Archive for November, 2008

Apple Schmapple, Black Friday Edition

I decided not to go to bed just yet…

…because of this and this.

First, if Apple is going to lift a commercial from the US that states something quantifiable (twice as fast [as the original iPhone]) on their iPhone 3G commercial, which is focused on speed, they had better quantify it better than “really fast”, especially when the only quantifiable thing in the ad is the (simulared) screenhot video of the phone…going much faster than it would in real life.

For all the fanboys out there, I know that, in theory, the phone could pull down a PDF file as fast as it did on the commercial over HSDPA. In reality, however, such speed would never happen on a consumer network. Surpise: Apple is selling the iPhones to consumers on a consumer 3G network, and the ad cites the iPhone’s 3G speeds. I’ll hand it to you, WiFi may be able to download at the speeds shown for Google Maps and the attachment download, but definitely not HSDPA. The reason? HSDPA (the iPhone doesn’t have HSUPA to my knowledge) has latencies in excess of 300 ms on average, so tack that on to anything you want to download. Think of it as halfway between low-end DSL and a high-quality satellite connection. Or what you get on your normal, non-super-3G cell phone.

Honestly, WiFi on the iphone isn’t much better than the practical limits of 3G. Assuming that you have a big enough pipe coming into your WiFi network, the iPhone tests out at only about 4.5 megabits per second…and this test was made via a special speedtest app on my Comcast connection, which bursts above 20 Mbps, sometimes above 30 Mbps. Certainly above 4.5 Mbps.

Random: is it just me, or did anyone else see an earlier version of this “twice as fast” commercial where the disembodied hand was downloading a QuickTime movie? It may have just been me, but if that ad was aired, let loose all the dogs of Truth In Advertising…there’s no way a phone could download a file that fast with current technology, even over WiFi.

Back to the 3G: web browsing involves rendering of the page. The only way for the iPhone to load and render like was seen on the ad? Cacheing. Possible, but not a showcase of the phone’s 3G abiity. Strike…three?

Enough with that rant…

My second point of contention: Google had to break Apple’s software development rules in order to create what’s arguably one of the most compelling apps available on the iphone right now. When you hear a hacker whining about this it’s one thing; when Google speaks, it’s quite anotherr. Hopefully Apple doesn’t go ballistic and shoo Google’s Mobile App out of the iTunes store for their infraction, but on the other hand Google did step outside Apple’s rather obsessive little box for developers (no background processes, no turn-by-turn directions, do crossing the yellow tape), and the company tends to be rather draconian when it comes to punishment for such things. But in all seriousness this would only hurt Apple’s cause, so they probably won’t do it; Google has its own mobile platform now, and the more Apple takes, the more Google will pay attention to Android.

Lastly, a potshot at Apple smugness: their Black Friday deals were unappealing. The smattering of discounts on hardware basically said “Yeah, it’s a sale day, whaddya gonna do about it?”, nothing more. Apple fanboys were doubtless pleased, but the discounts were in most cases less than what educational buyers get 24x7x365. Keep in mind that we’re talking about the biggest shopping, biggest discount, day of the year, where 42″ HDTVs are sold for well under $800, and retailers both online and on the ground slash prices by a few dozen percent to get stocks moving. But, if I may say so, typical Apple…I’m sure their products sold well enough anyway…

That is all. Good night and good luck.

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Highlights from BOL 859

A few things that stood out to me from BOL 859

HavenCo is offline…whither away, yon battle-platform-turned-server-farm?

Put that humidity to good use…make water out of it.

In a MacGyver moment, an astronaut has figured out a way to drink coffee in spaaaaaaace.

Luncascape is not your usual web browser. Once you download all the required components (a rather momentous task), you’ll be able to surf using IE, Firefox or Chrome/Safari rendering engines, depending on what you, or the sites you’re visiting, prefer. Extremely cool concept, though it’s admittedly a solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist (if said problem didn’t exist everyone would use, and love, Opera, right?). Plus, the UI is a prime example of “party like it’s 2002” in late 2008. But I gotta say, I love the concept: switch rendering engines with a few clicks, never use another browser again. Now we just need stability, and a user interface similar in form and function to Firefox, IE or Chrome.

