Friday, August 31, 2007

NBC Pulling Shows From iTunes

First they argue about if they can have some pie, now over the slice size...


NBC Universal has told Apple Inc. that it would not allow its television content to be sold on iTunes following a dispute over pricing.

NBC Universal-controlled television programming accounts for an estimated 40 percent of the video downloads on iTunes.

The company's contract to sell more than 1,500 hours of news, sports and entertainment programming on iTunes expires at the end of December. NBC was required to inform Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) by Friday if the contract would not renewed, said Amy Zelvin, spokeswoman for NBC Universal Digital.

Apple was not immediately available for comment Friday.

The companies are expected to continue negotiations. But NBC Universal's hardball tactics, reported Friday in The New York Times, illustrates unrest among content providers concerning Apple's pricing policies.

iTunes offers songs for download at 99 cents and video for $1.99. Media companies want more say in pricing and, in NBC Universal's case, is anxious to offer different packages by bundling programs together at different prices.

Availability of Web-popular programs like USA's "Psych," NBC's "30 Rock" and Sci Fi's "Battlestar Gallactica" would all be affected.

NBC Universal also wants iTunes to stiffen anti-piracy provisions so computer users would not have easy access to illegal downloads.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

RIP: Sony's Proprietary Audio Format

Sony Ditching Connect Music Service

By MATT MOORE 08.30.07, 11:19 AM ET

FRANKFURT, Germany -

Acknowledging its proprietary audio technology was a marketplace flop, Sony Corp. said Thursday it plans to shutter its Connect digital music store and open its portable media players to other formats.

The moves were announced Thursday at a Berlin consumer electronics trade fair as the Japanese electronics pioneer unveiled a pair of new digital Walkmans that can play the Windows Media Audio, MP3 and AAC audio formats.

Like rivals' players, including Apple Inc. (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people )'s iPods, Sony (nyse: SNE - news - people )'s NWZ-A810 and NWZ-S610 can also play video and display photographs. Sony's models include an FM tuner, too.

Sony said it would phase out operations of its struggling Connect online retailer, which sold songs in the company's proprietary ATRAC format.

"This gives customers greater flexibility in their music software approach," the company said in a statement. "As a result, Sony will be phasing out the Connect Music Services based on Sony's ATRAC audio format in North America and Europe."

In an e-mail sent to Connect users, the service said it would not close before March 2008, but it did not set a more specific date. The company's Connect e-book service for the Sony Reader is not affected.

In June, Sony Connect Inc. said it was eliminating some positions as part of a restructuring plan to shift resources to other online services, but had denied reports it was related to a planned shutdown.

Instead, the company said it was shifting its emphasis other network services, specifically one for users of the PlayStation video game console, the company said.

Sony Connect launched in 2004, but like other online music services, it has had a tough time competing against Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store, which is tied to the market-leading iPod portable player.

The new Walkman video players store up to 1,850 average-length MP3 songs on the eight gigabyte models, 925 songs on the four gigabyte models, and 440 songs on the two gigabyte models. Prices range from $120 to $230.

Additionally, a third line, the NWZ-B100, will play audio only (MP3s, AAC and Windows Media formats), and cost $80 for a two-gigabyte model and $60 for a one-gigabyte model.
Sony said that the new Walkman video players will ship with Microsoft Corp. (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people )'s Windows Media Player 11 to manage digital libraries.

"With this initiative, Sony is debuting an important option for digital media players as it opens new doors for a rich digital experience," said Dave Wascha, director of Windows Client Product Management at Microsoft Corp.

Something AT&T Forgot in their Ads...

AT&T willing to spy for NSA, MPAA, and RIAA

By Nate Anderson Published: June 13, 2007 - 10:13AM CT

In a move that has executives from movie studios and record labels grinning from ear to ear, AT&T has announced that it will develop and deploy technology that will attempt to keep pirated content off its network. The move is spurred in part by the company's decision to offer IPTV television service as part of its U-Verse package, AT&T senior VP James W. Cicconi told the Los Angeles Times.

The first step for AT&T is coming up with a technological solution that works: something that can effectively filter out illicit traffic while protecting its users' privacy. That's a tall—if not impossible—order. YouTube hasn't managed to do it even for video yet, and that's when customers are sending them entire files which they can scan at their leisure. Monitoring all the files sent through BitTorrent—which splits them into tiny pieces—could be even more difficult; doing it in real-time sounds both expensive and impossible.

Without human intervention, it's also tough to tell if copyrighted content is even "piracy." Fair use carves out exceptions for news reporting, criticism, and commentary (among other things) which is nearly impossible for a machine to understand in context.

Despite the major technical problems inherent in such a program, AT&T is moving ahead. By making themselves into the arbiters of copyright law, the company risks being drawn into a costly "arms race" with programmers who don't like the idea of a massive corporation (and one which appears to have turned over information to the NSA) peeking into their packets and deciding which ones go through.

This is exactly the situation that Dr. Greg Jackson, CIO of the University of Chicago, warned Congress about last week. "The only successful, robust way to address problems that involve personal responsibility and behavior is with social rather than technological tools," he said in a hearing. "If we instead try and restrict behavior technologically... the only result will be an arms race that nobody wins."

There's a certain creepiness to having one of the country's largest IP networks doing deep packet inspection and monitoring, but consumers who value their privacy can always go somewhere else, right? Not necessarily. In addition to running a massive network of its own, AT&T runs a good chunk of the backbone infrastructure in the US. It's a rare bit of traffic that can make it to its destination without passing on to an AT&T-owned network. If the company deploys its anti-piracy technology to all data passing through its networks, AT&T's "solution" could affect most US Internet users. In addition, many US residents have limited broadband choices.

The company says it will target only repeat offenders and that it will not violate user privacy or FCC directives on network openness. Who knows how this is all supposed to work, especially as legal, unencrypted files flow across the Internet from sites like iTunes and eMusic, along with thousands of smaller sites that serve as promotional vehicles for independent bands and filmmakers? We suspect that AT&T will start small, deploying some sort of P2P solution that looks for the transfer of unencrypted Hollywood blockbusters and major-label bands in complete form.

The most likely scenario is the deployment of new traffic-shaping hardware that can tell what protocol is being used by watching packets (but without doing deep inspection). Only those using BitTorrent, FTP, or other targeted protocols would receive deeper scrutiny; e-mail and web requests should remain private in such a system. Given AT&T's size, though, even in an almost-perfect system could cause problems. Assuming (and this is a big assumption) that whatever solution they roll out works with 99.5 percent accuracy, then AT&T will still have a 0.5 percent false positive rate. That's pretty good, but 0.5 percent of a gazillion users is still plenty of users.

The company's focus on "repeat offenders" may be a way of avoiding this problem by only flagging users who share illicit files multiple times and are unlikely to be falsely flagged in every case.

All of this appears to be in the talking stages for the moment, though, so we'll have to wait awhile to find out exactly how Big Brother-ish it turns out to be. What it does indicate is that AT&T, once just a network provider, has recognized the importance of content to its own business. "We do recognize that a lot of our future business depends on exciting and interesting content," Cicconi told the Times.

Stanford's Content Pirating Policy

Stanford to hit P2P users in the wallet with reconnection fees

By Eric Bangeman Published: May 16, 2007 - 11:41PM CT

Reactions of universities named in the
RIAA and MPAA's top 25 list of pirate schools have run the gamut from embarrassed to seemingly indifferent. Color Stanford red-faced, as a copy of the school's revised DMCA Complaint Policy received by file-sharing litigation attorney Ray Beckerman demonstrates.

