Wednesday, August 27, 2008

RFID is Useful, But is It Safe?

Posted by Carl Weinschenk on August 21, 2008 at 10:08 am

It’s good to see that the government is taking the topic of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) security seriously. This SC Magazine piece, which notes that RFIDs are getting more attention as their use increases, says that the Federal Trade Commission will host a free workshop on the topic next month.

One example cited in the story – a paper written by three MIT students detailing how to beat the Boston subway system’s RFID-based Charlie Card fare collection system — is detailed in this Tech Radar piece.

A judge ruled that the students couldn’t be forced to withhold the paper detailing their exploit until the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority studied the document. The students said that they planned to delete key details and safeguard the fare system. MBTA now will try to meet with the students.

The story says that a similar situation exists in London, where the Oyster Card system has been hacked by Dutch university students. That vulnerability is discussed in this Control Engineering item. The story says that the SANS Institute reports that the Mifare RFID chip, which is the same one used by the Charlie Card, has been broken. SANS says that Mifare is used to access UK government departments, hospitals and schools. This Heise Online story explains the threat to British ePassports. The Dutch, understandably, have put their use of Mifare on hold.

This well written E-Commerce Times feature details the shortcomings of RFID security. The bottom line is that the technology is evolving rapidly and that its uses are changing drastically.

For instance, RFIDs to this point essentially have been short-distance technologies. Ways are being found to combine RFIDs with Wi-Fi and other long-distance platforms to greatly increase the distance the signals are carried. In many cases, new systems are creative combinations of several technologies. For this reason, end-to-end security is lacking.

Where there are problems, there are vendors offering solutions. Earlier this month, for instance, a British company released a system that prevents “skimming,” or reading, of wireless payment access cards. The new technology has the impressive name Quantum Tunnelling

NSCA Tech Week Cancelled

InfoComm, NSCA Cancel TechWeek

Publication date: August 27, 2008

By Pro AV Staff

InfoComm International announced that the inaugural NSCA TechWeek, originally slated for
Oct. 20 - 24, 2008, has been cancelled.

According to InfoComm, TechWeek was designed to be an accessible training event, offering a variety of networking opportunities. InfoComm and NSCA chose to cancel the event because members of both organizations expressed positive interest in the training component of the event, but emphasized the need for more regional training and did not see the need for exhibits since the annual InfoComm trade show presents an exhibition every June.

NSCA and InfoComm plan to work together to determine how regional training can be provided in multiple locations and dates throughout the coming year, rather than at one location. Future events will not include an exhibit component, according to officials.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Yesterday's Emmaco Blog Visitor Count

FCC Prohibits Wireless Mics in 700 MHz

FCC prohibits wireless mics in 700MHz band after DTV transition
Aug 25, 2008 3:14 PM

The FCC has voted unanimously to ban the use of wireless microphones and other devices in the 700MHz band after the transition to digital television Feb. 17. Also included in the FCC order is equipment for cue and control communications and that synchronizes TV camera signals.

The FCC also wants to prohibit the manufacture, import, sale or shipment of devices that operate as low-power auxiliary stations in the 700MHz band after the transition is complete. Anticipating the decision, wireless microphone vendors like Shure have not manufactured such mics since the end of 2007.

Wireless microphones have long been sharing the spectrum with broadcasters on Channels 52 through 69. Those channels, however, are being reclaimed for advanced wireless uses by industry players and first-responders after the transition to DTV.

Responding to consumer groups, the FCC Enforcement Bureau has opened an investigation into how manufacturers market wireless microphones to users.

The Public Interest Spectrum Coalition alleged in a complaint last month that users of wireless microphones, including Broadway stage shows and large churches, are unwittingly violating FCC rules that require licenses for the devices. The group accused wireless manufacturers of deceptive advertising in how they market and sell the microphones, which largely operate in the same radio spectrum as broadcast TV stations.

