March 24, 2008

Google’s White Space Plans [1:21 pm]

Google tells FCC of “white space” airwave planspdf

In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission, Google said it would propose an enhanced system to prevent wireless devices operating in the so-called “white space” from interfering with adjacent television channels and wireless microphones.

Google said the enhancements “will eliminate any remaining legitimate concerns about the merits of using the white space for unlicensed personal/portable devices.”

The FCC’s white space testing page: TV Band Device Testing

From that page:

3/21/08
Remaining bench tests of devices for sensing in the presence of DTV signals in adjacent channels will continue from Monday (March 24, 2008) till Thursday (March 28 2008). In addition, the Laboratory plans to complete transmitter characterization for devices with such capabilities. Weather permitting; the transmitter characterization will include testing outdoor (in the open area outside the laboratory building on the FCC premises). Currently there are no plans to test on Friday (March 28, 2008).

Later: Google revives push to get free airwaves (pdf)

Google turned its attention to TV “white spaces” after it failed to win any spectrum in the recent auction by the Federal Communications Commission that raised $19.1 billion. Analysts said the company probably did not want to win any of that spectrum. Google provided the minimum $4.6-billion bid on a large nationwide group of spectrum licenses ultimately won by Verizon Wireless in an effort to ensure that those airwaves be required to be open to any device or software.

[...] “Right now they don’t think they need to own a network,” said Blair Levin, an analyst with brokerage Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., who called Google the “happy loser” in the auction.

Also, a related question: FCC Asked to Probe Auction: Failure of Public Safety Band to Draw Bids Raises Suspicion (pdf)

The failure of a Federal Communications Commission auction to draw sufficient bids to build a wireless network for emergency responders provoked sharp criticism by members of Congress, consumer groups and leaders of the 9/11 Commission yesterday. It also prompted a call to investigate whether auction rules were broken.

Nine organizations, including the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union, wrote to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, saying the FCC should “investigate carefully the allegations” that representatives of the nation’s police, fire and emergency officials undermined the auction. They cited reports that public-safety representatives demanded that any winner of the auction make additional payments to them.

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A Shock of the Old Article [11:55 am]

Why Old Technologies Are Still Kicking (See David Edgerton’s The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 for more examples)

The mainframe stands as a telling case in the larger story of survivor technologies and markets. The demise of the old technology is confidently predicted, and indeed it may lose ground to the insurgent, as mainframes did to the personal computer. But the old technology or business often finds a sustainable, profitable life. Television, for example, was supposed to kill radio, and movies, for that matter. Cars, trucks and planes spelled the death of railways. A current death-knell forecast is that the Web will kill print media.

What are the common traits of survivor technologies? First, it seems, there is a core technology requirement: there must be some enduring advantage in the old technology that is not entirely supplanted by the new. But beyond that, it is the business decisions that matter most: investing to retool the traditional technology, adopting a new business model and nurturing a support network of loyal customers, industry partners and skilled workers.

The unfulfilled predictions of demise, experts say, tend to overestimate the importance of pure technical innovation and underestimate the role of business judgment. “The rise and fall of technologies is mainly about business and not technological determinism,” said Richard S. Tedlow, a business historian at the Harvard Business School.

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Rickrolling, Anyone? [11:51 am]

The ’80s Video That Pops Up, Online and Off

Rickrolling is a descendant of an older Internet joke called duckrolling. A Web site or blog post would offer a link to something popular — say celebrity photos or video gaming news — that led unsuspecting viewers to a bizarre image of a duck on wheels.

For rickrolling, the duck was replaced with the 20-year-old Astley video, and in the last year it has become a hugely successful “meme,” the Internet’s word for an idea repeated across the Web. The video from yougotrickrolled.com has been viewed more than seven million times.

The “Never Gonna Give You Up” video has been watched over a million times on YouTube — not bad for a song that last had heavy radio play in 1988, when it spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart of the top-selling singles.

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Searchity Search Search [11:46 am]

A New Tool From Google Alarms Sites

This month, the company introduced a search-within-search feature that lets users stay on Google to find pages on popular sites like those of The Washington Post, Wikipedia, The New York Times, Wal-Mart and others. The search box appears when someone enters the name of certain Web addresses or company names — say, “Best Buy” — rather than entering a request like “cellphones.”

The results of the search are almost all individual company pages. Google tops those results with a link to the home page of the Web site in question, adds another search box, and offers users the chance to let Google search for certain things within that site.

The problem, for some in the industry, is that when someone enters a term into that secondary search box, Google will display ads for competing sites, thereby profiting from ads it sells against the brand. The feature also keeps users searching on Google pages and not pages of the destination Web site.

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A Little Blurb from Today’s NYTimes Most Wanted [11:12 am]

Most Wanted

Some other background: Gibson Guitar Tangles With Game Makers (pdf)

Gibson Guitar Corp. has widened its attack on the video game industry with a second patent infringement lawsuit.

It claims, in a case filed Thursday in federal district court in Nashville, that by developing, distributing and promoting the video game “Rock Band,” Harmonix, MTV Networks and Electronic Arts are violating a virtual-reality patent the guitar maker holds.

The same 1999 patent is at issue in a separate lawsuit Gibson filed earlier in the week against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and five other retailers. The real-guitar maker claims the stores are violating the patent by selling the Activision Inc. game “Guitar Hero.”

Before Gibson filed either lawsuit, Activision sued Gibson in Los Angeles this month asking for a federal court declaration that it is not violating Gibson’s patent.

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Jim Fallows on the Great Firewall [8:15 am]

In the March Atlantic: “The Connection Has Been Reset” (pdf)

They’ll likely be surprised, then, to notice that China’s Internet seems surprisingly free and uncontrolled. Can they search for information about “Tibet independence” or “Tiananmen shooting” or other terms they have heard are taboo? Probably—and they’ll be able to click right through to the controversial sites. Even if they enter the Chinese-language term for “democracy in China,” they’ll probably get results. What about Wikipedia, famously off-limits to users in China? They will probably be able to reach it. Naturally the visitors will wonder: What’s all this I’ve heard about the “Great Firewall” and China’s tight limits on the Internet?

In reality, what the Olympic-era visitors will be discovering is not the absence of China’s electronic control but its new refinement—and a special Potemkin-style unfettered access that will be set up just for them, and just for the length of their stay. According to engineers I have spoken with at two tech organizations in China, the government bodies in charge of censoring the Internet have told them to get ready to unblock access from a list of specific Internet Protocol (IP) addresses—certain Internet cafés, access jacks in hotel rooms and conference centers where foreigners are expected to work or stay during the Olympic Games. (I am not giving names or identifying details of any Chinese citizens with whom I have discussed this topic, because they risk financial or criminal punishment for criticizing the system or even disclosing how it works. Also, I have not gone to Chinese government agencies for their side of the story, because the very existence of Internet controls is almost never discussed in public here, apart from vague statements about the importance of keeping online information “wholesome.”)

Depending on how you look at it, the Chinese government’s attempt to rein in the Internet is crude and slapdash or ingenious and well crafted. When American technologists write about the control system, they tend to emphasize its limits. When Chinese citizens discuss it—at least with me—they tend to emphasize its strength. All of them are right, which makes the government’s approach to the Internet a nice proxy for its larger attempt to control people’s daily lives.

Related: China plays victim for its audience - pdf

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