Particle Debris (wk. ending 5/20) Technical Endeavours Galore

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STS-134 (Endeavour) launch,  16 May 2011 (NASA)

There was a time, a decade ago, when high speed data communications in Europe paled in comparison to the U.S. Nowadays the situation is reversed — the Netherlands leads Europe and appears to be far ahead of the U.S. Here’s the story and video at “High Fiber.” The terrific video explains why fiber to the house is so important for competitiveness and employment. It’ll turn you green with envy — and maybe get you posing tough questions to your congressional representative. Would you believe high-speed broadband in the UK for (the equivalent of) US$6.00/month?

I mentioned this analysis by Horace Dediu earlier in the week, but just in case you missed it — and for the record: “iPhone share of phone market in Q1: 5% volumes, 20% revenues, 55% profit.” The title says more than I can.

We probably knew this was coming. With the expected co-mingling (but probably not formal merger) of Mac OS X and iOS, there are probably some ways to make desktop systems more iPad-like and easier to touch and use. (Even as we know about Apple’s reluctance to let our arms extend and tire.) Here’s a discussion of an Apple patent and some added speculations that’s well put together by Patently Apple:Could Apple be developing a New Post-PC Hybrid Desktop?

In this blog, I have commented extensively about the failures of the iPad competitors. This time, I’ll let Nvidia’s CEO explain it: “Nvidia CEO: Why Android tablets aren’t selling.” The real question now is, once the problem is recognized and 2nd generation tablets arrive, can they give Apple some real competition?

A source has dropped some information on 9to5Mac about upcoming changes to the Apple retail stores. Here’s what they know: “Apple Store 2.0 revealed: Startup Sessions, interactive iPad signage, new sound/display systems, new app?

There’s been a lot of coverage about the 10th anniversary of Apple’s retail store launch. It all started at the Tyson’s Corner Mall in McLean Virginia, and now Apple has over 300 stores worldwide. Here are two of the best stories I’ve seen: “10 years later, Apple’s ‘crazy’ retail gamble is a hit” and “Apple’s Retail Adventure: 10 Years Later.

Let’s see… how can I get an Apple angle on this? Hmmm. Oh, darn, I’ll just link and be done. 

Now, I can link this to Apple because the iPad seems to be the harbinger of new devices like the one mentioned. And, of course, the tricorder and small tablets were likely our societal subconscious motivation for the iPad. So it does all fit together: “$10 million X Prize to be offered to develop a medical Tricorder.” Now if we could just take an iPad and add the right kinds of sensors….

Ed Bott and John Gruber are at odds. Mr. Gruber isn’t impressed by the fuss, but the emerging scuttlebutt seems to be that Apple support forums are confirming an explosion of phishing attacks against Mac users. This was expected by the security community awhile back (I was briefed) because as Mac OS X and Safari have become very hardened and as Apple customers have been pretty good about applying the updates, the juiciest targets that remain are naive users attacked via phishing. Ed Bott at ZDNet documents some of the fuss and tries to remain rational as well. “Crying wolf? Apple support forums confirm malware explosion.”

If you missed it, I provided some advice yesterday on how to deal with phishing attacks.

Is Microsoft finally fixing the architecture of Windows 8? Are they finally building a modern basis and only allowing Windows 7 apps to run in a compatibility mode? Much like Apple did with Mac OS X, the Blue Box and Classic? I’m not sure, but this story by Mike Elgan makes me think maybe Microsoft finally bit the bullet: “Five Questions about Windows 8.”

A recent talk by Intel senior VP may have spilled the beans when he talked about the two modes in Windows 8: “An Intel x86 compatible version called “Windows 8 traditional” (the software equivalent of “Coke Classic,” apparently) will run existing Windows applications but only in a “Windows 7 mode.” And of course it will also run shiny new Windows 8 applications yet to be created.” [Emphasis mine.]