Most wireless microphone owners are unaware that FCC rules require them to obtain a license. Wireless microphones that operate in the same frequency bands as broadcast TV stations are intended for use in the production of TV or cable programming or the motion picture industry, according to FCC rules.

The FCC rarely enforces the licensing requirements on the microphones because there have been so few complaints; the microphones are programmed to avoid TV channels. However, transition to digital broadcasting has forced the FCC to act.

It’s not known how many wireless microphones are in operation, but Harold Feld, an attorney for the Media Access Project, said the total is likely more than 1 million. “These are the favored frequencies because they can be run at lower power and can be used for very high-quality audio,” Feld told the Associated Press.

The wireless microphone issue stems from the FCC’s consideration of using the spectrum between TV channels for transmitting wireless broadband signals. Consumer groups and some of the nation’s largest technology companies say these “white spaces” represent enormous potential to make broadband more accessible.Wireless microphone users and manufacturers have objected to the FCC over future white space devices because of fears of interference, even though many of them haven’t been granted government licenses for the microphones they’re using.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fusion Reactor in Your Living Room?

Not impossible, not exactly practical...

Monday, August 18, 2008

End of Internet Radio Music?

Ah, greed... four of the eighteen board members of the "non-profit" SoundExchange are:

Alasdair McMullan, EMI Music Group
Andrea Finkelstein,
Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Michael Ostroff,
Universal Music Group
Paul Robinson,
Warner Music Group

SoundExchange was originally formed as a division of the RIAA... Personally I can't wait for the Sony Internet radio channel, the Universal Internet radio channel, and the Warner Music Group Internet radio channel- they might have to pay themselves!

Pandora can't make money, may pull the plug

By David Chartier Published: August 18, 2008 - 07:30AM CT

Buckling under the weight of the Internet radio royalty hike that SoundExchange pushed through last July, Pandora may pull its own plug soon. Despite being one of the most popular Internet radio services, the company still isn't making money, and its founder, Tim Westergren, says it can't last beyond its first payment of the higher royalties.

Internet radio providers criticize SoundExchange's excessive administrative fees

SoundExchange offered a potential reprieve from the royalty hikes, but that turned out to be a red herring to sneak DRM onto web radio. In the end, SoundExchange was able to initiate a massive (and retroactive) royalty hike on Internet radio stations, imposing per-user fees for each song. Adding insult to injury, the royalties on Internet radio will double for big stations by 2010, to an estimated 2.91 cents per hour per listener—far higher than the 1.6 cents that satellite stations would pay. Radio stations don't pay fees like these yet, but don't worry. SoundExchange is working on fixing that problem.

Pandora, its peers, and many of their collective users have petitioned SoundExchange and politicians multiple times, but nothing has worked. According to the Washington Post, Representative Howard L. Berman (D-CA) is attempting one more last-minute deal between webcasters and SoundExchange, one that could lower the per-song rate set last year, but he isn't optimistic. "If [the negotiations don't] get much more dramatic quickly, I will extricate myself from the process," Berman said.

If Berman is unsuccessful, Pandora will have to pay 70 percent of its projected 2008 revenues of $25 million. "At the moment we think this problem in Washington is not going to get solved," Pandora's founder Tim Westergren told the Post, "we have to pull the plug because all we're doing is wasting money."

While it's true that SoundExchange has had DRM and radio broadcast flags on its agenda for some time now, representatives of the company have also justified its stance on higher royalties from revenue and profit standpoints. Stations like Pandora, SoundExchange argues, have a higher profit margin and more value because they can broadcast an unlimited number of songs to their users. This dynamic ability stands in contrast to traditional and even satellite radio stations that broadcast a single song on a finite number of channels.

SoundExchange also argues that Internet radio stations could do a lot more to increase their revenue, become profitable, and pay their (arguably high) fees. As much as it pains us to say it, there may be a point here.

