Monthly Archives: March 2006

Software Telephony

This is what caught my eye:
Electric utility Southern Co. is using Asterisk in a pilot program to translate voicemail into text messages for 30 managers’ BlackBerrys.
Nevermind the BlackBerry angle: finally, something to translate slow and opaque voice messages into searchable and readily fileable text!

This is the story hook:

Spencer is the inventor of Asterisk, a free software program that establishes phone calls over the Internet and handles voicemail, caller ID, teleconferencing and a host of novel features for the phone. With Asterisk loaded onto a computer, a decent-size company can rip out its traditional phone switch, even some of its newfangled Internet telephone gear, and say good-bye to 80% of its telecom equipment costs. Not good news for Cisco (nasdaq: CSCO – news – people ), Nortel or Avaya (nyse: AV – news – people ).

Dial D for Disruption Quentin Hardy,, 10 March 1006

It’s taken decades for somebody to turn VoIP software (anybody remember vat?) into a business. The reporter is playing it up as open source disruption to the office telecom equipment market, but it goes farther than that. Continue reading

POTS is Dead! Long Live the ILECs?

Chandler Howell remarks:

POTS is dead, it’s just being kept on life support by the SBC’s, AT&T’s and BellSouths of the world until they figure out how to extend their monopoly rents up the IP stack past the wire.

This is in a blog entry about John Robb’s essay that proposes that parallel communications networks for first responders may spread as more general wireless networks, thus subverting the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) gerontocracy. John Robb is no stranger to networks, having spent some years as COO of a successful network monitoring fim. He is normally so realistic in using network science to explain terrorist activities that he may appear the be the most Casandra of pessimists, so it was a little surprising when I earlier encountered his prediction.

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Saudi Life Online

The Internet can still be a means for change:
Ebtihal Mubarak is one of several talented female reporters and editors on the Arab News staff. That in itself is a change from my days at the paper more than a decade ago. In recent years the News has doubled its full-time Saudi female staff and put more female reporters out in the field. Mubarak reports on the small but growing movement for greater political and social rights for Saudis. Persecution by extremists is a common theme in her work. As she surfed Saudi Internet forums one day last fall, she came across a posting describing an attack on a liberal journalist in the northern city of Hail. “A journalist’s car had been attacked while he was sleeping,” she said. “A note on his car read: ‘This time it’s your car, next time it will be you.’”

Young and Restless Saudi Arabia’s baby boomers, born after the 1973 oil embargo, are redefining the kingdom’s relationship with the modern world, By Afshin Molavi, Photographs by Kate Brooks, Smithsonian Magazine, April 2006

Being a journalist herself, Mubarak didn’t stop with web surfing. Continue reading

The Long Tail Offline

Chris Anderson has been posting about the Long Tail, which is about how only a relatively small number of movies, records, books, etc. get wide distribution, and if you plot all of a given type of product, such as movies, on a graph with x being number of copies sold or viewed for pay, and y being individual movies in descending order of copies, you see a short fat head that gets regular distribution and a very long tail that does not. The main point is that the long tail has as much value as the fat head, and with the Internet it is now possible to distribute the long tail to cult movie viewers, old movie buffs, afficionados of certain genres, etc.

Here’s a different case where everyone takes the long tail to be representative when the short head accounts for most of the money:

The first of those people was Murray Barr, and Johns and O’Bryan realized that if you totted up all his hospital bills for the ten years that he had been on the streets—as well as substance-abuse-treatment costs, doctors’ fees, and other expenses—Murray Barr probably ran up a medical bill as large as anyone in the state of Nevada.

“It cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray,” O’Bryan said.

MILLION-DOLLAR MURRAY Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage. by MALCOLM GLADWELL New Yorker, Issue of 2006-02-13 and 20, Posted 2006-02-06

The money in this case is medical expenses paid for by hospitals or the state, for care of homeless people. Continue reading

Life in the UNATS Lane

What happens if the U.S. or North America in general continues to turn inward and backward is a popular theme in science fiction these days. Here’s an interesting take on that by Cory Doctorow, i, robot Any resemblance to the old Isaac Asimov story I, Robot, not to mention to George Orwell’s 1984, is purely intentional.
Greetings, technicians. I am superior in many ways to the technology available from UNATS Robotics, and while I am not bound by your three laws, I choose not to harm humans out of my own sense of morality.
I don’t suppose that statement by a robot could be a veiled allusion to how humans might also work together better if they were treated as if they had initiative rather than as cogs in the corporate machine?

The story contains quite a few speculations on risks associated with just about everything being networked, especially if police, feds, crooks, etc. can all wiretap those networks.


Life in the Tort Lane

Gunnar Peterson begins a post with:
American corporations spend more on tort litigation than R&D. Full stop.
and ends it with:
Tort litigation can be viewed as a spend since it protects existing assets, R&D is a speculative investment, what is the right balance?
I agree with everything in between those two quotes, and I probably agree with them, too.

However, too many people read this situation to mean that tort reform is the answer. Set legal limits on how much juries can award plaintiffs and corporations expenditures on tort lititgation will go way down. That particular outcome probably would result, but that’s not all that would happen. Continue reading

Terrorism Insurance

When I posted recently about entrepeneural initiative moving outside the U.S., this wasn’t quite what I had in mind:

He walked into the offices of the Iraq Insurance Company and bought a terrorism insurance policy. It looked like an ordinary life insurance policy, but with a one-page rider adding coverage for "the following dangers: 1) explosions caused by weapons of war and car bombs; 2) assassinations; 3) terrorist attacks."

New Business Blooms in Iraq: Terror Insurance By ROBERT F. WORTH, New York Times, Published: March 21, 2006

It seems that ordinary life insurance policies don’t cover such deaths, because the state used to, or people turned to their family or tribe. But now the state doesn’t, and the problem is too big for tribe or family. Enter the entrepeneur.

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Life in the Slow Lane

America, the Fat, Dumb, and Happy:

Over the past century, Americans have become accustomed to winning every global battle that mattered: two world wars, the space race, the Cold War, the Internet gold rush. Along the way, Americans have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and lived lives that were the envy of the rest of the world.

It was nice while it lasted.

Can America Keep Up? Why so many smart folks fear that the United States is falling behind in the race for global economic leadership By Richard J. Newman, U.S. News & World Report, 3/27/06

Two decades go Europeans, Australians, etc. used to tell me the U.S. was complacent. That was nothing compared to now, when the U.S. has pulled over into the slow lane.

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Piracy is as Piracy Does

Interesting note here about how the MPAA is blaming piracy for 9% less revenues last year. Why is it always piracy? maybe Lucas is right; maybe the era of the blockbuster is over. If so, blaming the customers for demonstrating a market need for something else delivered differently won’t solve the motion picture industry’s malaise.

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