recognise IE or Firefox (and variants).

Though Apple are still only a tiny percentage of the overall PC market, they do dominate in certain areas such as media, film etc and quite a lot of students too. Maybe their web stats have shown Apple users trying to access the site, or they've received complaints.

It's time all sites supported at least IE, Firefox and Safari (as well as others like Opera).

23/04/2010

Geek'n'Rolla the best bits

Last Tuesday was Geek'n'Rolla and event run by Mike Butcher of TechCruch Europe.

There was a mixture of talks, panels and pitches. All of the talks and panels were interesting, but some were better than others and some were really extraordinary. The afternoon ones seemed engaging than the ones in the morning.

Ewan McLeod gave a great talk on mobile development in terms of the market size and platforms (similar to an earlier talk at DevNest), the results are quite surprising, Apple iPhone may not be the best platform for development (though it's still the sexiest).

Andrew J Scott of Rummble gave a fantastic talk on the "Dirty Dozen" things to worry about when "doing a start-up".

Alicia Navarro of Skimlinks gave a great talk on trying to get funding in the US / West Coast.

However the highlight of the day was definitely Morten Lund's talk (he was an early Skype investor) made a huge amount of money, then lost it all. Some parts of his talk are what they call NSFW.

Though the quality of the pitches was good, some of the companies weren't too strong and it was surprising they made it to a TechCrunch event.

Sandisk 64GB Ultra Backup mini review

The Sandisk 64GB Ultra Backup is a USB memory device with a difference, it can automatically back-up items at the push of a button and encrypt everything it stores. It's USB 2.0 so reasonably quick.

Unfortunately the back-up and encryption are only available on Windows system (XP, Vista and Windows 7), to Macs or Linux/UNIX systems it just looks like a 64GB storage device.

Sandisk use their U3 technology to perform the back-up which actually runs software from the USB drive itself and stores any data back on the drive. Once the drive is removed, any all the software and configuration settings go too. There's a fair bit of software available from U3 that's been made U3 aware (which allows it to be safely run for the USB drive without storing anything in Windows permanently).

You may not want to have the U3 software at all (which is likely if you're using a Mac) and Sandisk nicely offer U3 removal software which is available for Mac and PC.

You can purchase a Sandisk 64GB Ultra Backup from here.

Please can we clean the Internet

The Digital Economy Act (and various European bodies) would like to see web filtering mandated. This is similar to the old 'Cleanfeed' system that has been implemented by ISPs in the UK (for consumer Internet anyway).

In the UK the Internet Watch Foundation or IWF as it's known maintains a list of dodgy URLs (that they define as dodgy) and ISPs maintain filters based on the IWF block-list. Of course this system is easily circumvented by use of VPNs and other technologies that real criminal might use.

Anyway there's a great new video doing the rounds that shwos why all the Internet should be filtered and it can be seen here Cleanternet.

Google buys a mis-spelt Linux

Google has acquired Agnilux a silicon foundry made-up of ex PA Semi employees who jumped ship when Apple acquired PA Semi in 2008 (for $280m).

PA Semi design ARM based CPUs and their fruition of their work is meant to be the A4 processor which is the heart of Apple's new iPad (and probable forthcoming iPhone 4G as leaked by Gizmondo).

Little is known about Agnilux but it seems that as well as ex PA Semi employees, there's a few ex Cisco employees too and it has a partnership with Cisco.

Rumours are that Google will use the Agnilux technology to drive a new generation of Google tablets, though the Cisco relationship could mean it's more of a network processor or for video, in which case Google could use it for building into set-top-boxes and such like (which would then run Android).

Another rumour is that they are producing highly scalable low-power ARM designs which could be used in datacentres - which would also suit Google who have lots of servers and reducing the power footprint while increasing their CPU capacity would mean huge savings in the long term for them,

19/04/2010

Sansa Clip Plus mini review

The Sandisk Sansa Clip Plus is a tiny MP3 player that's about 2" by 1 1/3" by 1/2" and weights 0.85oz. It comes with either 2GB, 4GB or 8GB of Flash memory and in a choice of black, blue or maroon.

It supports a variety of audio formats including MP3, Microsoft's WMA, WAV, FLAC, Ogg and Audible (for DRM'ed audio books).

There's a small OLED display which shows up to 4 lines of blue or orange text. It's all driving by a basic menu system and you can jump back to the home menu by pressing the 'home' button anywhere. Music can be selected by just playing everything or selecting album, artist, genre, song or playlist (though there's no alphabetic search).