There's no doubt that SoundExchange has been strong-arming the Internet radio industry into oblivion. But most Internet radio stations like Pandora offer their services for free, or they offer accounts with more features at incredibly cheap prices. While some stations display ads on their website, Pandora hasn't done itself any favors by offering desktop clients and a wildly popular iPhone application (iTunes link) that rake in millions of users without so much as a single ad.

Perhaps, for now, the "just build it and we'll figure out the business model later" approach won't be enough to save this experiment in new media.

Friday, August 15, 2008

New CEO at Loud Technologies

Any questions?
Loud Technologies Chairman and CEO Jamie Engen to Step Down; Rodney Olson Named as Engen's Successor

Last update: 12:44 p.m. EDT Aug. 15, 2008

WOODINVILLE, Wash., Aug 15, 2008 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- The board of directors of Loud Technologies, a leading professional audio and music products company, today announced that Jamie Engen is stepping down from his position as chairman and chief executive officer effective immediately. The board has named Rodney Olson as the company's Chairman and CEO.

"Over the past ten years, Jamie has played a critical role in growing Loud Technologies into the industry leader that it is today. We appreciate his contributions and wish him the best," said Tom Taylor, the board member who led the search for Engen's successor. "We are fortunate to have a strong successor to take over the reins and continue our growth efforts."

Olson joins Loud Technologies after a decade with Cardinal Brands, a Kansas-based $170 million office products company, where he has served as CFO, president and, most recently, CEO for the past two years. Under Olson's leadership, the company's revenues grew 30 percent despite highly competitive market conditions. Prior to his time at Cardinal Brands, Olson served as CFO at Sabreliner Corporation, a $250 million aviation company, where he led the company's M&A activity and was integral in driving revenue and market share growth in the six years he was there.

"Rodney has a proven track record of success over his 20 years of experience in executive positions, and the board is confident he has the skills and expertise needed to lead Loud Technologies into the future," said Taylor. "His focus will be on integrating our recent acquisition of Martin Audio, while also overseeing sales and marketing to help Loud Technologies and our dealer partners drive our stable of well established brands."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Intel Takes Next Step in Remote PC Access

August 14, 2008

Intel Corp. has developed technology to remotely power up personal computers, letting users retrieve files over an Internet connection.

The technology also can be used with PC-based phone services that require computers to be on to receive calls, and can allow computers to be remotely activated to receive Internet content.

The technology, called Remote Wake, works only on forthcoming desktop computers that use a recently introduced chip set from Intel. It also requires new Intel software, which is stored on a memory chip on the circuit board of a PC.

Some companies already sell programs that allow users to remotely call up files from their home desktop machines. But those products require PCs to be turned on, which many consumers consider a waste of power, said Joe Van De Water, director of consumer marketing for Intel.
Remote Wake doesn't work with PCs that are switched completely off. Desktop PCs must be in what the industry calls "suspend" or "sleep" mode.

With Remote Wake, a consumer could use a Web-enabled cellphone or a laptop computer connected to the Internet to wake up their machine and retrieve documents, photos or other data files. Intel is working initially to enable those features with CyberLink Corp. and Orb Networks Inc.

The technology is expected to be especially useful with Internet phone calls. While many people initiate such calls using PCs and accessory headsets, receiving them tends to be a problem. If someone calls when a machine is off, recipients typically don't know it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Beijing Olympic 2008 Opening Ceremony Partially Faked

Fantastic, but...

Parts of the spectacular Beijing Olympics opening ceremony on Friday were faked because of fears over live filming, it has emerged.

By Richard Spencer in Beijing Last Updated: 6:58PM BST 10 Aug 2008

Organisers feared it would be too difficult to capture each footprint live so inserted computer graphics for viewers at home and in the Bird's Nest stadium.

As the ceremony got under way with a dramatic, drummed countdown, viewers watching at home and on giant screens inside the Bird's Nest National Stadium watched as a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks processed gloriously above the city from Tiananmen Square.

What they did not realise was that what they were watching was in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.

