Om Malik writes about a new product called the PhoneGnome, which combines an analog phone line and a LAN port for use with a VOIP service.
But the best part about the gizmo is that, when you try and outgoing call, it basically uses your selection of service provider to place that outgoing call. For someone else with a PhoneGnome to call you for free. They would not have to dial any different number or address. For instance, if my # is 415-555-1212, (and I have PhoneGnome), as a PhoneGnome user, you call 415.555.1212. In case I don’t have PhoneGnome, your call will get routed over the PSTN. On this website, my.phonegnome.com website, PhoneGnome can select a provider for national long-distance, international calls, or both, and select separate providers and plans for each.
The photo looks pretty similar to my Sipura SPA-3000, which also provides both analog phone interfaces and VOIP and a laundry list of configurable bridging functions. I’ve been using the SPA-3000 as a front end to Asterisk, so I’m not as familiar with it’s standalone modes. The PhoneGnome looks like it might be the Sipura hardware, but bundled as a consumer-friendly solution. The SPA-3000 provides lots of configuration options, but isn’t exactly user friendly.
Joi Ito notes the release of the final report of the UN Working Group on Internet Governance.
The WGIG is a group of experts tasked by the United Nations to think about and come up with a report about Internet governance. Many people were concerned because the meeting was kicked off by the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) saying that this was about questioning ICANN. The comments gave me the sense that the ITU was trying to take over ICANN’s role and wanted a report to justify this. In fact, the group of experts represented a broad range of opinions and have produced an interesting report.
He also notes a handy set of resources, including illustrations of the 4 governance scenarios proposed in the report, available here.
I just skimmed through the report, and aside from the usual grumbling about the US having too much control over the DNS root servers, and the root server operators not being formally under anyone’s (government) control, there is a good list of policy issues that are hard to get at on a national basis and really do call for a broader international agreement (unclear that this needs to be at the UN or ITU, though).
Some of the policy issues enumerated in the report:
- Internet security and stability – lack of multilateral mechanisms, multijurisdictional criminal prevention and prosecution
- Allocation of domain names, gTLDs
- Intellectual property rights
- Freedom of expression
- Data protection and privacy rights
- Consumer rights
I’m generally skeptical that the UN can make any useful contribution on the technology planning and administrative side of the internet. But it might be a place to get some government agreements on how to deal with spammers and hackers originating traffic from, say Brazil or China against targets elsewhere. Not that making it explicitly illegal would necessarily stop the problem, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Rough consensus and running code among dedicated people has taken us pretty far, but running a badly behaving network used to draw the criticism of your peers, and might lead to having your network unplugged. These days it’s not so practical, especially if the uncooperative network is an entire country.
Although a lot of US investors have been setting up shop in China, this is probably not what Battery Ventures had in mind: (via Silicon Beat)
There appears to be a fraudulent site or company in China masquerading as Battery Ventures, in what looks to be a first for a well-known venture capital firm.
But check out the Chinese clone site, at http://www.usa-big.com. Pretty identical to the real Battery site. About the only thing that’s really different is the logo. The clone drops the “V” and just carries the big “B”. Calling themselves the “American Battery Investment Group.” Suppose that makes it just fine then.
Apparently, Battery’s evil twin offers to invest in companies that pay a “processing fee”…
A silly Flash movie on the eve of the 6th Harry Potter book. (via Fredshouse)
update 2005-07-16 23:32 : Here’s the original BadgerBadgerBadger Flash movie (badgerbadgerbadgerbadger, mushroom, snake)
update 2005-07-17 09:07:26: after reading this post, a friend reminded me about the hamster dance. (Original, new version, and history).
update 2005-08-06 21:19: You may also enjoy the Potter Puppet Pals
update 2005-09-24 22:08 PDT: You might be interested in Snape singing I’m Too Sexy, or the Potter Puppet Pals Scene Maker, see the update on the Potter Puppet Pals post.
A welcome digression on a Friday afternoon from the Harvard Global Voices Project – Kenny Sia crashes the Miss Tourism Pageant in Malaysia:
I put on my best dress shirt and tailored pants, wore a (borrowed) huge ass digital SLR camera on my neck, and at the actual event I walked into the ballroom confidently as if I own the whole freakin’ place.
I walked past the reception. No response.
Walked past hotel security. No reaction.
Walked past the organizers. Nuh-uh.
I found my table (they made a mistake by revealing my table number before I even got my ticket), pulled a chair, sat and started eating the shark fin soup and butter prawns they served. Still no dramas. People look at me as if its very common for strangers to share a table like that.
Yes you heard it right. I got to dine at a 5-star hotel, rub shoulders with snobbish socialites, and meet with 30 other beauty queens, all for abso-fucking-lutely FREE. FREE. FREE.