Citing the costs involved with keeping up with the number of file-sharing complaints received by the school, Stanford will continue to disconnect students from the campus network upon the receipt of "DMCA complaints" and other notices such as the infamous prelitigation settlement letters from the RIAA but will now charge students a hefty fee to be reconnected. Stanford administration says that it takes almost three full-time employees to stay on top of the number of complaints. Stanford is justifying the reconnection fees by calling the money spent on copyright-enforcement-related activities "an irresponsible waste of Stanford's resources."
Upon the receipt of the first DMCA complaint, the school's Information Security Office (ISO) will forward a copy to the student along with a message directing him or her to remove the infringing content. If the student fails respond to the ISO and does not remove the infringing material within 48 hours, he or she will be disconnected from the school network and assessed a $100 reconnection charge. Students can provide a counter-notice to the ISO if they believe they received the complaint in error.

Further offenses will result in immediate disconnection from the network. Two-time offenders will have to pay a $500 reconnection fee, while three-time losers will have their network privileges terminated. In order for a three-time offender to regain access, he or she will need to indemnify the university against any further copyright violations and pay a $1,000 fee for a new account on the school network. The offending student will also be referred to Judicial Affairs for disciplinary action.

Stanford's new policy is perhaps the harshest to be enacted by a US college or university in the wake of the MPAA and RIAA publicizing their top 25 lists. Ohio University responded to being fingered as a top pirate school by banning P2P traffic; other schools have decided to take a wait-and-see attitude. Others, like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are requiring the RIAA to follow the letter of the law, refusing to forward settlement letters or turn over student information unless served with a valid subpoena.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Earthlink WiFi Initiative Tanking

As the rollout of municipal Wi-Fi is hitting some speedbumps in recent months, Earthlink is laying off 900 staff members, or almost half of its workforce.

Earthlink had been trying to build Wi-Fi networks in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and three California cities including, most famously, San Francisco (where it partnered with Google to beat out five other bidders for a city contract).

But the well-publicized San Francisco rollout stalled earlier this year when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors delayed a vote on the project -- reportedly after EarthLink didn't respond to requests for changes to the contract, including increasing the speed of the line and offering new privacy controls.

With EarthLink in retrenchment mode, it's not clear what will happen to municipal Wi-Fi where the company had planned to create networks. It's also not clear that there's still the same demand for municipal Wi-Fi as when those projects were conceived several years ago.

Consider, many more users are on broadband lines at home now than two years ago, when municipal Wi-Fi was just getting underway. Pew recently reported that 70% of home Web users now connect via broadband lines, while almost half of all homes now have high-speed Internet access. Additionally, many Web users in urban areas are finding ways to tap into existing Wi-Fi networks. These developments indicate that many Web users already have the bandwidth they need, at least at the moment.

No More Time of Day for California

Time of day calling it quits at AT&T

August 29, 2007

It's the end of time, at least as far as AT&T is concerned.The brief note in customers' bills hardly does justice to the momentousness of the decision. "Service withdrawal," it blandly declares. "Effective September 2007, Time of Day information service will be discontinued."

What that means is that people throughout Southern California will no longer be able to call 853-1212 to hear a woman's recorded voice state that "at the tone, Pacific Daylight Time will be . . ." with the recording automatically updating at 10-second intervals."Times change," said John Britton, an AT&T spokesman. "In today's world, there are just too many other ways to get this information. You can look at your cellphone or your computer. You no longer have to pick up the telephone."Indeed, time already has stopped in 48 other states, he said. California and Nevada are the two remaining holdouts.In Northern California, the prefix for calling time is 767, or P-O-P on a telephone keypad. For decades, locals up there have dialed POPCORN any time they have had to reset their watches or reprogram electronic gadgets after a power failure."In California, our equipment has gotten old," Britton said. "It's reached the end of its life span."Time's up statewide Sept. 19. Britton said Nevada service would live on borrowed time for an unspecified period, until the equipment in that state similarly starts breaking down.

One upside: AT&T says doing away with time would enable the creation of about 300,000 new phone numbers in California beginning with the 853 or 767 prefixes. (No such numbers have been issued to date because, when coupled with any four other digits, you get time.)To be sure, time marches on. Yet for many Californians, the looming demise of the "time lady," as she's come to be known, marks the end of a more genteelera, when we all had time to share."It was always there," said Orlo Brown, 70, who for many years kept Pacific Bell's (and subsequently SBC's) time machines running in a downtown Los Angeles office building. "Everybody knew the number."Richard Frenkiel was assigned to work on the time machines when he joined Bell Labs in the early 1960s. He described the devices as large drums about 2 feet in diameter, with as many as 100 album-like audio tracks on the exterior. Whenever someone called time, the drums would start turning and a message would begin, with different tracks mixed together on the fly."The people who worked on it took it very seriously," Frenkiel, 64, recalled. "They took a lot of pride in it."

In a twist of historical irony, Frenkiel went on to play a leading role in development of the technology that makes cellphones possible -- the very device that's now instrumental in killing time.Phone companies have been providing the time to callers since the 1920s. In the early days, live operators read the time off clocks on the wall.In the 1930s, an Atlanta company called Audichron devised a system for the time to be provided automatically. Audichron leased its technology to phone companies nationwide, often with sponsorship from local businesses.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Perfect Pitch

The Musical Gift of Absolute Pitch, Also Called Perfect Pitch, May Lie in the Genes

By Miranda Hitti WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 27, 2007 -- Got perfect pitch? You might be genetically blessed with that musical ability, a new study shows.

Perfect pitch, also called absolute pitch, doesn't mean you can hit a high C -- or nail any other note. Perfect pitch isn't about performing; it's about identifying a musical tone without hearing a reference tone.

Perfect pitch is a rare ability that's "outside the ken of most humans," write researchers including Jane Gitschier, PhD, of the University of California at San Francisco.
Gitschier and colleagues posted a perfect pitch survey on their web site and invited anyone to participate.

Testing for Perfect Pitch

The survey presented a perfect-pitch test. In the test, people played 72 tones through their computers and tried to identify each tone after hearing it for only one second.

During a three-year period (July 2002 through July 2005), 2,213 people took the test; 44% of them scored in the "perfect pitch" range.

That percentage may sound pretty high for a rare gift. People with perfect pitch may have flocked to the web site. Most people who participated had at least six years of musical training.
The data show that people either have perfect pitch or they don't, with little gray area between those two groups.

That finding suggests that perfect pitch "could be governed by the influence of only one or a few genes," write the researchers. Exactly which genes remains to be seen.

Pitch Perception and Age

The study also shows that pitch perception may fade gradually with age. But even youngsters with perfect pitch didn't necessarily ace the tone test.

For instance, people with perfect pitch correctly identified G-sharp only 52% of the time.
They may have misclassified G-sharp as A (the next note on the scale) because, as musicians, they're used to hearing A, which is the universal tuning note, according to the researchers.
Gitschier and colleagues liken perfect pitch to the ability to precisely name subtle shifts in color -- say, the difference between the yellow of lemon sherbet and a sunflower.

The study appears in this week's early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Curious about the perfect pitch test? Take it yourself on the researchers' web site at

Metro Group Goes RFID Worldwide

Now it's almost a year since UPM Raflatac, RFID tag and inlay manufacturer, announced that it is taking part in the largest retail RFID pilot project in China. The company had been selected by retail giant METRO Group to supply its Rafsec G2 ShortDipole RFID inlays for an innovative pilot scheme to track products along the supply chain from China to Germany.It turned out that the big bet put by german giant has proven to be promising because Metro has expanded the use of smart tags from its stores in Europe to key producers in China as the German retailer moves to optimize its global logistics chain.

According to ComputerWorld UK: A three-month test, launched this week in Hong Kong, will require boxes and containers of products destined for Metro's distribution centre in Unna, Germany, to carry RFID (radio frequency identification) tags.The pilot is part of the company's Advanced Logistics Asia (ALA) program, which kicked off in October 2006. The goal is to have more accurate, real-time data that will help the retailer improve control over its international supply chain, resulting in lower warehousing costs and fewer out-of-stock situations, according to a Metro spokesman.

