Notebook migration in progress…


I’ve been putting this off for a while, but I’m finally biting the bullet and migrating to a new notebook computer. Aside from moving into the new system, this is also tangled up with assorted technology upgrades. My setup is a bit more complicated than the average user, so productivity is taking a hit this days.

I’m still running my nearly indestructable HP Omnibook 4150 on the network this evening, but I just moved my primary desktop to my new IBM Thinkpad T42P this afternoon. So far, so good. I haven’t had “that new computer smell” for a long time, and it I am already very happy with the reduced weight, faster performance, nearly silent operation, and really long battery life. The built-in wireless is also working well.

As a long-time former HPer, I started out looking for an HP product that would work for me, and almost purchased an NC6220. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince the HP web site to sell a unit with a 7200RPM drive, on top of which all of the current HP notebooks have much shorter battery life (~3 hours). So far I’ve run the T42P for over 5 hours on a single charge, without using a second battery in the internal bay.

It’s going to take a while to learn the IBM-isms — this may be an activity to do on the plane later this week.

See also: Experience so far with the IBM T42P

Kimchi Cures All!

…or at least it may prevent the Avian Flu.

In today’s Wall Street Journal (Wednesday May 11, 2005) there is an article by Hae Won Choi reporting on research at Seoul National University on using kimchi extract to cure avian flu. (Link – unfortunately it’s only available to WSJ online subscribers)

South Korean microbiologist Kang Sa Ouk thinks he’s come up with a new weapon in the battle against the bird flu virus: kimchi.

Last December, Dr. Kang used a bacteria extracted from kimchi, Korea’s fiery national dish of fermented vegetables, to treat 39 chickens with avian influenza. Over 10 days, 22 of 26 chickens given either a diluted or concentrated culture fluid of the bacteria as a substitute for water showed signs of recovery; all 13 chickens given just water died.

This following part sounds like familiar advice from Korean friends and relatives:

Kimchi is credited with helping digestion, fighting cancer and delaying aging. When severe acute respiratory syndrome hit Asia, many Koreans believed kimchi protected them. South Korea had no confirmed cases of the disease, unlike neighboring China and Japan.

Here’s an earlier article from the BBC back in March 2005, available without subscription:

Scientists at Seoul National University say they fed an extract of kimchi to 13 infected chickens – and a week later 11 of them had started recovering.

The researchers said the results were far from scientifically proven and if kimchi did have the effects they observed, it was unclear why.

Obviously, there are some differences between chickens and humans, but this is a great excuse to eat more kimchi at home and with your friends…

Update 02-16-2006 21:44 PST: LG Electronics is introducing an air conditioner with a kimchi-extract-coated filter, presumably to help protect from avian flu. Assorted links and comments at BoingBoing.

Update 05-21-2006 13:10. PDT: Too much kimchi might be bad for you. (LA Times, via Boing Boing).

Using SPA-3000 as Asterisk PSTN Trunk

Step-by-step article on using the Sipura SPA-3000 for Asterisk PSTN trunking at GeekGazette, via Sineapps:

For us serious Asterisk PBX geeks out there, the SPA-3000 provides a cost-effective means of bring a PSTN trunk into the PBX while still functioning as an ATA. Not only can you use the SPA-3000 as inbound and/or outbound trunk, you can also easily configure the SPA-3000 as a PSTN failover should the primary trunk into Asterisk fail. Considering what you can buy the SPA-3000 for right now, this is one of the best deals going.

I see from the GeekGazette site that Slashdot has been here as well.

This follows a recent firmware upgrade to the SPA-3000, as described at Voxilla a few days ago:

The enhancements to the SPA-3000, a very popular adaptor among “do-it-yourself” VoIP enthusiasts because of its built-in gateway functionality, includes an often-requested feature allowing PSTN calls to be routed directly to a VoIP destination without the SPA-3000 “answering” the PSTN line until the VoIP destination answers.