I’d go on with later episodes but it’s after midnight and my only purpose for staying up this late to see what was going to come up on Woot. Nothing interesting, so I’m off to bed.

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BOL Tags

I regularly listen to Buzz out Loud, and I find some of their stuff (well, most of it really) interesting enough to repost here. To give credit where credit is due, i’ll be tagging posts with “BOL” and “bolxxx” where xxx is the episode number of that particular story. Just so everyone knows…


All AT&T, All The Time

I must say, AT&T has been active and\or in the news lately…

Starting off with the wireless division, we see the iPhone getting a few new laurels to rest on. It has snagged the top spot for most sold US wireless phone this quarter from the Motorola Razr, and also appears to be 2X the reliability of BlackBerries and nearly 3X the reliability of Treos. AT&T has also opened up free AT&T WiFi access to iPhone and other smartphone users. This is particularly cool since the company also bought up hotspot operator Wayport right around ten minutes ago.

Last but not least, 1.1 million customers and a lot of spectrum, towers and other such infrsatructure got traded for a cool $944 million in AT&T’s buyout of Centennial Communications, yet another regional GSM carrier to fall under AT&T’s sway.

UPDATE: Looks like AT&T will be allowing iPhone tethering…for $30 on top of your regular data plan. The transfer limit is 5 GB with this option, and if you’re thinking that the total data cost is equal to that of a dedicated modem, you’re abso-freaking-lutely correct. Ripoff? Yes, but I suspect people will bite. Though Sprint’s network is generally faster, and tethering is only $15 on top of a data plan, which is also $30 on top of a voice plan but also includes everything from navigation to text messaging.

Speaking of WiFi, you get that free with most AT&T DSL/U-Verse plans. Which may be capped. The monthly transfer caps are as follows:

$10-$20, 768K, 20GB (DSL only)
$25-$32, 1.5M, 40GB
$30-$36, 3M, 60GB
$35-$43, 6M, 80GB
$55, 10M, 150GB (U-Verse only)

The caps are a bit biased speed-wise toward the lower-end tiers, but of course cost-per-GB-wise toward the higher tiers. Overages will be $1 per GB. The caps are squarely between Time Warner Cable’s proposed 5-40 GB limits and Comcast’s 250 GB cap. What’s funny about this is that AT&T hs plenty of backbone infrastructure, especially with U-Verse, to allow everyone to download as much as they want. Of coursse, business-class users won’t see these caps, but users in the Reno, NV test market already are, or they’re being grandfathered in at 150GB per month. What’s unnerving is the result if you only qualify for a lower-speed DSL connection due to distance from the CO: low caps, high overages.

Speaking of U-Verse, AT&T has introduced an 18 Mbps tier (1.5 Mbps upload) for $10 more than the 10/1.5 Mbps one, or $65 per month, though people have reported that they’ve gotten better deals by calling AT&T to upgrade. The caveat: the U-Verse service has to share bandwidth with any TV that’s running, and the shared pipe is only 25 Mbit/s wide downstream and 2 Mbit/s upstream. This “profile” is due to the fact that VDSL (the tech upon which U-Verse is based) drops off quickly speed-wise as distance from the VRAD (fiber-fed DSL terminal) increases. The result: if you’re watching TV, you get 14-15 Mbps internet speeds instead of 18 Mbps, though TV quality doesn’t degrade while the internet is being used. No word on caps on this tier; let’s hope they’re to the tune of 250GB…competitors are sure to deploy DOCSIS 3 in response to this new U-Verse tier, and Comcast‘s caps are well above AT&T’s proposed ones.

Last but not least, AT&T is trying to create a video search engine (!?!) in partnership with a startup by the name of Divvio. Once can’t but think that this new service, dubbed Videocrawler, will be a nice tool for chewing up your gigabytes once caps are in place. Why I oughta…

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Cable and Fiber Speeds

In response to TekZilla episode 57, cable systems are more anemic, and fiber better, than you’d think. Here’s the skinny of the standards and speeds:

DOCSIS 1.1 (cable companies still use this tech in most markets): 38 Mbps downstream, 10 Mbps upstream
DOCSIS 2.0 (a few companies, plus a few markets on Comcast): 38 Mbps downstream, 30 Mbps upstream
DOCSIS 3 (the “wave of the future”): DOCSIS 2.0 speeds, multiplied by the number of channels you’re using

On DOCSIS 3, current deployments on Comcast “bond” three downstream channels, but only use one DOCSIS 2 channel for uploads. Technology is being set into motion that will allow for bonding four or even eight downstream channels and multiple (I think up to four) upstream channels for better bandwidth than what Comcast offers right now: 50 Mbps down, 10 Mbps up.