There's also a voice recorder with built-in mic and FM radio with 10 presets (but no RDS), you can record from the FM radio into WAV files (as with the voice recorder).

The Clip+ also supports SanDisk's SlotRadio cards (through the micro SDcard slot) which also takes standard micro SD cards up to 32GB.

The unit is good for sports due to its size, but the supplied earphones aren't up to much and even with sensible in-ear phones it sounds weak compared to an iPod even with EQ emphasis like dance or bass boost.

You can buy the 8GB version from the Sandisk Sansa Clip+ 8GB MP3 Player / Black for £54.99 though it can be cheaper elsewhere.

12/04/2010

ConceptDraw Office mini review

ConceptDraw Office is a set of programs from CS Odessa (Computer Systems Odessa) which would indicate Ukraine origins.

There are three integrated components MindMap, Project and Draw (Pro) which can be purchased individually or as the combined (cheaper package) as ConceptDraw Office.

MindMap is just that and is really useful for brainstorming sessions and such like, however it's also pretty good for say putting a product launch together, working out what needs to go after what and different branches of what needs doing. The whole thing can then be exported into Project which will then produce a project plan. It will still need tweaking (for timescales/resources and such like) but there's the basics done for you.

Project is actually very similar to Microsoft Project, but CS Odessa have their InGyre system which allows the different tools to work together.

Concept Draw is similar to Microsoft Visio (and can import Visio files as can Project import MS Project files) it's also similar to Corel Draw, it can produce organisation charts, network diagrams and simple object drawing. Again it can link into ConceptDraw Project and MindMap.

There's both Windows and Mac versions available (where as Microsoft products are only available on Windows).

ConceptDraw isn't cheap (the package retails for £339) but you do get 3 solid packages for that and they're invaluable if you're a Mac user.

They can be purchased here

It's all looking Pink for Plink

Google have just acquired UK art search company Plink.

Plink's technology allows users to point their phone at a work of art and take a picture which will then link to the original artwork (and prints etc can be purchased). Plink were finalists in Google's Android Developer Challenge, winning $100,000.

Mark Cummins and partner James Philbin who founded Plink will move over to Google and work on Google's Goggles application utilising the back-end Plink technology for that platform.

The Android app is still available for download, though development of it will no longer take place.

UK Election delays spectrum auction again

The Government managed to push through the controversial Digital Economy Bill, but in doing so failed to make time for things such as spectrum liberalisation and these will now have to wait until the next Government is in power.


This means that the plans to auction the 2.6GHz (2600MHz) band are still on hold until at least mid 2011 (or later) as well the prized 800MHz band. There is also no decision with respect to GSM refarming (O2 and Vodafone have spectrum in 900MHz and Orange and T-Mobile in 1.8GHz). The situation is already muddied by the merge of T-Mobile and Orange who as a single company have too much spectrum (as per the original licenses).

It's likely that T-Mobile/Orange will have to relinquish some of their 1.8GHz spectrum and maybe some of their 2.5GHz spectrum, but they will also fight to get hold of some of the 900HMz spectrum (which has much better transmission characteristics than 1.8GHz).

As there is no Government at all, the above decisions are all on hold, though T-Mobile/Orange are now in breach of their license conditions, there's nothing that can be done until the next Government is elected and Ofcom can then propose changes in the law (i.e. currently the GSM bands are ONLY allowed to be used for GSM services and not 3G services) which will then be enacted into law by the use of Standard Instruments.

The UK was way ahead of the market when it first proposed auctioning the 2.6GHz spectrum (2007/2008) but now even Germany has sorted it's issues and has licensed the band.

08/04/2010

TalkTalk talks the talk

Andrew Heaney, Director of Strategy and Regulation of TalkTalk has written a blog post stating: -

* Unless we are served with a court order we will never surrender a customer’s details to rightsholders. We are the only major ISP to have taken this stance and we will maintain it.

* If we are instructed to disconnect an account due to alleged copyright infringement we will refuse to do so and tell the rightsholders we’ll see them in court.

Only 5% of MPs actually turned up for the brief debate in the House yesterday and the other important parts of the stages will now end up in the wash-up process.

TalkTalk have been very vocal against various parts of the Digital Economy Bill and will continue to fight against it and with whichever party is running the country after the general election.