Light Reading notes that today’s Q3 report from Cisco had “disappointing” performance in the advanced technology group (VoIP, wireless, security, and other “new” stuff), but

Still, the IP telephony group “blew past” the $1 billion run rate, joining security in the billion-dollar club, Chambers said. Orders in storage networking cooled down, to “mid-single digits” sequentially, but that was after a 40 percent boom in the second quarter. Orders in wireless grew double digits sequentially and in the “high teens” compared with last year’s third quarter.

Cisco is in the process of buying Sipura, which should help grow that $1B run rate as VoIP interfaces sprout in everything on the network.

Update: 08-16-2005 20:46 – You can convert the SPA-3000 to a PhoneGnome, if you’re interested.

Google Web Accelerator

More cool stuff from Google — the Web Accelerator (beta) — article at Search Engine Watch
It appears to turn Google’s infrastructure into a big prefetching web cache, among other things, which should do good things for end user performance, but should also give Google an (even more) amazing view of a big piece of web traffic. The network engineer part of me really likes the idea, but it also makes the privacy advocate part of me really twitchy…

description from SEW:

+ Prefetching material
In part, determined by an algorithm developed at Google that looks at
mouse movements and aggregate traffic to sites to try to determine what to prefetch
+ Caching of pages on Google’s own servers
They will also try to determine how frequently material is updated and continuously have the latest copy available on their servers. Mayer said that GWA and Google’s new search history product are completely independent of one another.
+ Parallel downloading
Download multiple parts of the page (images for example) at the same
+ Differential fetching
Instead of downloading the entire page, GWA will try send only what
might have changed on the page
+ Compression

Comments from Batelle, Slashdot

A look back at tsunami blogs and video

A good roundup article on the use of blogs and personal video in response to the December 2004 tsunami in Indonesia

The tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, has become another defining moment in the evolution and use of blogs. These distributed, interactive resources rallied around the disaster in ways that allowed readers to learn of the disaster, find ways to help through direct donations or volunteer opportunities, and cope with the grief that such an event inevitably brings.

Moving from personal, journal-style entries, blogs have addressed politics, war reportage, and, now, humanitarian aid efforts. Their power to reach vast numbers of people quickly with eye-witness reportage, graphics, opinion, and collections of news articles, and their ability to side-step government and corporate control have made blogs powerful forums for sharing information. The current manifestation of tsunami-related blogs are another step along a road that continually sees blogs creatively reacting to world events and gaining in popularity, respect, and impact.

During the hours immediately following the tsunami, like many others, I relied almost entirely on weblog postings and BitTorrent video for information rather than the US television and mainstream online news media. It’s interesting to look back, even though it’s been only a few months, and see how personal media took a big step towards becoming part of the mainstream.

Yahoo Video Search Goes Primetime

Lots of action on the video search front lately. This post on the Yahoo Search Blog announces the official launch of Yahoo Video Search.

So what’s changed in 1.0? We’ve partnered up with some major content publishers to fortify our content offering, including MTV, Buena Vista (including the latest clips and trailers for The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy), CBS News, Bloomberg (check out the latest news on the Federal Reserve), Reuters, The Discovery Channel, Scripps Networks (the good people who produce Home & Garden TV and The Food Network), VH1, and more.

However, great video search isn’t just about content from large publishers, it’s also about the long tail content from smaller publishers and individuals as well. To that end, we’re indexing the Internet Archive’s Moving Image Archive. One of the great things about the Moving Image Archive is that it encompasses a wide range of content — everything from the Prelinger Archives (a collection of over 48,000 “ephemeral films” from 1927 through 1987), to user-created Open Source Movies hosted by the Internet Archive, and other collections of video. (One of my favorites is the animated legos from Brick Films. Don’t miss seeing their version of Grand Theft Auto done entirely in Lego).

Microsoft IP Ventures

Microsoft has started a new site,, giving broader exposure to intellectual property (IP) they are willing to license for commercial development by others.

A quick look at their catalog shows entry dates starting around April 26th, although the actual items listed look like projects previously available elsewhere on Microsoft Research. It’s convenient to have everything in one place, however, and having a named MS activity with a stated interest in licensing these items might make it easier for a 3rd party to actually have a licensing discussion with MS.