The fireworks were there for real, outside the stadium. But those responsible for filming the extravaganza decided in advance it would be impossible to capture all 29 footprints from the air.

As a result, only the last, visible from the camera stands inside the Bird's Nest was captured on film.

The trick was revealed in a local Chinese newspaper, the Beijing Times, at the weekend.
Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, said it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence. Meticulous efforts were made to ensure the sequence was as unnoticeable as possible: they sought advice from the Beijing meteorological office as to how to recreate the hazy effects of Beijing's smog at night, and inserted a slight camera shake effect to simulate the idea that it was filmed from a helicopter.

"Seeing how it worked out, it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks," he said.

"But most of the audience thought it was filmed live - so that was mission accomplished."
He said the main problem with trying to shoot the real thing was the difficulty of placing the television helicopter at the right angle to see all 28 footsteps in a row.

One advisor to the Beijing Olympic Committee (BOCOG) defended the decision to use make-believe to impress the viewer. "It would have been prohibitive to have tried to film it live," he said. "We could not put the helicopter pilot at risk by making him try to follow the firework route."

A spokeswoman for BOCOG said the final decision had been made by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, the joint venture between the International Olympic Committee and local organisers that is responsible for providing the main "feeds" of all Olympic events to viewers around the world.

"As far as we are concerned, we let off the fireworks - that's what's important to us," she said.

Mr Gao said he was worried that technologically literate viewers who spotted the join might be critical, but comments online suggested more admiration of the result.
Although the event as a whole received rapturous reviews abroad, that has not been entirely the case at home. Some internet comments were hostile, saying that while it looked stunning the contents were vacuous.

Others focused on the sheer numbers of people involved - more than 16,000 performers, mostly from People's Liberation Army song and dance troops.

"That certainly showed China's unique character," said one comment. "Namely, that we have 1.3 billion people."

Ad Skipping? It's Going to Get Worse

Court Paves the Way for DVR Home Invasion -- and Potential Ad Evasion

By Brian Steinberg
Published: August 11, 2008 NEW YORK (

By letting viewers skip ads, that pesky DVR has already gnawed away at the system media conglomerates have used for decades to score billions of dollars in ad revenue. Now it's primed to become a phenomenon on the order of a locust -- with an ability to multiply rapidly and do even more significant damage. The U.S. Court of Appeals for New York last week overturned a ruling that had blocked Cablevision -- and by extension, other cable providers -- from making use of a "network DVR" that would allow it to run a massive video-storing operation from a single location rather than installing individual DVRs in each subscriber's home.

Using the technology, consumers can record programs through their remote control without a new set-top box, conceivably turning every TV in the house into a machine that records TV shows -- and can skip past the ads that support them. "With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Court of Appeals has opened the door to a massive increase in the penetration of DVR capabilities," wrote Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett in an Aug. 4 research note.

"In short order, effective DVR penetration could now jump to north of 60% of cable households (that is, all digital cable subscribers) with an even larger increase in DVR outlets per home," Mr. Moffett added.

Those numbers are cause for great concern. Approximately 26 million homes, or 23.4% of all TV households, had DVRs at the end of the first quarter, according to Interpublic Group's Magna. IMS Research, an Austin, Texas, market-research firm, estimates that nearly 30% of digital set-top boxes and DVRs were installed in 2007 in a home with at least one other set-top box already in operation.

Already, advertisers have pushed for the switch to "commercial ratings," under which they pay for the number of viewers who see their ads, not the TV shows they surround. A study of 1,000 TV consumers in the U.S., Europe and Asia conducted by management-consulting firm Oliver Wyman found 85% of DVR owners are currently skipping at least three-quarters of ads.