For the Hong Kong pilot, Chinese suppliers can either fit passive RFID tags to their shipments themselves or allow a consolidator to manage this process. The passive chips have no energy and a short reading distance, the spokesman said.Metro is collaborating with several IT companies, including IBM, Intel and SAP, and more than 40 additional consumer goods and technology suppliers to develop RFID systems for the retail sector. The retailer, which generated more than £40bn in sales last year through its 2,400 stores, operates Europe's largest RFID test bed.

Monday, August 27, 2007

$300 per Seat for Thin Client- Cut PC Expense

Little Box Shifts PC's Job to Far-Off Network Server
Pano Logic Says the Use Of Virtualization Will Ease Expenses for Companies
By DON CLARK August 27, 2007; Page B2
A technology called virtualization is helping save money in computer rooms. Now a Silicon Valley start-up hopes to exploit that technology to replace personal computers.
Pano Logic Inc., a closely held company in Menlo Park, Calif., has developed a small device that connects to a display and keyboard, and to a computer network. The hardware, which has no microprocessor chip or hard drive, transfers commands to a server that runs users' PC programs.
Removing software from the desktop eliminates the need for visits to employees' desks, slashing maintenance costs, argues Nick Gault, the company's chief executive.
Pano Logic's small device connects to a monitor and keyboard, but it transfers commands to a network server that runs users' PC programs. That goal may sound familiar. Companies have been pushing a variety of PC alternatives, sometimes known as "thin clients," for more than a decade. Citrix Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp., for example, also offer software that help users with simple terminals tap into PC software running on servers.
Those approaches can still require some desktop software, including programs called drivers to manage devices such as printers. Thin-client performance sometimes also lags behind that of desktop PCs. Partly as a result, thin clients have tended to be deployed mainly to workers with a small set of simple chores.
Another approach, pioneered by ClearCube Technology Inc., an Austin, Texas, start-up, gives each desktop user a computer called a PC blade that resides in a server room. But such devices don't offer much in hardware savings over PCs.
So Pano Logic decided to exploit virtualization. The technology, which began with International Business Machines Corp. mainframe systems, was pioneered on low-end servers by VMware Inc. Its software is now mainly used to address low utilization rates on such servers; virtualization software helps run multiple operating systems and their associated applications on one system.
Besides the desktop device, Pano Logic developed software for managing those gadgets that works with VMware software and versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system. Mr. Gault -- a former chief executive of virtualization specialist XenSource Inc., which recently agreed to be purchased by Citrix -- estimates that Pano Logic's technology allows each microprocessor on chips inside servers to manage four to 20 users.
Another selling point is a button on Pano Logic's devices that can roll back a user's computing session to an earlier state of activity in the event of a technical problem.
Pano Logic plans to begin offering its technology next month. It plans to charge $20 a month for using its hardware and software, or a one-time payment of $300 per user. Many companies have begun considering ways to use virtualization software to run desktop programs on servers.
Write to Don Clark at

Saturday, August 25, 2007

CD 25 Years Old Friday

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) -- It was August 17, 1982, and row upon row of palm-sized plates with a rainbow sheen began rolling off an assembly line near Hanover, Germany.

Are CDs burnt out after 25 years?

An engineering marvel at the time, today they are instantly recognizable as Compact Discs, a product that turned 25 years old on Friday -- and whose future is increasingly in doubt in an age of iPods and digital downloads.
Those first CDs contained Richard Strauss' Alpine Symphony and would sound equally sharp if played today, says Holland's Royal Philips Electronics NV, which jointly developed the CD with Sony Corp. of Japan.

The recording industry thrived in the 1990s as music fans replaced their aging cassettes and vinyl LPs with compact discs, eventually making CDs the most popular album format. The CD still accounts for the majority of the music industry's recording revenues, but its sales have been in a freefall since peaking early this decade, in part due to the rise of online file-sharing, but also as consumers spend more of their leisure dollars on other entertainment purchases, such as DVDs and video games.

As the music labels slash wholesale prices and experiment with extras to revive the now-aging format, it's hard to imagine there was ever a day without CDs.

Yet it had been a risky technical endeavor to attempt to bring digital audio to the masses, said Pieter Kramer, the head of the optical research group at Philips' labs in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

"When we started there was nothing in place," he told The Associated Press at Philips' corporate museum in Eindhoven.

The proposed semiconductor chips needed for CD players were to be the most advanced ever used in a consumer product. And the lasers were still on the drawing board when the companies teamed up in 1979.

In 1980, researchers published what became known as the "Red Book" containing the original CD standards, as well as specifying which patents were held by Philips and which by Sony. Philips had developed the bulk of the disc and laser technology, while Sony contributed the digital encoding that allowed for smooth, error-free playback. Philips still licenses out the Red Book and its later incarnations, notably for the CD-ROM for storing computer software and other data.

The CD's design drew inspiration from vinyl records: Like the grooves on a record, CDs are engraved with a spiral of tiny pits that are scanned by a laser -- the equivalent of a record player's needle. The reflected light is encoded into millions of 0s and 1s: a digital file.
Because the pits are covered with plastic and the laser's light doesn't wear them down, the CD never loses sound quality.

Legends abound about how the size of the CD was chosen: Some said it matched a Dutch beer coaster; others believe a famous conductor or Sony executive wanted it just long enough for Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

Kramer said the decision evolved from "long conversations around the table" about which play length made the most sense.

The jump into mass production in Germany was a milestone for the CD, and by 1982 the companies announced their product was ready for market. Both began selling players that fall, though the machines only hit U.S. markets the following spring.

Sony sold the first player in Japan on October 1, with the CBS label supplying Billy Joel's "52nd Street" as its first album.

The CD was a massive hit. Sony sold more players, especially once its "Discman" series was introduced in 1984. But Philips benefited from CD sales, too, thanks to its ownership of Polygram, now part of Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group.

The CD player helped Philips maintain its position as Europe's largest maker of consumer electronics until it was eclipsed by Nokia Corp. in the late 1990s. Licensing royalties sustained the company through bad times.

"The CD was in itself an easy product to market," said Philips' current marketing chief for consumer electronics, Lucas Covers. It wasn't just the sound quality -- discs looked like jewelry in comparison to LPs.

By 1986, CD players were outselling record players, and by 1988 CDs outsold records.
"It was a massive turnaround for the whole market," Covers said.

Now, the CD may be seeing the end of its days.

CD sales have fallen sharply to 553 million sold in the United States last year, a 22 percent drop from its 2001 peak of 712 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Napster and later Kazaa and BitTorrent allowed music fans to easily share songs over the Internet, often illegally. More recently, Apple Inc. and other companies began selling legal music downloads, turning the MP3 and other digital audio formats into the medium of choice for many owners of Apple's iPods and other digital players.

"The MP3 and all the little things that the boys and girls have in their pockets ... can replace it, absolutely," said Kramer, the retired engineer.

CDs won't disappear overnight, but its years may be numbered.

Record labels seeking to revive the format have experimented with hybrid CD-DVD combos and packages of traditional CDs with separate DVDs that carry video and multimedia offerings playable on computers.

The efforts have been mixed at best, with some attempts, such as the DualDisc that debuted in 2004, not finding lasting success in the marketplace.

Kramer said it has been satisfying to witness the CD's long run at the top and know he had a small hand in its creation.

"You never know how long a standard will last," he said. "But it was a solid, good standard and still is."

Friday, August 24, 2007

More iPhone Developments

NJ Teen Unlocks IPhone From AT&T Network

By PETER SVENSSON 08.24.07, 11:17 AM ET

A teenager in New Jersey has broken the lock that ties Apple's iPhone to AT&T's wireless network, freeing the most hyped cell phone ever for use on the networks of other carriers, including overseas ones.