Article at Infoworld:

Microsoft said the introduction of the IP Ventures program was a response to demand from venture capitalists for access to the company’s library of technologies.

Microsoft IP Ventures:

Our goal is to license these technologies on either an exclusive or non-exclusive basis via a combination of equity, upfront cash, or royalties. Contact IP Ventures to learn more about a particular technology, or browse the catalog.

Practical IPv6 for the Home via Linksys WRTG54

via Joi Ito’s Web:

David Beckemeyer writes about an R&D activity at Earthlink which has implemented dual IPv4 / IPv6 access on modified firmware for a Linksys WRT54G wireless home gateway router.

The Linksys WRT54G is inexpensive, widely used, and is similar to many other home gateways providing NAT routing and wireless access. (It’s also popular as a platform hacking wireless router code, as it runs Linux internally). After loading the modified firmware, the router still provides IPv4 NAT functionality, but in addition provides a publicly routable /64 IPv6 network, and can directly route to other public IPv6 networks via the experimental Earthlink IPv6 routing service. You do not need to be an Earthlink customer to use the free service.

In general, IPv6 hasn’t been compelling to home users since it’s been obscure, expensive, and didn’t do anything useful for them. Even if one had a computer running IPv6 software, most home users are behind a NAT router. So providing a migration path via the low cost home routers could be a great enabler for actually starting to use IPv6 end-to-end network applications, and could help solve many of the NAT- and QoS-related problems observed in VoIP and video applications.

Here’s how it works: Simply get an account at to get your own personal block of 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 IPv6 addresses; install the firmware onto your standard Linksys WRT54G router, and blamo, you have IPv6. With this special code installed on your Linksys router, your IPv4 works as normal; you’ll still have your NAT IPv4 LAN. But in addition to that, any IPv6 capable machine on the LAN will get a real, honest to goodness, routable IPv6 address too. It couldn’t be easier. This works for Mac OS X, Linux/UNIX, as well as Windows XP. You don’t have to do anything special on the machines on the LAN. They just work, as they say.

David adds in a comment on Joi Ito’s post:

We’re not really promising anything with this sandbox (see disclaimers). That said, we don’t expect to have to take these addresses back any time soon. If anything, the main factor that could cause us to have to shut down the testbed would be if the network load or other real costs assocuted with the IPv6 testbed hits the radar of the bean counters.

I’ll have to dig up a WRT54G and give it a try.

More searchable video at Google, Blinkx

Google Video has added indexes today for keyword searches on a number of commercial sources, mostly news. (via Battelle, SearchEngineWatch)

The search results page returns thumbnails and sometimes transcripts of the content, probably from the closed captioning. Sources so far include CNN, Fox, C-Span, NBC, ABC, PBS, Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, and a few others. The video returned in the search results isn’t actually available for viewing or downloading.

SearchEngineWatch also notes:

It’s worth mentioning that Blinkx.TV provides searchable access to content from some of the same sources including the Discovery Channel, Fox News, and CNN. Blinkx.TV also provides the option to limit by source and VIEW the full motion video on your computer.

Can’t tell whether the user uploaded video is indexed at all yet. Only got commercial content in a few quick queries, no video blogs (like Rocketboom) or video content that’s already out there via BitTorrent trackers.

Exploding limo in Harvard Square

photo by Randy Fenstermacher
Here’s something you don’t see every day in Harvard Square. From Dowbrigade via Scripting News, also see more here and here.

By the time we got there police and fire had arrived. Traffic was shut down through the square. The fire was not a building – it was a white limousine, which had apparently exploded just as it was entering Johnson Gate, the main entrance to Harvard Yard off of Massachusetts Avenue, a mere 50 feet from the office of Harvard President Lawrence Summers.

One comment suggests this explanation:

Word on the street. Mobile crystal meth lab goes boom. Plausible given the totally “pimped out” ride (as the young people say). I wouldn’t think there would be much of a market for Crystal Meth in Harvard Yard. Maybe the dudes were just passing thru.