Note that the speeds mentioned above can technically be monopolized by a single cable modem, but in reality have to be shared among all users on a cable “node”, meaning that actual spped will be slower. The number of people on a single node varies widely; in some cases there are as little as 60 to 100 people per node, in other cases several hundred, and in extreme cases a thousand or two. As such, you’re not going to see “full speed” on a given tech pretty much ever. For example, in my area Comcast has DOCSIS 1.1 connectivity, and I get between 18 and 32 Mbps down on speed tests (using PowerBoost, which lets you max out the connection for prety much just long enough to do a speed test) and 2.4-2.8 Mbps up…

Fiber is another story. Verizon’s FiOS system is set up using PON (Passive Optical Network) technology, and they’re using a passive splitter to deliver service to 32 customers per “node”. You *could* put 64 or 128 customers on each node, or more if an “active optical network” was used (like SureWest and a few others provide) but Verizon has 32 subscribers per node. The bandwidth available is just plain crazy when these numbers are taken into account. There are two techs Verizon uses on their network, BPON (Broadband Passive Optical Network) and the newer GPON (Gigabit Passive Optical Network). The speeds are as follows:

BPON – 622 Mbps down, 155 Mbps up
GPON – 2.4 Gbps down, 1.2 Gbps up

These numbers are still shared among all subscribers, however they’re so much larger, and the “sharing factor” so much smaller, that speeds are just plain crazy fast. To give you an idea of the speeds, everyone on a node could be simultaneously using 16 Mbps on downloads and 4 Mbps on uploads, counting system overhead, and the network could handle it. And that’s BPON. GPON doesn’t have the “ATM overhead” and as such all customers could be online at one time, downloading at 75 Mbps AND uploading at 37.5 Mbps, in order to get the network at capacity. Crazy stuff.

Cable, on the other hand, can’t reach the speeds of BPON even with 8-channel DOCSIS 3, let alone GPON. 4-channel-bonded upload DOCSIS 3 can’t beat BPON either. And again, we’re talking about 250 or 500 customers per node versus 32.

So we can see why Verizon, with FiOS, has the HUGE advantage (albeit a costly one depoyment-wise) over any cable company out there who is still relying on coax for the “last mile”. On the one hand you have Comcast, who is just now able to offer a 22 Mbps down, 5 Mbps up tier on DOCSIS 3 (though Cablevision, by having a smaller “node sharing ratio”, is going faster than this on DOCSIS 2), with a very expensive 50 Mbps down, 10 Mbps up option available, all with 250 GB per month caps since, generally speaking, 250 customers or more are on each cable node. On the other you have Verizon, who started out with 52, 15/2, 15/15 and 30/15 (download/upload, megabits per second) tiers when they launched FiOS, then upped the ante to 10/2, 20/5, 20/20 and 50/20 later on, all of this before Comcast’s DOCSIS 3 rollout. Already, looking at Comcast, they can’t go much higher speed-wise before they run into network congestion issues…with their current bonding setup 50/10 is about all that they can reliably get. Even with 8/4 bonding they *might* be able to break 125/50 Mbps down/up before the system crashes. Verizon, on the other hand, can easily scale past 100 Mbps down, 50 Mbps up on their older system, and 4x that on the newer system. Verizon doesn’t want to oversubscribe (like cable systems do) so speeds may be a bit more conservative than what I just mentioned, however they’ve been testing 100 Mbps connections for employees in GPON areas for awhile now.

In conclusion, a lot of small providers (CenturyTel, Windstream, Embarq, NorthState) are running fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) on newer developments, as is AT&T in a very limited respect. Though most of the aforementioned providers don’t offer better speeds over fiber than they do with copper, some do, and in any case fiber-fed developments can easily outrun coax if the heat is turned up.