George Hotz, 17, confirmed Friday that he had unlocked an iPhone and was using it on T-Mobile's network, the only major U.S. carrier apart from AT&T that is compatible with the iPhone's cellular technology.
While the possibility of switching from AT&T to T-Mobile may not be a major development for U.S. consumers, it opens up the iPhone for use on the networks of overseas carriers.
"That's the big thing," said Hotz, in a phone interview from his home in Glen Rock.
The phone, which combines an innovative touch-screen interface with the media-playing abilities of the iPod, is sold only in the U.S.

Calls to AT&T and Apple for comment were not immediately returned. The hack, which Hotz posted Thursday to his blog, is complicated and requires skill with both soldering and software. It takes about two hours to perform. Since the details are public, it seems likely that a small industry may spring up to buy U.S. iPhones, unlock them and send them overseas.

"That's exactly, like, what I don't want," Hotz said. "I don't want people making money off this."
He said he wished he could make the instructions simpler, so users could modify the phones themselves.

"But that's the simplest I could make them," Hotz said.

The modification leaves the iPhone's many functions, including a built-in camera and the ability to access Wi-Fi networks, intact. The only thing that won't work is the "visual voicemail" feature, which shows voice messages as if they were incoming e-mail.

Hotz collaborated online with four other people, two of them in Russia, to develop the unlocking process.

"Then there are two guys who I think are somewhere U.S.-side," Hotz said. He knows them only by their online handles.

American Owned, Chinese Made Flat Panel Manufacturer #1

Probably not good news for Japanese and Korean manufacturers...

Irvine, CA - August 22, 2007 - VIZIO, once known as the fastest growing brand of HDTVs, was named by DisplaySearch as the #1 selling brand of flat panel (LCD and Plasma) HDTVs in the U.S. With a business model focused on providing high-performance and high-value HDTVs, VIZIO, in just 4 years, has gone from virtual obscurity to #1 in North American flat panel HDTV sales. For the first time in more than a decade an American brand led major categories in U.S. TV sales.

According to DisplaySearch Founder and President Ross Young, "VIZIO's rise from the #15 flat panel TV brand in Q2'05 to #1 in Q2'07 is quite remarkable given the intense competition in this market and can be attributed to its unique channel strategy. Its warehouse club channel focus and lack of channel conflicts enabled the company to get to disruptive price points which helped fuel the rapid rise of the warehouse club channel in the US TV market and caused its shipments to surge. In addition, VIZIO's successful expansion outside of the club channel to Circuit City, Sears and Wal-Mart while maintaining its attractive price points further boosted its growth and enabled the company to earn the #1 ranking in the North American flat panel TV market."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Music Piracy Loses Mount

I don't recall their ever being 71,060 jobs in the audio industry ever to lose...

Report Details Music Piracy Losses

Dallas, TX (August 23, 2007)

According to a report released by the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), rampant global piracy of recorded music has cost the U.S. $12.5 billion in economic output and 71,060 jobs annually. The report, "The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S. Economy," is described as "the first of its kind to credibly estimate the impact of sound recording piracy not just on the recording industry, but also on the U.S. economy as a whole." The Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) was founded in 1987 by Congressman Dick Armey (R-TX) to research, develop and promote innovative and non-partisan solutions to today's public policy problems.

According to the report, because of global and U.S.-based piracy of sound recordings, every year the U.S. economy loses $12.5 billion; U.S. workers lose 71, 060 jobs; and U.S. workers lose $2.7 billion in earnings. That includes $1.1 billion in earnings from workers in the sound recording industry or "downstream" retail industries, and $1.6 billion in earnings by workers in other U.S. industries. Additionally, says the report, the U.S. government loses at least $422 million in tax revenues, including $291 million in personal income tax and $131 million in lost corporate income and production taxes

Concert Business Threatened Soon?

Ticketmaster Halts Live Nation Talks

August 23, 2007; Page B3 (WSJ)

A long-simmering feud over one of the music industry's last remaining reliable revenue sources boiled over yesterday, as Ticketmaster, the nation's dominant ticket seller, halted talks to reach a new long-term agreement with the biggest concert promoter, Live Nation Inc.

The situation threatens to create an acrimonious war over who will sell tickets for a big portion of the U.S. live-entertainment industry. A memo circulated within IAC/InterActiveCorp's Ticketmaster, which controls the ticket inventory to nearly all major concert and sporting events in the U.S., said the ticketing company no longer expects to renew its agreements to sell seats for events at buildings owned by Live Nation, its largest client. Events at venues owned by Live Nation and its House of Blues subsidiary generated 17% of Ticketmaster's roughly $1 billion revenue last year.

Talks between the two sides have grown acrimonious during the past year and a half, according to people close to the situation. Live Nation Chief Executive Michael Rapino has threatened to start his own ticketing operation rather than renew with Ticketmaster. The concert-promotion business has notoriously thin margins; Live Nation reported net income of $9.9 million for the quarter that ended June 30, on revenue of $1.04 billion; it lost money in 2005 and 2006. Having its own ticketing could be seen as a way to increase profitability. Live Nation didn't respond to a request for comment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sharp Unveils Ultra Thin, Low Energy TV

By Koji Sasahara, AP

A model holds a glass panel encasing a prototype TV of what Sharp says is the thinnest, lightest and lowest energy-consuming liquid crystal display in the world.

By Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press

TOKYO — Sharp showed a 29 millimeter (1.1 inches) thick prototype TV Wednesday the Japanese electronics maker said was the thinnest, lightest and lowest energy-consuming liquid crystal display in the world.

The 25 kilogram (55 pound) display, which has a tuner and other TV features encased in its panel, weighs about half of current LCD panel TVs and consumes about half their power, according to Sharp. It consumes about a quarter of the energy of plasma display panel TVs, Sharp said.

At a Tokyo museum, Sharp demonstrated how the new panels could be easily hung on walls or placed on thin poles for an arty floating effect. The panels are about one-fourth the thickness of its current models.

Sharp officials said they hope the new panels will be popular in the U.S. and Europe, where homes tend to be more spacious than Japanese homes.

The Osaka-based manufacturer of Aquos brand TVs gave no sales dates, prices or technology details for the panel it said delivers more vivid image quality than current panels.

President Mikio Katayama said parts of the new technology — a culmination of various improvements in materials, color filters and backlight technology — will be introduced gradually in Sharp's upcoming products.

He also said he hoped to have the innovations ready for mass commercial production by the time a new Sharp plant is running by March 2010.

The panels on display, which were as thin as 20 millimeters (0.79 inch) in some places, showed images of earth from space and colorful tropical flowers to illustrate superb contrast and image resolution.

"You will experience vivid colors unknown in today's LCDs," said Shigeaki Mizushima, group general manager overseeing display technology.

Concerned About Lightning Strikes?

I' m sure our Florida readers take it quite seriously...
The WAVE Sequencer employs state-of-the-art technology to shut down and isolate vulnerable electrical components during local thunderstorms. The Sequencer receives digitally encoded signals from the WAVE Transmitter to initiate the orderly protection of golf course irrigation equipment. The WAVE Transmitter accepts contact-closure signals from the Strike Guard Lightning Data Receiver and sends disable and/or enable signals via radio to the Sequencer based on detection of local lightning by Strike Guard.
Each Sequencer allows three separate electrical power feeds to be switched with programmable delays. The 12 VDC outputs of the Sequencer are designed to control contactors appropriate for managing the loads represented by pumps, irrigation systems and other critical equipment.