Whatever the reason, or lack of one, this seems like a great hook for everyone from conspiracy theorists to social commentators to fiction writers to hang a story line on. Doesn’t apparently make the grade for news reporting, though, nothing’s turning up yet a day later, but there are many blog posts with first hand photos and short notes. Apparently the official story isn’t nearly as interesting as the hypothetical ones.

Update 2005-05-01 16:30
Randy.f points out that there is no “official story” from an authoritative source yet. The photo up top is from his blog, sounds like he may follow up when there’s more info.

Update 2005-05-02 21:12
Article today in the Harvard Crimson:

FIRE IN THE YARD A limousine en route to a wedding burst into flames on Saturday afternoon in front of Johnston Gate, emitting smoke throughout Harvard Yard.

Update 2005-05-03 22:05: More from someone whose cousin was at the wedding…

Sorry, guys, it was just a car fire. The limo in question was carrying a belated bride to her wedding at the Memorial Church in Harvard. It arrived about 30 minutes late, and the passengers exited in a hurry, accelerated by the fire they saw coming from the engine as they got out. The car exploded after everyone got out and safely away from it. It did, however, make for a lively beginning to the wedding. My cousin, a friend of the bride, was sitting in the church when it exploded.


Lately I’ve been looking forward to watching the daily Rocketboom video blog, and have struggled to explain both Rocketboom and video blogging in general to non-blog-reading, TV-watching folks, i.e. most normal people. So until I get around to writing a longer introduction to video (and regular) blogging for my non-blogging / non-blog-reading friends, just go check it out .

Rocketboom features Amanda Congdon reading headlines and incorporating other video blog postings on the internet in a news-style format. It’s a little like Jon Stewart’s Daily Show with a bit of Jane Curtin’s old SNL Weekend Update thrown in, mixing up random video clips.

I enjoyed this clip posted earlier this week, which features David Letterman-style page tossing at the end of each article, David Lynch’s (of Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet etc) daily weather report from L.A., and a vintage black-and-white television ad for Wham-O frisbees.

Rocketboom looks like it’s sort of a group project at Parsons School of Design in New York, produced by Andrew Baron, who teaches there, so it’s not exactly one person, a camcorder, and a home computer on the internet. But it has relatively good production value and is quite entertaining, for very little investment on their part.

Nivo thin client aims to bring computing to developing nations

Here’s another project, Ndiyo, working on reducing the cost of IT for rural and developing markets. Their system is called Nivo, and uses a thin client approach to reduce the number of separate systems that need to be operated and maintained, vs the HP 4-4-1 which adds display, keyboards, and mice to a single Linux system. Some benefits of consolidating more users onto shared hardware include the centralized administration, lower power consumption, and lower cost per seat. Similar approaches can be implemented for Microsoft Windows, but unrestricted / free licensing is particularly attractive in the rural markets.

Pictures and story at BBC, Engadget, comments (some even on topic) at Slashdot

not-for-profit UK developers Ndiyo are looking at using them to bring more affordable computing to the developing world. They’ve designed a small (12 x 8 x 2cm), sub-$200 thin client box called Nivo that runs on open source software and has ports for ethernet, keyboard, mouse, monitor and power.

Some of the open source software used in their demo includes:

  • Ubuntu – Linux operating system
  • Gnome/KDE desktop
  • Open Office
  • Firefox browser
  • Gaim – instant messenger client
  • Thunderbird – cross-platform e-mail and Usenet client

Google RideFinder

More fun with Google Maps, Google RideFinder displays the location of GPS-enabled taxis for a few locations in the US. This is just a concept demo, since there aren’t a lot of GPS-enabled taxi services at the moment, but interesting to play with.

Darth Vader’s Blog

After reading this, I see an opportunity for a business management book, something like “29 Leadership Secrets From Darth Vader“…

Darth Vader’s weblog, via MetaFilter. For the full effect, start at the first post.

Have I mentioned before that I am surrounded by idiots? Let me cut to chase and just tell you up front: the rebels got away. All of them. General Veers, bless his heart, must have destroyed two dozen armed speeders and and an entire line of infantry — but those were just ants. We failed to take Mothma, Organa, Rieekan, Skywalker or even the traiterous fish Ackbar.