One more thing: if FiOS isn’t in your area, don’t expect DOCSIS 3 from your cable company any time soon. In most cases, DOCSIS 1.1 provides enough bandwidth that, with network managment, cable companies can sell 20-megabit-per-second down, 2-meg-per-second up connections (but usually less) with minimal complaints about overselling, and they can beat out the phone company if said phone company is using older DSL technology.

In short, competition is very, very good, but when it comes down to it, fiber trumps all.

From NIN, To Fans, Re: Politics…Very Cool

Just got this e-mail from NIN…gotta say I respect this…

Next Tuesday we will elect the next President of the United States. The result will have great consequences for the nation.

This election offers a choice is between two men with dramatically different visions of the future. We have strong feelings about this choice. But we feel even more strongly that all Americans, regardless of political preference, have a stake in the outcome and should vote in this critical election.

This is likely to be a close election. Your vote matters. Please use it and make a difference.

Trent Reznor

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How To Get Windows 7 Right Now

BREAKING NEWS: More features have been unlocked for Windows 7 by Rafael Rivera over at WithinWindows. Check it out!

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I’m out of keys! However, check the comments (it’s WAY down in there); one person has an old WIndows Vista beta key and that might work. Please post in the comments of your experiences when using it.

Again, I myself have no more keys. Also, if you like this post, share it, digg it, whatever…the ad money I get goes to paying for a seedbox so everyone’s WIndows 7 downloads go faster on the torrent that I’m linking to. Speaking of downloading faster, please seed this torrent as much as you can!

Heard of Windows 7? Yeah, it’s the new Microsoft operating system that’ll be out in time for school next year, looks like. But would you like to check it out right now?

Don’t worry; unlike previous versions of Windows, Windows 7 (which I may call Win7 in the rest of this post) is built so that, no matter what build, you’ll be getting a rock-solid product. Certainly not feature complete…the lower the build number, the more it’ll look like Vista…but the features that are there are solid.

The current build of Windows 7 seems to just have a lot of under-the-hood changes to increase performance and reliability over Vista, to the point that running Windows 7 in a virtual machine with 1.5 GB of memory assigned is a pleasurable experience. The same can’t be said of Vista. Nice job, Microsoft dev team, keep up the slim-down. There are other minor enhancements at this stage as well.

One thing to be forewarned of: you won’t get the shiny latest version of Win7 that was shown at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference. That’s build 6933, and that build didn’t get given to conference attendees. Thus we only have build 6801, the one that came on a free-with-conference-ticket 160GB hard drive at the PDC, and the one that has now leaked onto BitTorrent.

Another thing: this install requires activation. For that you’ll need a key. See below to get that key…

So here are the steps to get Win7…

1. Download the torrent. You’ll need a BitTorrent client (Mac Win) to do this.
NOTE: I’m seeding this on a “seedbox” account so download speeds should be reasonable. Please seed the torrent as well if you are able.

2. Extract the RAR file. You’ll need an unRAR program (Mac Win) to do this.

3. Burn the DVD. If you’re on Windows and don’t have something like Roxio\Nero\Sonic, you’ll need this.

4. Install Windows. It’s just like installing any other version of Windows, whether you’re installing into a VMWare machine on a Mac or regular-style onto a PC or Mac. Keep that in mind. Ask if you have trouble getting your mind around this concept. When the installer asks for a product version, you want Ultimate. When it asks for a serial number, leave it blank for now.

5. Activate Windows. You’ll need a key for this. Find a key from the old Windows Vista beta program (an RC1 or RC2 key will work). Or ask me…I have two keys, each of which can be used on up to ten computers. Counting my systems in, that leaves 15 computers worth of activations for people who can do me some random internet favor.

That’s it. Have fun with your new Windows 7 install. Realize, however, that it will expire on August 1st, 2009. On the other hand, that’s probably around the time WIndows 7 will come out. If not, there will doubtless be a newer\beta\release client version between now and then, at which point I’ll post updated instructions on getting the goods.

Hope this helps! I’m off to replace Windows XP with Windows 7 on my Macbook Air 😀

UPDATE: I’m typing this from Windows 7 on my Macbook Air. I had to install the Boot Camp drivers, plus manually grabbing the Realtek audio driver from first the Boot Camp CD, then the web. Audio is a little shaky, and hibernate mode has BIG issues, but otherwise the experience is amazing.

UPDATE 2: This post has been dugg. Digg it good, folks!

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