Digital Economy Bill gets FAST approval

Unsurprisingly FAST (Federation Against Software Theft) has welcomed the 'success of the Digital Economy Bill', even though the DEB has attracted criticism from many corners including the music industry itself.

FAST have been criticised in the past for using strong arm tactics on companies to force them to hold audits (from FAST) to ensure they're not using unlicensed software.

The Government has forced the bill through, without proper debate which has angered many people. Allowing the '3 strikes rule' to get through is now imposing punishment without trial and it is too far ranging (i.e. anyone illegally sharing on an open WiFi network can get the WiFi network disconnected). Other issues are that BIS can request to have any domain registry removed (or the infrastructure removed) if the registry doesn't remove content they don't like.

Hopefully someone will take the issues up the the Court of Human Rights and have the bill (or aspects of it) quashed.

06/04/2010

RIM Eclipses development ease

Research in Motion (RIM) has announced a new development platform for the Blackberry smartphone range.

There's a new Java plug-in (1.1) for Eclipse that provides a complete development, debug and simulation environment supporting multiple devices and operating system versions, which can be switched without restarting the system.

There's also a new Java SDK (v5) with now over 20,000 API calls including Location Based Services APIs enabling cell-site geolocation, GPS, geocoding and reverse geocoding to obtain address and location data, OpenGL ES support for 3D graphics, touchscreen and accelerometer, new pre-built UI components, file pickers and screen transitions and SQLite support for data sharing across different applications.

The other new release is Web Plug-In v2.0 which allows developing Blackberry widgets using standard web tools such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and AJAX.

Blackerries are notoriously hard to develop for, hopefully these new tools will make life easier for developers.

More can be found from RIM's developer site.

I go, you go, MeeGo

Nokia and Intel have started to open up their new MeeGo initiative which is their combined Maemo and MobLin Linux for mobile efforts.

As reported in the MeeGo blog the core is suitable for Netbooks, mobile phones, in-car devices and connected TVs with different higher level applications suitable for the relevant architectures.

The OS images are suitable for booting from a USB key or directly from on-board flash.

Images are available for intel Atom-based netbooks, ARM-based Nokia N900, and Intel Atom-based handsets (Moorestown).

There's also a source repository available through git and rpm's for the applications. The current images will just give access to a terminal, though it's hoped to have the higher lovel GUI systems available soon.

Whether they'll make a dent on Android is yet to be seen, though maybe some enterprising person can port MeeGo to the O2 Joggler which is being sold for £50 now and there's already efforts to replace O2's stock image with other more useful operating system.

05/04/2010

Apple sells 300,000 sanitary products in first day

Apple has announced it has sold 300,000 iPads on the first day of launch (up until midnight April 3rd 2010) - OK they're not sanitary pads, but it makes a good headline.

Those 300,000 iPad users have also downloaded over 1m apps and 250,000 ebooks from the Apple iBookstore, so that's 3 apps and almost 1 ebook per iPad.

Skeptics may just think it's a rush of Apple fan boys, but Apple are changing the game. People bemoan it's a proprietary operating system (so what) it means that Apple can control the content easily and the way apps look and feel, so it's all easy to use. Apple know how to do User Interfaces (UI) and make things look nice. As long as programmers stick to Apple's guidelines using Apple's interfaces their programs will look nice too. So anybody will be able to use the app.

The iPad is no better in terms of specs than other systems out there, but they're not selling it as an eReader, nor as a tablet but a combination of the two. Amazon have realised that the Kindle can do more than just be an eReader, but they've only just released an SDK. The iPad will run existing iPhone/iTouch apps with no modifications (under emulation) but they've had the SDK available for months, so there's some good iPad apps out there on launch (including Apple's own iWork apps). It also makes a very nice eReader and lo and behold Apple have an ebook store available on launch.

The iPad will be iconic, just like the iPhone was. Yes it's lacking a camera (yes there's a space for an iSight camera in the case) and other features, but they will come. Owning an iPad now is like owning a piece of history.

UK MNOs moan about MTR reductions, apart from 3

As expected the big 4 UK mobile network operators are complaining about Ofcom's plans to reduce mobile termination rates to 0.5p per minute by March 2015.

The only operator who is welcoming the cuts is 3 (or Hutchison 3G to be exact). It makes sense for them as they're the smallest UK operator so their users are making more outbound calls to other networks than inbound, which means they're paying out to other networks. Any reduction in call costs to other networks therefore reduces their costs. They also say they'll pass on cuts to their users.