See also: Things Not To Say to Darth Vader at the Water Cooler

Yahoo MyWeb Beta Launch

I see that the Yahoo MyWeb service has launched.

  • Move beyond bookmarks – create your own personal, searchable web
  • Save all the pages you like (exact copies, not just links!)

  • Search My Web to instantly “re-find” your saved pages

  • Share only the pages you want – you’re in control

  • Turn on My Search History to quickly access past searches and visited results

On the one hand, both this and the Google Search History seem potentially useful, and I’m planning to try them out to see how they work and how they might evolve. On the other hand, I seem to have a little reflexive mistrust of the potential misuse of these sort of centrally operated data aggregators. I keep having an impulse to go clean out the browser cookies and start running everything through an anonymizing proxy…

The State of Video Search

Been thinking a bit lately about dealing with video, converged media, and search, came across a couple of interesting pieces on video search and digital content in general, first one on John Batelle’s SearchBlog, which in turn references a longer article by Mark Glaser at the Annenberg Online Journalism Review.

Ourmedia, SingingFish, and Brightcove are profiled briefly, along with Google Video Upload, Yahoo Video, and Open Media Network.

From the Glaser article:

Howe estimates there could be 300 million video streams online, but Singingfish has still only scratched the surface with just under 20 million streams indexed. Singingfish also crawls adult content — literally anything that’s legal — and includes a “Family Filter” with pretty conservative rules for what partner sites or individuals can filter out (including sex education material).

Finally, Howe believes that there’s been a sea change at media companies when it comes to embracing video search. “There’s been a general recognition that they’re going to have to digitize their content, and if they’re going to digitize it, then they’re going to have to monetize it,” she said. “I think people have sort of gotten over themselves. They used to assume that people would just go to such-and-such site to find this wonderful content. Well, no, because people have so many options.”

Some related thoughts:

The metadata problem:
It’s going to be difficult to make Google-style searches for video work without lots of Flickr- or Technorati-style tagging and other metadata sources. This can work for communities of motivated individuals sharing an interest in a topic or body of work, or for a successful commercial movie or television program. But for hours upon hours of uncut home videos from DV camcorders or the more recent digicams, even the owner probably won’t have the time or interest to tag the content enough to make it usefully searchable for most applications. Another problem — people generally have to see the video content to apply tagging or other metadata — and it’s just hard to get the data there…

The distribution problem:
Today’s internet isn’t well suited to moving large data files to and from end user sites (i.e. homes and most businesses). Relatively popular content can make use of peer-to-peer technology like BitTorrent to recruit end users to redistribute the original content and spreading out the bandwidth demand to other parts of the internet, but this only works if clients participate and if the content is popular enough to develop a network of clients with cached copies. Kontiki appears to be building a different peer-to-peer content distribution system.

Commercial sites sometimes use content delivery networks such as Akamai / Speedera (currently in the process of merging) to move copies of media data such as video, audio, imagery, or multimedia (usually Flash or Java) closer to the expected network clients. The underlying source of the infrastructure funding is often the online advertising dollars spent in marketing campaigns by movie, television, music, automobile, and lifestyle products. This doesn’t mesh well with a grassroots model.

If grassroots video is to become widely used, it needs to become accessible. On a good day, the DSL line to my home manages 1.5mbps down and 384kbps up. If I want to share a few minute digital video clip from the DV camera, it could easily be hundreds of megabytes, requiring more than an hour to upload to either a peer-to-peer network or a content server. I could also recode the video to make it smaller, which is a common practice for video publishers today, but this requires knowledge, tools, and time.

Community tagging and metadata for video?:
Sites like Flickr allow a community of interest to build around tags representing common interests, and also allow a vocabulary of tags to evolve, along with a social network of people who find each others’ photos interesting. However, this presumes that people can actually see the content they’re tagging, which may be difficult for a while in the case of video. I’m assuming that Google Video Upload (and others) will probably do some basic tasks such as segmenting on scene changes, timecode breaks, and perhaps simple scene analysis. But without anything else to work with, search engines aren’t going to help much.