US Broadband Deployment

Phone Companies Grabbed Most of New Broadband Subscribers Last Quarter

According to a new study by Leichtman Research Group, the nineteen largest cable and telephone providers in the US, representing about 94% of the market acquired over 1.7 million net additional high-speed Internet subscribers in the second quarter of 2007. The top broadband providers now account for nearly 58 million subscribers, with cable companies having 31.5 million, and telephone companies over 26.4 million.

Additional key findings for the quarter include:

Total broadband additions were the fewest since the second quarter of 2004, and about 400,000 less than in the second quarter of last year

Charter was the only major broadband provider to record significantly more net broadband additions in the second quarter than a year ago

The top telephone companies added about 925,000

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wireless Mics Versus WiMAX, continued...

Shure Says White Space Devices 'Not Ready For Prime Time'

NILES, IL--Shure Incorporated applauded the release of test results that evaluated the performance of proposed unlicensed devices that would operate in the "White Spaces" of the TV broadcast spectrum. The FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology released the results of the testing yesterday."Shure has always urged policymakers to leave this issue in the hands of unbiased and independent testing experts. Unfounded promises that interference mitigation technology 'will work' aren't good enough. After the release of this report, the Commission and Congress can see why the independent analysis was so important," said Sandy LaMantia, president and CEO of Shure.

FCC experts tested two prototypes of proposed personal/portable consumer devices that were designed to detect and avoid both active DTV channels and wireless microphone signals. According to the test report, however, the prototype devices failed to consistently sense or detect the presence of either DTV broadcasts or wireless microphones. Testing also showed that the prototype devices interfered with digital cable TV channel reception on three DTV receivers in a typical home environment."The idea that big manufacturers can dump millions of new gadgets onto the same frequencies as wireless microphones without causing devastating interference to sports, entertainment, religious, news gathering, and other live productions is simply not supported by engineering reality," said Mark Brunner, senior director of public and industry relations at Shure.

"The FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology deserves tremendous credit for resisting pressure to forego a hard look at claims that the new devices won't interfere and for resolving the issue on sound and objective engineering analysis."The tests were conducted as the FCC prepares to issue regulations in October that will govern whether unlicensed consumer devices are permitted to operate in the so-called "White Spaces" between active TV channels. This spectrum has been used by wireless microphones and other wireless audio devices for more than 20 years.

When a System Breaks Down

Years ago we lived out in the English countryside. The local passenger trains were typically late, and the public address announcer would give the same speech once an hour, "Sorry for our most recent delay- insufficient rolling stock, poor labor relations, insufficient infrastructure expenditure, managerial incompetence, and the possibilty of leaves on the track seem to be the likely culprits today". It always got a laugh...

Welcome to London: Your Luggage Is Missing

Why British Airways Is Worse Than Even U.S. Airlines At Losing (and Finding) Bags
August 21, 2007; Page D1

The strains of the world's aviation system can be seen pretty clearly in Ned Soltz's moldy luggage.

On June 29, his suitcase was lost by British Airways PLC at London's Heathrow Airport on its way to Israel. Mr. Soltz, an Arlington, Texas, rabbi and digital video author, says British Airways often didn't answer baggage-office phones or respond to emails. When the bag finally was delivered to him by FedEx on Aug. 1 -- 15 days after his trip ended -- he says the suitcase was so water-logged that black mold was growing on his clothes and audio-visual equipment.
"It was tremendously stressful because they were so quintessentially unhelpful," he said.

British Airways has been a baggage nightmare for travelers since Christmas last year. Tens of thousands of bags have piled up at Heathrow at various times this summer. British Airways, the world's second-largest airline in international passenger traffic, mishandled 28 bags per 1,000 passengers in the second quarter this year, a rate that is twice as bad as the worst U.S. major airline, US Airways Group Inc. In all, British Airways has lost the bags of more than 550,000 customers in the first half of this year. The airline says it is sorry about customer experiences like Rabbi Soltz's and that its baggage operation is returning to "normal" now, but at Heathrow it is still susceptible to meltdowns when flights are delayed.

A look into the root causes of British Airways baggage problems reveals much about the state of airline dysfunction today. There's finger-pointing between various groups responsible for operations, plus a lack of manpower, aging equipment, jam-packed planes, security hassles and schedules packed too tightly together. Just like airport delays, bumped passengers and other travel problems this year, the British Airways baggage system shows how airlines have made operations so lean and taxed infrastructure so fully that problems compound exponentially for customers.

Traveler beware -- many of the problems likely won't ease until British Airways moves into a new Heathrow terminal in March, or the British government relaxes its security restriction allowing only one carry-on bag, which has sharply increased the volume of checked baggage.
After the alleged liquid-bomb plot was uncovered in August 2006, British authorities limited carry-on baggage to one piece -- period. The rest of the world lets travelers take two bags on board planes, usually one suitcase and one personal bag, like a briefcase or purse. That increased the volume of checked baggage on British Airways by about 15%. Added volume strained a system already overtaxed.

Regis Philbin launched into a rant on his "Live With Regis and Kelly" show last month about how British Airways lost two of his wife's suitcases, and returned one soaking wet. Mr. Philbin told his audience one of his wife's favorite Armani dresses was ruined.

Trudi Behr, a marketing consultant from Los Angeles, says she arrived at British Airways baggage claim area in Heathrow in late July to see luggage stacked 12-feet high. "There were rows and rows of bags," she said. Hers wasn't delivered, and a British Airways representative told her it would be on the next flight out of Rome, where she had been on a business trip.
"I fell for it," said Ms. Behr. She tried to track her bags through British Airways electronic system, but got no updates. She couldn't reach anyone to talk to. Then, 13 days after they were lost, the three bags arrived at her Los Angeles home, one each day for three consecutive days.
Some problems emanate from the airport itself. The Association of European Airlines says the Heathrow baggage system physically failed 10 times during May and June, including power failures and breakdowns in a tunnel of conveyor belts that move bags between British Airways buildings, Terminal 1 and Terminal 4.

Heathrow's owner and operator, BAA Ltd., "is delivering embarrassingly low service levels on everything from security wait-times to baggage delivery and almost everything in-between," Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association, said earlier this month.

BAA says problems have largely been airline problems, not airport. BAA, which is owned by Grupo Ferrovial of Spain, says it sorts bags for airlines and delivers them to drop points -- after that, it's all up to the airline.

"The airport's baggage system is extremely robust and is coping well since the one-bag rule was introduced in 2006," a BAA spokeswoman said. British Airways says weather has been a major factor -- fog last Christmas, storms this summer. That has meant widespread flight delays -- something the airline's baggage setup hasn't been able to cope with. While passengers run to get on their connecting flights, bags don't move as fast, and British Airways hasn't held airplanes waiting for their bags.

The carrier says there's only enough room in its baggage hall -- where bags for specific flights aggregate and are loaded onto carts -- for the scheduled number of flights each hour. The airline doesn't want planes sitting at gates waiting for bags because it needs the gate for other flights. And it doesn't have room in its baggage hall for delayed flights. Leave a station dedicated too long to a delayed flight and there's no place to put bags that customers are checking for upcoming flights. So it's round 'em up and move 'em out -- whether they get on the right flight or not.

"If the airline holds too many planes at Heathrow, gridlock can develop in terminal areas and taxiways. And it's the same for baggage," said David Noyes, head of British Airways' Heathrow operation. "The whole effect snowballs and it doesn't take long to get gridlock."

Sending customers without their bags only compounds problems because the delayed bags will have to undergo special security screening to fly later without their owners. That takes time and manpower.

Mr. Noyes says British Airways has supplemented the troublesome tunnel with vans and trucks and is in the process of hiring 340 more baggage handlers. The airline has used cargo carriers to ship out delayed bags. And British Airways has changed its schedule to add 15 minutes to its minimum connection times -- now 90 minutes for connections in different terminals and 75 minutes for connections in the same terminal.