The MNOs are said to have made around €5.3bn from termination fees in 2008.

Vodafone have said "A cut of this magnitude deters future investment, makes it less likely that the UK would continue to lead in mobile communications and was at odds with the government's vision of a digital Britain." Orange say "Handsets may no longer be subsidised, and consumers may have to pay to receive calls."

Ofcom have been at odds with the MNOs on other changes as well such as Mobile Number Porting (Ofcom wanted sub 1 hour porting, the MNO's took Ofcom to court, and now Ofocm as asking for sub 24hour porting).

04/04/2010

Upgrading a MacBook Pro disk

It was a bit of a daunting task, get a Solid State Disk (SSD), transfer the contents of the current disk on to it, then make sure it's all working and take the MacBook Pro apart and fit the disk.

Surprisingly it was all very easy, but there's a few things that need to be though about first.

Make sure you have an external (USB/Firewire) disk system that will take the SSD, plug it in and make sure it's recognised. It's unlikely to be formatted, so MacOS X will say it's unrecognised and ask to run Disk Utility. The disk needs to be partitioned (select partition type GUID) and a single partition, name it Macintosh HD (or SSD) and let Disk Utility do its magic. Once finished it will be mounted it and it appears as a USB or Firewire disk (depending what external system you have).

It's now all about cloning the internal hard disk, a couple of utilities were recommended Carbon Copy Clone and SuperDuper. In this instance Carbon Copy Clone did its magic and it was just configured to clone the Macintosh HD (the internal HD) and copy everything to the external Macintosh HD (which was the externally mounted SSD).

The internal disk had just over 50GB of data and it took about an hour to clone (so you've got time for a couple of cups of tea).

There was a beep to indicate it had finished and that was that. Just to be sure Disk Utility was run again and the disk verified, it did throw up a few errors, but they were permission errors and quickly fixed (it took under 3 minutes to scan the disk on USB).

Then go into System Preferences and select "Start-up Disk" and select the external USB/Firewire disk and reboot. This should get the MacBook to boot of the newly set-up disk. Happily the MBP booted and the hard disk activity light flashed away showing it was using the external disk. Then shutdown and remove the power from the MBP.

Removing the screws from the base of the MacBook Pro was easy enough (a small Philips screwdriver is needed) and the bottom just lifts off. Make sure you remember which screws go where as some are long and some short, though not too difficult to just lay them out in the position of where they sit on a table surface.

There's a site iFixit which specialises in DIY Apple repairs etc. They state that the bar holding the drive in place uses Torx 6 screws, however on this late 2009 13" MBP the screws were also Philips and it came away very easily.

Then carefully remove the hard disk and very carefully pull away the ribbon cable attached to it. Get the SSD (which you've removed from the external case) and attach it to the ribbon cable and insert it back into the hard disk space. Place the disk bar back and screw into place and replace the bottom cover, making sure that the screws aren't over tightened. Put the screws in, in pairs, as this reduces the stresses on the case and put opposites in pairs. Lightly screw them in, then tighten them once all the screws are in.

All that's required to to turn the MBP on and hopefully it will all work.

The MBP will boot significantly faster and apps load much faster. Performing a disk permission verification (with the SSD in the MBP) took under a minute (compared with 3 minutes when connected through USB).

As a TV commercial Meerkat would say "Simples"

The disk used was a 256GB Crucial RealSSD C300 2.5-inch SATA 6GB/s which is their latest generation of SSD.

01/04/2010

Port your Mobile number in a day

Ofcom is holding a short consultation on allowing consumers to port their number to a new mobile network with 1 working day.

Ofcom put forward four options to the mobile network operators (MNOs), which were: -

* Option A: recipient-led process with porting completed within two hours
* Option B: donor-led process with porting completed within two hours
* Option C: recipient-led process with porting completed the next working day
* Option D: donor-led process with porting completed the next working day

Ofcom wanted to have porting occur within 2 hours, but lost a legal battle from the MNOs and so Ofcom has now agreed on Option D which is the same process that takes place now (using a donor PAC code) but the time has been reduced from 2 working days to 1 working day. The PAC code must be supplied in 2 hours or less by phone or SMS.

A 2 hour port could have been achievable, but this would have meant holding a central database containing numbers and which network they belong. This would have meant expense and it also didn't suit the MNOs (who use HLR records to say the number is ported and point to the new network).

The consultation closes on 13/05/10