Enough for now…

Are you a nerd?

I am nerdier than 94% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Came across a post linking to this nerd test while looking into the Semiologic Static Front Page plugin for WordPress.

Overall, you scored as follows:

6% scored higher (more nerdy), and
94% scored lower (less nerdy).

What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:

Supreme Nerd. Apply for a professorship at MIT now!!!.

Hmm. Only 94%?

On setting up a private ISP in India

Catching up on Abhishek Puri’s Broadband Blog, found this post referencing an old (1998) paper on setting up private ISPs in India.

Also another post regarding planned rate reductions on leased lines.

One of the long term challenges for the Kuppam i-Community program I’m working with is to make their broadband services economically sustainable, even though it serves a low-income, rural commmunity in India. While the program is making good use of wireless technology to bring down the costs of intra-regional connectivity, the cost of external internet connectivity has remained high, and has been dominated by leased line expense.

It remains to be seen whether the Kuppam program will be able to find a service provider to partner with in the region or whether it will need to form an ISP-like entity to provision and operate the network on behalf of the other community programs that are making use of the service. There have been numerous statements of intent by operators planning to provide wider access to broadband network service in Andhra Pradesh, although so far none are actually available.

Sipura purchased by Cisco for $68MM

I have liked the Sipura products since they first came out a few years ago. The SPA products are widely used by VoIP service providers (Vonage, etc) for their feature set, flexibility, and low cost. We have been testing out Sipura adapters on the Kuppam network for the past few months, with good results, and I just received a new SPA-3000 the other day which I haven’t gotten around to setting up for use with Asterisk yet.

Yesterday Cisco announced they will also acquire Sipura, which will be merged into Linksys.

SAN JOSE, Calif., April 26, 2005 – Cisco Systems® today announced a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Sipura Technology, Inc. This represents Cisco’s first acquisition for its Linksys division, the leading provider of wireless and networking hardware for home, Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) and small business environments. Sipura is a leader in consumer voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology and is a key technology provider for Linksys’ current line of VoIP networking devices. In addition to Sipura’s valuable technology and customer relationships, their experienced team with extensive VoIP expertise will help build a foundation for Linksys’ internal research and development capabilities in voice, video and other markets.

Under the terms of the agreement, Cisco will pay approximately $68 million in cash and options for Sipura. The acquisition is subject to various standard closing conditions, including applicable regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of Cisco’s fiscal year 2005 ending July 30, 2005.

The Cisco/Linksys VoIP router/firewalls already use Sipura technology. Hopefully, this won’t slow down product innovation by the Sipura team, and also leave them a path forward as VoIP capability becomes an embedded feature of other products rather than being a standalone product itself.

The founders, Jan Fandrianto (CEO), and Sam Sin (VP Engineering), sold their previous company, Komodo Technology to Cisco, which became the Cisco’s ATA-186 VoIP adapter.

More at Voxilla, Om Malik

Comparison Review of TV Tuner cards

This recent article at AnandTech compares several current PCI TV tuner cards, including

  • ATI’s eHome Wonder
  • ATI’s TV Wonder Elite
  • AverMedia M150
  • eMuzed Maui-II PCI PVR
  • Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250
  • NVIDIA’s dual tuner NVTV

The Hauppauge PVR-250 and the ATI TV Wonder Elite are relatively expensive but have visibly better performance in the various tests on the cards. These are all standard video input, so the image quality is also limited by the signal feed from the cable company.

I’ve been quite pleased with the Hauppauge PVR-350 I’ve been working with recently, which incorporates the same tuner and video encoder as the PVR-250. I’d be interested in seeing a comparison with the more recent PVR-150 at some point. I selected the Hauppauge over some of the alternatives on the basis of both video quality and the availability of software, since some of the other tuner hardware is essentially Windows-only. In contrast the Hauppauge hardware has extensive support under Linux, in projects like MythTV, FreeVo, MediaPortal, etc.

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