Thank you, lax security guards!
I’ve never heard of the Miss Tourism Pageant. Apparently, contestants are judged on some combination of beauty, talent, and tour guide knowledge. Among the featured talents: Miss Pakistan doing a Bollywood dance number, Miss USA doing hula hoops in a red-white-and-blue outfit, and Miss Singapore doing an Aikido demonstration. As you might expect from his narrative, there are a lot of photos and entertaining comments. On the not-so-entertaining side, Miss Ethiopia didn’t make it past quarantine at the airport, and Miss Tibet withdrew rather than compete as “Miss Tibet-China”.
update 2005-07-16 23:18: more on Miss Ethiopia’s quarantine and Miss Tibet.
Despite getting most of my news through the internet these days, I still get daily paper editions of the San Jose Mercury and the Wall Street Journal, plus Barrons on the weekend. At a get-together this past weekend, one of my neighbors who works at the Mercury took an informal poll to see who was reading newspapers versus online news sources. As might be expected in Palo Alto, a lot of people have mostly moved to online news aggregators. A few thoughts:
Some reasons I still get a print subscription:
- Habit: I like to read the paper with my breakfast and coffee, and don’t like having the notebook on the kitchen table while I’m eating.
Faster scanning: part of the survivable value-added of news organizations is to assemble items that are interesting and/or relevant (“here, look at this”). I can make a quick scan of current news in the Mercury and WSJ faster than going through selected Bloglines subscriptions or Google News.
- Editorial and opinion pages. No shortage of commentary and opinion online, but syndicated writers usually don’t turn up online right away if at all, and in the paper they’re conveniently assembled onto a couple of pages.
- Overview of local issues in the Bay Area. It’s hard (not impossible) to generate a quick view of local news and feature articles; services like topix.net can generate local feeds, but they’re not great.
- Longer analysis and context for recent and upcoming news and events.
- Calendar of local events and activities. This is good for when you don’t know what you want to do. Once you are looking for something specific, online is much better (e.g. movie times, concert tickets, etc).
- I like looking through the full-page Fry’s Electronics ads in the Mercury. The weekly real estate section in the WSJ is often entertaining as well.
- Comics are easier and faster to read in the paper. However, there are a lot more choices online.
- They’re portable and don’t require batteries for a quick look while travelling.
- We never need to buy rubber bands.
I rarely if ever look at these sections:
- Financial quotes. If I want to know right now, I look online. If I’m researching, I want more info, which is also online. I still look through the weekly and quarterly summaries in Barrons, though.
- Sports section. I subscribe to RSS feeds on the Red Sox and anything else I’m following.
- Classified ads. Have pretty much moved to Craigslist, eBay, and other online services.
The future role of news organizations:
Citizen-journalists, and just bloggers on the ground, are churning out vast quantities of raw content, with a wide range in quality and veracity. Along with the traditional role of putting reporters on the ground, taking notes, and asking questions, news organizations could help filter and highlight “user-contributed” news items along with commercial and advocacy-oriented news feeds, placing them in context with “professional media” news items. For breaking large-scale news, such as the London bombings last week, they can scan the raw data and build a composite picture of what’s going on. They can also clarify what’s unknown, what hasn’t been asked, to help influence the actions of people on the scene.
I find that as I’ve been introducing people to news aggregators, I usually set them up with a “starter” set so it makes some sense, sort of like building a custom mini-newspaper of feeds I think they might find interesting. It would probably make sense for newspapers to start publishing collections of feeds in OPML or something similar, along with the RSS feeds that they’re starting to provide. This would make it easier for people to “subscribe” to the newspaper, and get an overall view of what the newspaper’s editors think is interesting, which is probably a better starting point for the average person than what they get now (usually nothing).
Pointer to my post at exeter80.org on Project Klebnikov, which is investigating Paul Klebnikov’s unsolved murder in Russia a year ago.
Here’s how to make a movie from Google Earth, using a DirectX capture utility. (via LifeHacker)
Starting with the free version of Google Earth, I installed FRAPS, a program that saves the video from programs that use DirectX (mostly games) directly to the hard drive in an uncommpressed avi format. Works real nice, makes good quality movies, but with a very large file size. FRAPS uses a codec that can not be read by anything else. So, using VirtualDub (installed on the same PC as FRAPS), I converted the avi to a much smaller Divx Avi. From there I could edit/play the video on anything, like my Mac!
The tool chain used here is pretty obscure for a normal person, but is probably usable by an interesting fraction of the early adopters that have jumped on the new interfaces for Google Maps / Google Earth.
The user-friendly way to make a Google Earth movie is to pay for the upgraded version, which adds several features, including movie output ($400).