I’ve just finished reading (on my iPad) Steven Levy’s book, “In the Plex.” I consider it required reading for anyone who wants to understand how Google operates and how it thinks. So I was fascinated when our reader “Nemo” directed me to this intriguing article about Eric Schmidt: “Does Eric Schmidt speak for Google on copyright?” My take is that Google has spent so much time throwing its weight around that Eric Schmidt was probably sincere when he made his remarks. But sometimes those loose cannon remarks need to be tempered by more politically savvy people in the company.

Finally, Florian Mueller has provided a comprehensive analysis of “Is Apple winning or losing the patent game?” This is one of those articles that’s long, but worth the investment in time to really understand something about Apple, even if, as “Nemo” opines, Mr. Miller doesn’t have a complete grasp of software patents.

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Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

John, When you look at giving the DOJ the ability to shut down web sites accused of piracy, you have to look at what they’ve done with Internet gambling, where they have similar power. The track record is not good, especially when it comes to online poker. The rest of the world, Europe included, thinks our law is a complete joke. It seems to be the ultimate example of bootleggers and Baptists getting together to screw us with legislation, as brick and mortar gambling establishments have united with Puritanical screwballs to ban poker from our Internets. A recent DOJ smackdown on online poker has even resulted in sponsored poker tournaments pulled off ESPN, which makes it very much a freedom of speech issue.

I’m actually kind of relieved that Schmidt was basically saying that if the US government wants stuff stripped out of search results, that it’s going to first find out what courts think, rather than leave such a mandate to the legislative and executive branches. Good for him!


New architecture in Win8 sounds interesting but I’m skeptical.

The kernel seems to be robust enough and running VMs on top (using Hyper-V I guess) makes sense. This also allows MS to cut the cord with the old, dangerous APIs that mash stuff across the kernel/user boundary.

But it means that there will have to be new, clean, Win8 APIs that follow the rules. These take a long time to develop and refine (Apple took several years to get most of it done). If this were to arrive in the Win8 time frame then we should have heard of it by now.


Brad - I won’t argue the issue of what the rest of the world thinks.

However I wonder if the position on gambling on-line is driven by Puritanical repression or by concern about tax evasion and money-laundering. Casinos used to be the standard way to make payoffs and to lose the “money trail”.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Europe wants digital-cash to be anonymous and the U.S. is insisting that it be traceable.


Is our slow, expensive internet service in the US due to the legalized system of bribery called “campaign contributions” at every level (national, state and local) of government? Or is it due to government officials being hired by the companies they regulate?


Mark my words. Microsoft entered into the patent deal picking over Novell to get rights to SysV. Vista=Copland, 7=Mac OS 8/9, and 8 will virtualize Windows over a SysV core. And they’ll proclaim it revolutionary.


Mark my words. Microsoft entered into the patent deal picking over Novell to get rights to SysV. Vista=Copland, 7=Mac OS 8/9, and 8 will virtualize Windows over a SysV core. And they?ll proclaim it revolutionary.

That would be interesting but I don’t think so. The kernel in their server stuff would make a more compatible base.

And they may have patent rights to some stuff with the deal, but that’s not the same as rights to SysV. Despite the Attachmate deal, those are still subject to a lot of litigation. You can review the sad saga of SCO on groklaw and the essential take-away is that the ownership of SysV is not clear and/or clean.

Microsoft would be putting its head in a vice to do this. BSD maybe (but Apple did that already), but not SysV.


I guess if the US had a similar population density to the Netherlands, or even the UK, then broadband speeds and prices might be comparable.

I think the average population density of the US is about 1/10th that of Holland; but I could be wrong.

Lee Dronick

I guess if the US had a similar population density to the Netherlands, or even the UK, then broadband speeds and prices might be comparable.

I think the average population density of the US is about 1/10th that of Holland; but I could be wrong.

Out of 240 listings

The Netherlands is number 30 with a density of 1041 per square mile
The United States is number 179 with a density of 83 per square mile

I think that works out to about 0.17, but math is not my strong suit.

The data is from 2004-2005, but the density percentage probably has not changed all that much since then.