In addition, British Airways has been hiring phone staff after realizing it didn't have enough workers to answer customer calls. It used to tell customers to call the baggage office where the bag was lost -- but Heathrow baggage workers were often out looking for bags and rarely answered the phone.

The ultimate solution, Mr. Noyes noted, is the March 27 opening of Terminal 5, which will greatly boost capacity and move 90% of the airline's operations under one roof.

Write to Scott McCartney at

Monday, August 20, 2007

Stupid and Stupider

Would it be possible to make sense out of the HD world?

Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. will offer next-generation DVDs in the HD DVD format and drop support for Blu-ray, further complicating the race between the competing technologies.

Monday's announcement affects the upcoming DVD release of the blockbuster "Shrek the Third" and all movies distributed by Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies and MTV Films, as well as movies from DreamWorks Animation (nyse: DWA - news - people ), which are distributed exclusively by Paramount Home Entertainment.

Paramount previously released movies in both formats.

Thought You'd Like This One

The dinghy is Original Contract

The boat is Change Order

End of an Era- NSCA Tradeshow Gone

NSCA couldn't draw the numbers for Las Vegas, finally melts into InfoComm...

NSCA and InfoComm Merge Trade Shows

New York (August 20, 2007)-- InfoComm International and NSCA will combine their industry events for both the professional AV and electronics systems industries in 2008; as a result, the 2008 NSCA Systems Integration Expo will become part of InfoComm’s annual tradeshow in Las Vegas on June 18-20, 2008.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Word for Those Contemplating Vista


Wasted the entire day today just trying to get a DHCP connection to the Internet on a preconfigured Vista box. Hold onto your XP Professional stuff as hard as you can. Apparently Microsoft's "Ultimate" edition doesn't support the latest generation of routers just yet.

I did find out that Circuit City charges a 15% restocking fee if you take back a Vista computer you purchased the same day. Their justification was that Besy Buy charges the same.

HP must be in contention for the world's worst telephone technical support- what's happened to them? They want $70 up front just to talk about networking- that's after you've been on hold for 90 minutes to talk to someone with a rudimentary grasp of the English language and having asked to speak to a supervisor five times. I can't believe their desktop folks have ever spoken to their printer folks about quality of support. We used to routinely buy everything from them. No longer.

Vista's still not ready for prime time yet, Bill. It's making Microsoft's vendors look stupid.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Parent of Mackie and EAW Struggling

Loud Technologies loses $2.7M in latest quarter

Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) - 2:18 PM PDT Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Loud Technologies Inc. reported it lost $2.7 million in the latest quarter, which compares with net income of $300,000 a year earlier. Revenues fell to $50.6 million from $53.5 million in 2006.

The Woodinville audio and music company (NASDAQ: LTEC) owns brands such as Mackie and EAW. "We have experienced general softening in the demand for most of our product lines over the last 12 months. These trends are reflective of challenges facing our major customers and the industry as a whole," company officials said in a 10-Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Harman Sale in Jeopardy?

KKR warns that it may need more bank loans

August 14, 2007

Highlighting how quickly the market for leveraged buyouts has turned, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts issued a revised filing for its coming public offering warning that it may not be able to tap the public markets to finance pending or future transactions. The most notable addition to KKR’s new IPO documents, updating those filed on July 3, were in the section detailing the risks related to its business, where it said: “The cost of financing leveraged buyout transactions by issuing high-yield debt securities in the public capital markets has recently increased significantly.

If conditions in the debt markets do not become more favorable to us in the near term, we may need to rely on financing commitments provided directly by investment banks or other sources.” The pushback in the credit markets comes at a particularly bad time for KKR, which has several large deals waiting on financing, including $37.35 billion for TXU, $24 billion for First Data and $5.15 for Harman International Industries.

AVI and SPL to Merge?

Audio Visual Innovations, Inc. (AVI) and SPL Integrated Solutions (SPL) announce their intent to explore combining their respective businesses into a new entity.

The potential new company will serve to meet the current and future requirements national and international organizations demand for delivery and service of collaborative communication technology. The new company will offer to its vast customer base all elements of audio video products and services including e-commerce/telesales, systems design integration and installation, managed service, repair and maintenance, contractual rental services and equipment, staging/production and event management capabilities. Market focuses for the new company will be corporate, education, healthcare, hospitality, performance venue and house of worship.

The combined organization will have the greatest breadth of resources, a veteran and stable management team, the most experienced and qualified workforce in the audio visual industry and unequaled financial strength.

According to Martin Schaffel, Managing Chairman of AVI, “the bringing together of these two great companies will provide dynamic opportunities for the growth and development of our valued employees and will provide the spectrum of products and services necessary for specific industries and the Fortune 500.”

Chad Gillenwater, SPL’s President and CEO adds, “I am in full agreement with Marty’s vision in terms of the benefits to our employees and customers. This could be the window into the future for our industry and we are excited about the opportunity.”

Skype Service Outage Caused by Software Problems

Associated PressAugust 16, 2007 11:52 a.m.

Skype, the popular program that lets its users make long-distance calls using their computers, said Thursday that software problems have left many of its millions of users without service world-wide.

It was not immediately clear how many users were affected, but Skype users in Colombia, Brazil, Germany, Finland and the U.S. reported difficulties logging on.

The company, a division of online auctioneer eBay Inc., said on its Web site many users cannot log on to the free service. "Our engineering team has determined that it's a software issue," according to a site maintained by Skype. "We expect this to be resolved within 12 to 24 hours."
Skype urged users to allow the program to continue running and that they would automatically be logged on when the problem is resolved.

Skype uses peer-to-peer technology to connect phone calls, instant messages and videos between its users. It runs on a variety of operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, PocketPC and Linux. Skype users can also use the program to connect to cellphones and traditional land-line telephones.

The company was acquired by eBay in October 2005 for about $2.1 billion.
Copyright © 2007 Associated Press

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cable Fights Back - 100 Mbps Soon?

Dull, but fascinating when you think about it... investment possibility?

Cisco, TI Paddle Upstream
AUGUST 13, 2007

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO - message board) and Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN - message board) are the first, but apparently not the only, vendor pair to successfully demonstrate interoperable Docsis 3.0 upstream channel bonding at CableLabs ' Louisville, Colo.-based R&D house.

The lab demo, conducted in July, teamed Cisco's flagship cable modem termination system (CMTS), the uBR10012, with TI's Puma 5 Docsis 3.0 modem chipset and reference design, which was introduced in May at the 2007 Cable Show. (See TI Chips In.).

For Cisco's part, the upstream channel bonding was handled in the core CMTS chassis via the company's uBR10-MC5X20S/U/H Cable Interface Line Card, which contains 20 upstream ports, according to Paul Yesnosky, Cisco's senior product line manager for CMTS products.

The CMTS, he explains, can then address a key challenge of upstream channel bonding: taking in fragments from multiple upstream channels and reassembling everything back to its original order.

Upstream channel bonding is just one feature of Docsis 3.0. The platform, designed to offer shared speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s, also bonds downstream channels and supports IPv6 and IP multicast applications. Deployments and trials involving pre-Docsis 3.0 equipment have been largely limited to downstream channel bonding.

"The upstream test was one of the final pieces that had to be put into place to show some major progress on Docsis 3.0," Yesnosky says.

A CableLabs spokesman confirmed that TI and Cisco were the first to demonstrate upstream interoperability, but he added that other CMTS vendors have also achieved it. The spokesman would not say who else has joined the CableLabs 3.0 upstream interop club, but the most likely candidate is Casa Systems Inc. , a next-gen CMTS startup based in Andover, Md.

Although Cisco has shown upstream Docsis 3.0 channel bonding in tandem with TI, the company still expects to submit the uBR10012 CMTS for "Bronze" qualification this October when CableLabs launches Certification Wave 56, the first Wave that will officially test CMTSs and modems for Docsis 3.0 qualification and certification.