A couple of interesting rural technology nuggets on BoingBoing:
From the PlayPump web site:
The Play-Pump is capable of producing 1400 litres per hour at 16 rpm from a depth of 40m, and is effective up to a depth of 100m. A typical hand pump installation cannot compete with this delivery rate, even with substantial effort.
The Playpumps are specifically designed and patented roundabouts (1) that drive conventional borehole pumps (2), while entertaining children. The revolutionary pump design converts rotational movement to reciprocating linear movement by a driving mechanism consisting of only two working parts.
To date OVER SIX HUNDRED installations have been completed, a large percentage of these installations are at primary schools. A partnership has been formed with the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry; Minister Buyelwa Sonjica has been vocal in her support and encouragement for the continued installation of this system in rural Africa.
Another link from the same post highlights the Gaviota eco-community project in Colombia, South America:
A techno-tour of the llanos shows how Gaviotas has revolutionized life here. The most significant invention is a simple hand pump capable of tapping aquifers six times deeper than conventional models, but requiring so little effort that children can operate it. In normal pumps a heavy piston must be raised and lowered inside a pipe. Gaviotas engineers realized they could do the reverse; leave the piston stationary and lift an outer sleeve of lightweight, inexpensive PVC tubing instead.
In the open-air Gaviotas preschool, the children’s see-saw is actually a pump in disguise. As they rise and descend, water gushes from a vertical pipe into an open cement tank. Over the years Gaviotas technicians have installed these in thousands of school yards, using kid power to provide villages with clean water.
Paul Kedrosky points out a fun bit of candor from the folks at Bessemer Venture Partners:
Most venture firms have mental lists of deals that they shoulda/coulda done, but didn’t, and yet only a vanishingly small number of such firms will ever list the deals that got away. After all, it makes you look intermittently dumb and human and risk-averse, and gunslinging venture sorts could never concede any of those things to be true.
Trust the iconoclasts at Bessemer, however, to maintain at least a partial public list — they call it their “anti-portfolio” — of the deals that got away:
Among the gems on the reject list: Google, eBay, FedEx, Intel, Intuit, Lotus, and Compaq.
To keep things in perspective, Bessemer has a track record of nearly 100 years of successful investments, starting out in 1911, with funds raised from the sale of Carnegie Steel. I’d be pretty pleased to be around long enough to have such a spectacular reject list…
I’ve experimented for a few months with using just the notebook computer, rather than docking to a desktop monitor, keyboard, and mouse, with mixed results, and am shifting back to a full desktop dock setup again.
Good points of notebook-only:
- It’s easy to pick up the notebook computer and go to a meeting, or simply to move to a different location to write
- Got rid of the immense CRT sitting on my desk (20 inches, 65+ pounds)
- Consistent user interface and keyboard set up for travel and office, don’t have to make changes
Bad points of notebook-only:
- The native LCD resolution on my T42 (1400×1050, 14″) makes everything too small to work with for very long. It gives me a huge headache if I use it for more than a few minutes. As a workaround, there’s a handy utility to shift the screen resolution to something lower, but non-native resolutions are predictably a little fuzzy.
- The T42 keyboard and pointing stick are nice, but I find that I get achy wrists after extended periods of typing and clicking
I resumed using a full size keyboard and ergonomic mouse a while ago, and just set up a new Samsung SyncMaster 213T LCD monitor, which is 21 inches, with a native resolution of 1600×1200. This is much better. The T42 can drive 1600×1200 without scaling, and the analog VGA mode already looks pretty good, will try the DVI mode later.
In just a few hours of returning to a larger display, I can tell this is a big win. In theory it shouldn’t make that much difference, but I feel like my brain is getting a little uncramped. I’m already contemplating getting a couple more displays to get back to a multi-screen set up again and really get some space to work, but I’ll wait until the novelty wears off before committing to more equipment on the desktop.
Google Earth looks great in full screen mode! Plus it gives the graphics accelerator something to do.
It’s near the end of the day here in California. All day today I’ve been getting regular updates on this morning’s terrorist bombings in London, and aside from general anger at the attackers, and sympathy and concern for the citizens of London, I’m also just realizing that I haven’t had the television on once, nor had the impulse to go check. For me, it has been irrelevant as a news source today.
There is a huge amount of 1st person content – blog postings, photos, audio, and probably video by now. None of it scrubbed for journalistic accuracy, of course, but presenting a collective, subjective view of the situation in a more timely and compelling way than what might otherwise be presented through the conventional media, and providing a vast pool of source material and leads to conventional media journalists. Tonight and tomorrow there will probably be some thoughtful analysis from the news services, but blogging and the internet are a perfect fit for news events in flux.
There have been updates all day on a current events entry on Wikipedia, and a blizzard of entries turning up through Technorati and other blog search engines. Updates from organized news sources are turning up continously on Google News and others.