Two-thirds of TV viewers reported they would not be willing to watch any ads at the beginning of a program in order to watch uninterrupted, and 85% stated that they would not be willing to pay anything to remove all commercials. Maintaining controlThere are still a number of hurdles before Cablevision could roll out a service to consumers. But should the U.S. Court's decision stand -- many expect the nation's big media conglomerates involved in the suit, such as Turner Broadcasting, 20th Century Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC, to appeal -- DVR subscriber growth could be more robust in the years ahead. Magna has recently forecast that approximately 43.5 million subscribers would have DVRs by the end of 2012, accounting for about 37% of TV households overall.

The media companies' objection to Cablevision's video-storage technology is that they believe it infringes on their exclusive rights to air and reproduce the content in question. Those companies that create the content want to maintain a level of control over when and how it is viewed, in order to be able to monetize it by selling advertising against it.

The networks have been reluctant to make their content available for new-media venues such as streaming online until they have the ability to have some sort of control over getting consumers to watch ads. The media conglomerates have tried everything to keep the paradigm-shifting DVR technology from worming its way further into consumer life. Walt Disney's ABC has made hit shows like "Desperate Housewives" available for cable providers' video-on-demand offerings, but only in exchange for the cable company disabling viewers' ability to fast-forward.

Time Warner Cable has introduced features that let viewers "start over" a favorite show but the trade-off is they must watch the ads that accompany it. None of this has weaned consumers, now accustomed to watching shows as they wish, from their ad-skipping addiction. "They don't want to watch commercials, but they won't pay to not watch commercials," said John Senior, a partner-media and entertainment practice at Oliver Wyman.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thought You'd Want to Know...

Americans paid $17.5 billion in banking "bounce fees" during 2006 to cover $15.8 billion in overdrafts last year.

Advanced AV Caught in Bribery Sting

InfoComm President Caught in the Act and Resigns

Jay Armand, president/COO of systems integration firm (West Chester PA), has been accused of bribery in connection with an integration project, a charge to which he pleaded guilty in late June.

By pleading guilty, Armand admitted that he consented to pay a $10,000 bribe to an employee of the contractor, , erecting new , for assistance in securing the audiovisual contract for the job. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Documents filed in the US District Court of New Jersey indicate that, via email communication, Armand agreed to meet an individual only identified as "construction manager" in September 2005 to discuss the project.

On September 22, in Mercer County NJ, Armand and the construction manager met, at which time they agreed to the deal.According to a July 30 , Lisa A. Mathewson, Armand’s counsel, said no money was ever actually exchanged and Advanced AV did not do any work on the project. Furthermore, she stated the construction manager was cooperating with federal investigators during his interaction with Armand, initiated the bribe and wore a wire.

This case is one piece of a large investigation into the Princeton library’s construction. The Princetonian, the campus newspaper, that five contractors involved with the project have pleaded guilty to bribery in excess of $100,000. On July 29, Armand resigned his chairmanship of InfoComm.

ETC File Patent Infringement Suit Agains Lightronics

Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC, Middleton WI) has filed a patent infringement suit against (Virginia Beach VA), seeking unspecified damages, in US District Court. According to the company, following efforts to resolve the matter without recourse to litigation, the action was filed with co-plaintiffs David Cunningham and Gregory Esakoff, inventors and owners of the

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ten Skills You Need to Success at Almost Anything

What does it take to succeed? A positive attitude? Well, sure, but that’s hardly enough. The Law of Attraction? The Secret? These ideas might act as spurs to action, but without the action itself, they don’t do much.

Success, however it’s defined, takes action, and taking good and appropriate action takes skills. Some of these skills (not enough, though) are taught in school (not well enough, either), others are taught on the job, and still others we learn from general life experience.
Below is a list of general skills that will help anyone get ahead in practically any field, from running a company to running a gardening club. Of course, there are skills specific to each field as well – but my concern here is with the skills that translate across disciplines, the ones that can be learned by anyone in any position.