The Netherlands is number 30 with a density of 1041 per square mile
The United States is number 179 with a density of 83 per square mile

Going at it the other way, 83*10=830, so it’s a huge difference. And something that is missed when just looking at raw numbers is that most Americans, I would guess, live in single-family dwellings. This is not the case in much of Europe. We live in a row house in central Europe (four houses connected), and in our neighborhood, we cannot get cable TV at all. The reason is simple. There aren’t any apartment blocks, just single-family houses. It doesn’t pay the cable companies to wire up the neighborhood for fewer customers than they could get in one apartment block (even a small one), and the costs are much higher per meter of cable laid. They won’t do it. Yet what urban or suburban subdivision in the US, isn’t wired for cable?

I do think that population density does make it easier and cheaper to implement wired high-speed. Plus, with fewer people overall, it is cheaper to rip out and replace to speed things up—which also affects cellular service in the US—with such a massive infrastructure to upgrade, technological advancement must of necessity take longer in the US than in other places. A speed boat turns much faster than a huge cruise liner.



Sorry, Harry & Lancashire, but to me, comparing the entire US population density is a specious* argument. High Fiber cable wouldn’t be laid everywhere, just like cell phone reception isn’t available everywhere. For example…

New York City 8,175,133 people / 303 sq mi = 26,980/sq. mi

And there are 125 areas in the US with a population density of over 10,000 people per square mile:

Are we thinking about fiber optic cable in Montana or the Dakotas, or about the highest population density areas?

*specious: superficially plausible, but actually wrong

Lee Dronick

Are we thinking about fiber optic cable in Montana or the Dakotas, or about the highest population density areas?

The populated areas. With apologies to the people who live in the Great Plains, deserts, and mountains, they are not going to put much money into areas where no one lives.

Getting back to the cities and density. I live in San Diego with a population of a million and half. When you include the neighboring cities and towns that make up the metro area there are 2 and half million people, most of us live in single family dwellings. Same for Los Angeles and other cities out here in the West. New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other big cities to the east are more densely populated and with people living in multiple family structures.

About 15 years ago or so the phone company, PacBell at the time, and Time Warner Cable TV wired our neighborhood with fiber optic. However, they never offered any service over the fiber optics and the cables are just terminated outside the houses. They wired a significant number of neighborhoods before both companies lost interest, they must have spent a fortune on the project. I don’t know why the project was stopped, put a tinfoil hat on and come up with some good conspiracies.

Eventually I think that we will see very high speed wireless, maybe via a satellite link. That would solve the problems providing service to rural areas and other places expensive to wire.


John compared the US (presumably that includes Montana and both Dakotas) to the Netherlands and the UK.
Maybe Holland should be compared with Los Angeles or New Jersey;

Fibre-to-the-door is much like any other infrastructure project. For example, not everyone is connected to the town sewer system, some people have septic tanks. Generally, septic tanks are more common in rural areas. The cost/benefit case for laying public drains has a lot to do with population density.

I’m not located in the US or Europe - which is why I could be wrong.

Sir Harry, have I got this right? You have fibre-to-the-door, but it’s remained unused for 15 years!

Lee Dronick

Sir Harry, have I got this right? You have fibre-to-the-door, but it?s remained unused for 15 years!

Yes. Two cables in fact, one from the phone company and one from the TV cable company. I don’t know if they are connected to the backbone anywhere, but the grid is under the streets. It was big news here at the time and I was pleased that my neighborhood was one of the first to get the fiber. Then it just up and died, I don’t know for sure what happened. I once asked a phone company installer working on my box and he said he thinks that it died when PacBell was acquired by Southwest Bell who didn’t want to keep funding the project.


Gentlemen:  If you view the PBS video, you will see that the Netherlands is providing fiber optic cable everywhere, including even the remotest and least densely populate rural areas of the country.  The U.S. can certainly afford to do the same, though certain areas would probably require government subsidies but so does the U.S. Post Office for delivery to remote parts of the U.S.