There’s a good round up posted now at the Wall Street Journal (free section).
I once spent some time in London near the Russell Square station, commuting on the tube every day while I was there. That bit of experience makes the first hand accounts of people there now that much more vivid to me, and the attacks that much more personal.
I think Johnnie Moore’s summary of comments from Andrew Sullivan and Tim Worstall captures a slice of the mood over there.
Brits regard the best response to outrage to carry on as if nothing has happened. Yes, they will fight back. But first, they will just carry on as normal. Right now, a million kettles are boiling.
I’m not drinking tea these days, but I think I’ll boil the kettle anyway.
See also: reader submitted comments to the BBC web site.
The Gmaps Pedometer is a great hack combining two of my current interests, running and map hacking.
I just tried entering a couple of routes that I run on regularly to compare the results from the Gmaps Pedometer with my logs from my Timex Bodylink GPS, and they’re pretty close. This seems like a relatively painless way to get approximate course distance without having to actually measure the course, assuming you remember where you ran.
update 2005-07-07 20:46 – looks like they may have exceeded the Google API 50k request limit, it’s complaining about the “Maps API key used on this web site was registered for a different web site”.
Here’s a wireless hotspot based on the Voltaic solar backpack: article link (Popular Science), blog link (Mike Outmesguine)
What if you could marry the short-range power of Wi-Fi with the huge coverage areas of high-speed cellular services such as EV-DO to create a portable hotspot?
• Junxion Box wireless gateway $700; junxionbox.com
• Verizon Wireless EV-DO PCMCIA card $100; verizonwireless.com
• Voltaic Systems solar-charging backpack $230; voltaicsystems.com
I’ve been mostly offline for the past week+, and was a little disappointed at not catching the Pink Floyd reunion set at the Live 8 concert on any form of media. So while catching up on mail, news, and blog scanning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that both Fred Wilson and Brad Feld are also Pink Floyd fans and that Fred had already dug up and linked the MP3 files from BitTorrent.
Here’s the set list:
- Wish You Were Here
- Comfortably Numb
I haven’t really thought of Pink Floyd as actually being “Pink Floyd” in years, after the band split up around 20 years ago. There’s some speculation about a reunion tour, but as much as part of me would like to see it happen, I think I’d rather just see Roger and Dave patch things up and call it a day.
The Voltaic Backpack is a little pricey (US$229), but would be just the thing for putting together a field survey kit for building rural wireless networks, disaster assessment (e.g. post-tsunami or earthquake), or other off-grid surveying applications. It provides a small set of solar panels mounted onto a backpack, which can generate power while you’re wearing it. The panels have a peak output of 4 watts, and charge a 2200mAh battery, which isn’t enough to run a notebook computer, but is enough to keep a GPS and cell phone, PDA, or camera running from the panel, and is probably enough to run a carefully chosen wireless access point as well.
There are several different backpack sizes available from Voltaic, as well as a messenger bag, but the solar panels and battery charging systems are identical for all models.
For portable-but-not-quite-mobile applications, the SolarMAX 28 watt solar briefcase from Sunshine Solar actually does put out enough power to run a notebook computer (my IBM T42p draws around 15 watts on batteries, with the display at medium brightness and with wireless and disk access going). It’s even more expensive though (UK 199, roughly US$350), not including batteries.
I had an extra-long 4th of July, returning to the US from India. Departed from Chennai just after midnight local time out there (11:30am PDT on the 3rd), arrived at SFO this morning at around 9am PDT. Total door-to-door time from Bangalore to Palo Alto for this trip was about 30 hours, a little shorter than usual because the connecting times in both Singapore and Narita were relatively tight.
My checked luggage hasn’t made it back yet, I’m guessing it missed the connection at Narita. I only had about 10-15 minutes before boarding for the NRT-SFO segment, but I managed to squeeze in a quick shower at the United Red Carpet Club by taking the stairs instead of the escalators and snagging the last remaining room. I also got to try out the little intercom panel in the shower room, as they called to tell me the flight was boarding just as I was finishing up. The flight to San Francisco had a relatively light load, probably due to the long weekend in the US, there were a number of open seats in all cabins.
As much as I enjoy experiencing different parts of the world, one of my favorite things about travelling is returning home.
Bhel Puri at Anand Restaurant on Commercial Street in Bangalore. Bhel is puffed rice, Puris are dishes like this one, served with various items mixed together, with some spices and seasoning. These are popular as snacks or quick meals in India, and are cooked to order.
Lhagatram Bhagatram on Commercial Street to try some Gulab Jamun. It’s a bit like finger-sized donut pieces served in sugary syrup.
Catching a ride in an autorickshaw this weekend, this fellow apparently has an arrangement with a local store. If you go to the store, the ride is free.
We thanked him and went with a different driver.