To push the CMTS qualification needle, CableLabs announced a tiered CMTS testing plan in April, allowing vendors to submit products for "Bronze," "Silver," or "Full." (See CableLabs Accelerates Docsis 3.0 Testing .)

CableLabs has not publicly disclosed which features are included in each tier, but people familiar with the process say Full will include the whole spec, while Bronze will support downstream channel bonding and IPv6; and Silver will introduce upstream channel bonding and the spec's Advanced Encryption System (AES). (See Go for the Bronze! )

Among CMTS vendors, Casa is believed to be one -- and possibly the only one -- that expects to go for Full Docsis 3.0 CMTS qualification right out of the blocks. Casa president and CEO Jerry Guo confirmed in an email that his company has demonstrated upstream channel bonding in a lab setting, but he wasn't ready to disclose its plans for Wave 56.

Although CMTS vendors don't have to incorporate the whole spec yet just to gain a piece of Docsis 3.0 qualification, the tiered approach won't go on in perpetuity. It's said that Bronze and Silver testing will sunset on March 2009. After that, all CMTS vendors will have to shoot for Full qualification. Cable modem vendors must test against the full specs starting with Wave 56.

Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CNXT - message board) and Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM - message board) are also developing Docsis 3.0 CPE chipsets. Other than confirming that Cisco is working with all Docsis chipset vendors, Yesnosky declined to say how far along Cisco was with each of them or what their respective plans are for Wave 56.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No More Scaling Down

Two new Plasma screens from Panasonic, the TH50PZ700 and the TH42PZ700 offer Full HD native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Rather than scaling pictures to fit, these new screens are able to resolve every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources for a cleaner sharper picture. In addition to Full HD, the PZ700 series are equipped with Panasonic's 10th generation of plasma screens and as such have the new G10 panels.

At the heart of the both new screens is the latest incarnation of Panasonic's picture processing technology, Vreal2. Vreal2 brings together an impressive range of technological picture processing wizardry adapted for the 10th generation screens designed primarily to improve the production of colours, noise levels, motion handling capabilities and black level performance.
Combine Panasonic's latest 10th generation screens with Vreal processing and Full HD and you have what is possibly the best High Definition (HD) performance available today. The level of sharpness and detail is absolutely stunning, showing every possible nuance of detail imaginable

Monday, August 13, 2007

Can India and China Really Produce So Many Engineers?

August 13, 2007, 12:17 pm

India and China produce thousands of engineers and scientists a year, but that quantity has been achieved at the expense of quality, report Melinda Liu and Sudip Mazumdar in Newsweek International. China graduated 600,000 engineers in 2005 and India produces 500,000 graduates in technical fields annually.

Those impressive numbers of technical graduates have led some to predict that India and China will become “scientific superpowers” over the next few decades. However, scant funding and other problems have undermined the value of their degrees.

Employers shun many graduates or conduct their own training. Companies also complain that Indian and Chinese universities tend to emphasize rote learning and conformity over creative thinking. “Out of the huge number of engineering and science graduates that India produces, only 25% to 30% can be regarded as suitable,” says Kiran Karnik, head of the National Association of Software and Services Companies, an Indian trade group.

World's Highest Resolution Video Display

They're big-television watchers

Video screen features the highest resolution in the world. But no Super Bowl viewing -- yet.

By David Haldane, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 13, 2007

It wasn't built to watch the playoffs. And you can't tune it to HBO. Yet students and professors at UC Irvine say they've spent some scintillating days looking at the human brain, cancer cells and weather maps.

The images virtually jump out from what they say is the world's highest-resolution video screen." We had to build something big enough to make me look small," said Stephen F. Jenks, the 6-foot-10 assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science who helped design the university's 23-by-9-foot Highly Interactive Parallelized Display Wall. The wall consists of rows of linked monitors, each of which displays a portion of the picture. For those whose concept of high-definition centers on whether to buy an LCD or plasma TV, here's a number to chew on: 200 million pixels.

That's enough to provide a picture about 100 times more detailed than the best high-definition TV. And it's enough to have made UCI's newest research tool, dubbed the HIPerWall, a hit among scientists throughout Southern California. "It's exciting," said Joerg Meyer, a professor of computer graphics and visualization who helped develop the screen's software.

"This display has higher resolution than the human retina can see." Built three years ago with a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the HIPerWall has been used to observe changes in the individual brain cells of schizophrenics, predict climate change by comparing a century's worth of weather models and study the cells of a woman who died of ovarian cancer." We can see the big picture," Jenks said.

Or the small. The screen, on the second floor of the Center of Graphics, Visualization and Imaging Technology at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering, has also provided satisfying moments for those creative enough to test its limits in unintended ways.

Its developers have spotted trapped cars and fallen trees in aerial photographs of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Beautiful mountain vistas can be enjoyed as if they were right in the lab. One student even cranked the screen up for a game using Play Station and his favorite electric guitar. The contraption's ability to entertain, in fact, is at the top of most non-scientists' lists. Jenks' brother saw the HIPerWall as the perfect medium for watching the Super Bowl. You can't -- for the most prosaic of reasons. "For that," Jenks said, "we'd need an antenna on the roof." But it's a role that the technology behind the HIPerWall will play in the future, Jenks says."

In 15 years," he said, "we will have these screens on the walls of our homes. It will no longer be wallpaper, just an active display." Should you tire of California, for instance, the flick of a switch will transport your house to a virtual beach on the French Riviera. "Your whole wall will be a TV set," Jenks said. "You can have a lake, a fireplace, whatever you want."

Orange Peeled is one in an occasional series of stories that look at life inside the county.

Those Ads Before the Movie

National CineMedia Up in 2Q

by Erik Sass, Monday, Aug 13, 2007 7:00 AM ET

NATIONAL CINEMEDIA, INC., WHICH OWNS almost half of the nation's largest in-theater network (National CineMedia, LLC), announced a 46.6% increase in revenue in the second quarter of 2007 to $83.7 million, compared to the same period last year.

This was due largely to a 52.8% increase in advertising revenue, to $76.7 million--a testament to the continuing rapid growth of cinema advertising. Overall income rose to $6.3 million, compared with a net loss of $1.2 million in the second quarter.

While national ad inventory remained basically flat, local and regional advertising enjoyed a boom, growing 47.6%. The company saw a 6.9% increase in the average number of theaters used in the network.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Follow the Leader

August 12, 2007

Universal Orlando Increases Ticket Prices To Match Disney

Orlando, FL -- Universal increased ticket prices Friday for its Orlando theme parks Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The one-day, one-park ticket for price for adults increased from $67 to $71. Child tickets increased from $56 to $60.

The increases were not limited to just the one-day, one-park ticket. Universal also increased prices on selected packages, Florida resident offers and for its online promotion. The price hike at Universal matches last week’s price increase at Walt Disney World’s theme parks.

Universal City Development Partners also reported their second quarter earnings. The company reported a 32 percent increase in earnings with a 3 percent decline in attendance at the gate and a 2 percent decline in paid admission.

In park per capita spending was up. Revenue from food, beverage and merchandise increased 8 percent. Overall, Universal reported a net income of $36.3 million compared to $27.4 million for the same period a year ago.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ever Wondered Where iPods & iPhones are Made?

Interesting video on the Foxconn Chinese contract labor plant, 270,000 employees starting out at 60 cents per hour...

Whither WiMAX?

Written by John Mayberry

Preview for Systems Contractor News Magazine
August, 2007

The United States has fallen significantly behind the rest of the world in data bandwidth, both wired and wireless. We now rank 15th in fat-wired economies worldwide according to the CWA in the hardwired world. Our median Internet download speed is 2 Mbps while Japan leads the world at 61 Mps. Our domestic DSL and cable provider services are not competitive on the world market.