Yeah, but the Netherlands cover the same or smaller area than the New England states excluding Maine. 16,000 mi2 is rather tiny compared to the rural areas of places like Pennsylvania or Ohio, and those are rather populous rural states. PA, is also riven with mountain ranges. And why, why, _why_ do people always thing that “government subsidies” is the solution? Sorry, but I don’t want my taxes paying for someone else’s internet! (And selfish is wanting to spend somebody else’s money for things _you_ want.)


Lee Dronick

Sorry, but I don?t want my taxes paying for someone else?s internet

I do, I am willing to let some of my taxes pay for the rural internet. Not pay for some rancher’s internet service mind you, but pay for the installation of some sort of high speed network that would serve the rural areas.

Usually I keep politics out my activities here at the MacObserver and I will not get sucked into a conversation about it beyond this post.


Dear JonGL:  I think that it comes down to whether we are one nation and one people or whether it is every man for himself.  If it is to be latter, not only will rural areas be permanently deprived of the benefits of the Internet, and we, all of us, do need some farmers and others in rural areas, but under such a philosophy, we would have to remove a number of government service, certainly some of which you rely upon but don’t pay for.  If we did that I can assure you that you wouldn’t like the nasty and brutish country that would result, and the nasty, brutish, and the short life that you would almost certainly have in it.

When deciding how and whether to spend for the public weal, we and particularly our representatives in government should be governed by whether the contemplated expenditure would benefit the country as whole or be required to preserved or to obtain some standard of decent existence for all of our fellow citizens.  Funding high-speed broadband wins on both of those standards.  The countries of western Europe and Scandinavia are not only being concerned with providing all of their citizens with the benefits of modern commerce, healthcare, culture, etc. on the public purse, but have seen beyond peradventure that investing in pervasive fiber optics is a net economic benefit to each of their respective countries, an economic benefit that greatly exceeds its capital costs.  And the Scandinavians are doing it entirely with private investment, without any government expenditure, which they could do once they eliminated the broadband oligopolies, which so afflict the U.S. market for broadband.  (Please view the video that John linked to, supra.) 

But even absent that net economic benefit, should any decent, civil society deny a class of its citizens the myriad benefits of high-speed broadband (medical service, telecommuting for jobs, access to the best of the nation and the world’s culture, etc.) simply because a selfish few don’t give a damn about anyone other than themselves, when the expenditure involved is easily affordable?  I hope that answer to that is a resounding No; otherwise there really isn’t much point to having a United States.


Nemo. You can’t conflate people—individuals—with government. The two are not equal. I’m afraid that your profession has made you quite dependent on the government, and the messes that the government makes, for you to understand objectively what happens when government gets involved. Think of it this way—what the government pays for, it owns. What the government owns, it controls. Say goodbye to net neutrality. Say good bye to freedom. I seem to recall reading this morning that Google is opposing a new law that would make it easier for the government to shut down sites in order to “protect” IP. Once the government owns the internet, they can shut down whoever they want.

I know it’s not popular to say this today, but the US was built by a nation of individuals, not by a collective. And rural Americans (of which I was one), is _especially_ made up of individuals who, on their own carved out the niche they did. Sadly, this rural America has been fading, thanks to government subsidies already…

What _I_ don’t want to see is a nation where every individual is dependent on the federal government for their existence. I call this immoral. This is why I don’t want my taxes going to “help” rural America.  With compassion of the sort you are proposing, we don’t need enemies—we are our own. And no, I don’t view this as a political issue. I view it as a moral one. (oh, and I now live in a country that was once under communist dominion. I see the fruits of total government every day—twenty years after! It is immoral what total government does to the human soul)


Lee Dronick

I know it?s not popular to say this today, but the US was built by a nation of individuals, not by a collective.

No, it was team effort. Sure there were some leaders who get credit for the idea of a railroad or something, but nothing gets done without collaboration. Even the sole artist who creates a masterpiece relies on others for to create the raw materials that go into the work, for safe food, clean water, sanitation and all of the other things that make for civilization.

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