1. Public Speaking
The ability to speak clearly, persuasively, and forcefully in front of an audience – whether an audience of 1 or of thousands – is one of the most important skills anyone can develop. People who are effective speakers come across as more comfortable with themselves, more confident, and more attractive to be around. Being able to speak effectively means you can sell anything – products, of course, but also ideas, ideologies, worldviews. And yourself – which means more opportunities for career advancement, bigger clients, or business funding.

2. Writing
Writing well offers many of the same advantages that speaking well offers: good writers are better at selling products, ideas, and themselves than poor writers. Learning to write well involves not just mastery of grammar but the development of the ability to organize one’s thoughts into a coherent form and target it to an audience in the most effective way possible. Given the huge amount of text generated by almost every transaction – from court briefs and legislation running into the thousands of pages to those foot-long receipts you get when you buy gum these days – a person who is a master of the written word can expect doors to open in just about every field.

3. Self-Management
If success depends of effective action, effective action depends on the ability to focus your attention where it is needed most, when it is needed most. Strong organizational skills, effective productivity habits, and a strong sense of discipline are needed to keep yourself on track.

4. Networking
Networking is not only for finding jobs or clients. In an economy dominated by ideas and innovation, networking creates the channel through which ideas flow and in which new ideas are created. A large network, carefully cultivated, ties one into not just a body of people but a body of relationships, and those relationships are more than just the sum of their parts. The interactions those relationships make possible give rise to innovation and creativity – and provide the support to nurture new ideas until they can be realized.

5. Critical Thinking
We are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of times more information on a daily basis than our great-grandparents were. Being able to evaluate that information, sort the potentially valuable from the trivial, analyze its relevance and meaning, and relate it to other information is crucial – and woefully under-taught. Good critical thinking skills immediately distinguish you from the mass of people these days.

6. Decision-Making
The bridge that leads from analysis to action is effective decision-making – knowing what to do based on the information available. While not being critical can be dangerous, so too can over-analyzing, or waiting for more information before making a decision. Being able to take in the scene and respond quickly and effectively is what separates the doers from the wannabes.

7. Math
You don’t have to be able to integrate polynomials to be successful. However, the ability to quickly work with figures in your head, to make rough but fairly accurate estimates, and to understand things like compound interest and basic statistics gives you a big lead on most people. All of these skills will help you to analyze data more effectively – and more quickly – and to make better decisions based on it.

8. Research
Nobody can be expected to know everything, or even a tiny fraction of everything. Even within your field, chances are there’s far more that you don’t know than you do know. You don’t have to know everything – but you should be able to quickly and painlessly find out what you need to know. That means learning to use the Internet effectively, learning to use a library, learning to read productively, and learning how to leverage your network of contacts – and what kinds of research are going to work best in any given situation.

9. Relaxation
Stress will not only kill you, it leads to poor decision-making, poor thinking, and poor socialization. So be failing to relax, you knock out at least three of the skills in this list – and really more. Plus, working yourself to death in order to keep up, and not having any time to enjoy the fruits of your work, isn’t really “success”. It’s obsession. Being able to face even the most pressing crises with your wits about you and in the most productive way is possibly the most important thing on this list.

10. Basic Accounting
It is a simple fact in our society that money is necessary. Even the simple pleasures in life, like hugging your child, ultimately need money – or you’re not going to survive to hug for very long. Knowing how to track and record your expenses and income is important just to survive, let alone to thrive. But more than that, the principles of accounting apply more widely to things like tracking the time you spend on a project or determining whether the value of an action outweighs the costs in money, time, and effort. It’s a shame that basic accounting isn’t a required part of the core K-12 curriculum.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Not Quite Right, But Getting Closer

LG announces a Blu-ray/Netflix Player that does everything but what you really want it to do...

LG has officially announced their upcoming release of the BD300 Network Blu-ray player. A step that is surely aimed at creating a bridge between movie downloads and hardware players, the BD300 will interface with Netflix. The player will be able to link to your Netflix account and access movies stored in your user queue and begin streaming them directly to your HDTV. The player will require a wired broadband connection.