It’s with this thought in mind that the FCC is auctioning off the 700 MHz spectrum in 2008, where a wireless competitor to cable and DSL is envisioned called WiMAX. Most of the big players from cable and Internet are eyeing the auction with great interest. The bandwidth, being wrested from broadcasters moving to digital, is ideal for penetrating buildings, which is why it is currently being used by UHF television channels 52 through 69.

Entry cost for the auction? You eBay bidders should note the reserve price is $4.6 billion. Make sure your PayPal account is ready.

Those of you using UHF wireless microphones may likely be using those frequencies right now. The carrier for many wireless mic systems lies right in the middle of that bandwidth. On July 31st the FCC’s office of Engineering and Technology evaluated two prototype wireless mic prototypes systems designed to use television white space instead of the 700 MHz bandwidth.

The July tests failed; mice and men are currently being led astray without an acceptable alternative. One doubts whether wireless mic operability concerns will hold up the auction though. There’s also an unresolved battle with the satellite folks over the spectrum.
WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) should not to be confused with WiFi. WiMAX is aimed to provide wireless data over multiple methods, including full mobile and fixed applications over a standardized and interoperable platform to provide an alternative to DSL and cable for the “last mile”.
The bandwidth and reach of WiMAX make it suitable for connecting Wi-Fi hotspots to each other, an alternative to cable and DSL, high speed data and telecommunications applications, a secondary backup, and nomadic connectivity. Hopefully it will remain a competitive arena with multiple players to keep pricing low.

WiMAX subscriber units are available in both indoor and outdoor versions from several manufacturers. Self-install indoor units are convenient, but radio losses mean that the subscriber must be significantly closer to the WiMAX base station than with professionally installed external units. Indoor units are comparable in size to a cable modem or DSL modem. Outdoor units are roughly the size of a laptop PC, and their installation is comparable to a residential satellite dish.

Some cellular companies are evaluating WiMAX as a means of increasing bandwidth for a variety of data-intensive applications; Sprint Nextel announced in mid-2006 that it would invest about US$ 3 billion in a WiMAX technology build out over the next few years.
WiMAX differs from WiFi primarily in how they connect and how efficiently they use the spectrum. The WiFi wireless access point we’re familiar with at Starbucks croaks after a few VOIP or IPTV connections connect due to the way interruptions are handled. WiMAX is a longer range system, roughly comparable in range to a cell phone, where WiFi is more comparable to a cordless phone.

WiMAX maximum capabilities are 70 Mbit/s and/or a range of 30 miles. Somewhat analogous to Heisenberg’s thinking, you will get one or the other but certainly not both at the same time. In urban environments it’s believed to max out at 10 Mbit/second over one mile.

WiMAX uses a scheduling algorithm which allocated slots after initial entry into a network. The slot bandwidth can enlarge or contract, but remains assigned until disconnected. Quality of Service parameters can be automatically balanced.

Due to the ease and low cost with which Wi-Fi can be deployed, it is sometimes used to provide Internet access to third parties within a single room or building available to the provider, sometimes informally, and sometimes as part of a business relationship. For example, many coffee shops, hotels, and transportation hubs contain Wi-Fi access points providing access to the Internet for patrons.

All of the WiMAX effort may amount to a hill of beans at this point. Japan’s NTT DoCoMo has already begun testing a new cellular network capable of downloading speeds up to 300 Mbits/second. Completion of a Japanese nationwide network is scheduled for 2009, three years before WiMAX deployment would likely be completed in the USA.

It would appear that we’re destined to stay in 15th place for quite some time. There are some bright spots on the horizon. US telecom carriers currently plan on spending $70 billion on system upgrades over the next few years. Verizon alone is spending $18 billion of that on FiOS, a venture to bring fiber to the home and bypassing the limitations of WiMAX altogether.

Having a market driven telecommunications infrastructure has its limitations indeed. WiMAX represents an improvement, but not a panacea. Yawn.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Russell Johnson, 83; innovative acoustician for classical music venues

By Elaine Woo August 10, 2007

Russell Johnson, whose inventive approach to the acoustic design of major performance venues allowed halls around the world to adjust to the requirements of a symphony or a jazz ensemble, has died. He was 83.

The founder of Artec Consultants, Johnson was found dead in his New York City apartment Tuesday after he failed to show up at his office. He died in his sleep, said Tateo Nakajima, one of Artec's managing directors. Johnson had completed more than 140 projects since opening his own acoustics and theater design firm 37 years ago.

He was best-known for his work on concert halls, including the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, England, and Lucerne Concert Hall in Switzerland. One of his most recent projects was the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, which opened last year in Costa Mesa. "The overriding impression and lasting feeling about Russell was he devoted his life to making the art of acoustics into a science," philanthropist Henry Segerstrom said Thursday. "We all talk about the art of the acoustics. He wanted the art to be a science. He had absolute dedication to the perfection of acoustics."

Johnson, said Cesar Pelli, the renowned architect who collaborated with Johnson on Segerstrom Concert Hall and the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, "truly understood acoustics. He just had an incredible ear and extraordinary understanding of what makes theaters be alive with music -- not just the mechanics of the music but all of the psychological aspects."

An innovator who looked to the past for inspiration, Johnson drew basic principles from the great 19th-century concert halls of Europe. He found that the ones most cherished by musicians had certain elements in common, chief among them size -- they held no more than 2,000 seats -- and a shoe-box shape. To these parameters Johnson added features such as flexible, sound-cushioning canopies above the orchestra, reverberation chambers with doors that open and close, and a system of motorized curtains, all of which can be individually adjusted to customize the sound quality of a room."I believe that you cannot, should not, design opera houses and concert halls for the next century unless you really understand the last three centuries of the design of this type of building," he told Canada's National Post in 2002.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Music Sales Down Again

Vinyl outsells DVD Audio and SACD combined, RIAA gooses their numbers by adding ringtones...

By: Jerry Del Colliano

The RIAA has released their 2006 sales report for recorded music, and the downward trend continues for yet another year. Overall sales are down 0.6 percent to 12.27 billion, which is slightly misleading because the RIAA is now counting the lucrative, new market of cell phone ringtones in their overall sales numbers. Without ringtones in the mix, overall music sales slipped even further in 2006. The low-resolution, audio-only Compact Disc format continues to age, leaving today's kids buying video oriented DVDs, high-definition video games and all sorts of content for their handheld devices such as, cell phones, PDAs and beyond.

While downloaded music boomed in 2006, with 174.5 percent growth, the more profitable, physical discs, including CDs, DualDiscs, SACD, DVD-Audio and vinyl fell in sales 7.9 percent to 11.9 billion dollars. Amazingly, or not so amazingly when you consider the total lack of label support for high-resolution music, the total sales of DVD-Audio and SACD combined reached a measly 1,000,000 units versus 1,300,000 units for records sold on vinyl.

The music business, now led by Apple Computer, has taken the path of least resistance when it comes to selling music. This basically means an abandonment of selling music by the album. In doing so, they have tossed their business model in to a free fall. While music executives have been complaining of illegal downloads for ten years now, they have done little to sign landmark, new artists that define a new generation's music. Instead they rely on selling their back catalog as singles, in low-resolution, downloadable formats.

Perhaps looking at releasing music with collateral video, surround sound and other goodies on one of the HD DVD or Blu-ray formats would be worth consideration, as the discs get $20 or more from early adopters, and come complete with HDCP copy protection and one cable (HDMI) connectivity. Imagine an album mixed in surround sound being played back with HD video content on one of the 2,000,000 HDTV sets sold per month, and you can see a business model that could replace the rotting carcass known as the Compact Disc.


Confused About What's Going on in Anaheim?

Jim Hill's blog has an excellent analysis worth reading...