Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Different Approaches to "Mobile" TV

The BBC looks at the "future" of mobile TV via 3G, including comments from Endemol people and from Nokia.

Endemol seem very excited, and are perhaps on the right track by aiming at quiz shows and -hum- reality tv shows. There are some stats for mobile TV usage in the article, which indicates the kind of audience they should be targetting: "Orange found that ... 36% watching its service [sic] during lunch and other breaks. Some 18% watched TV while travelling to and from work, 12% while queuing or waiting for friends and 10% watched it at home." - in other words, mobile TV is mostly a time-killer. I would say this is true, and what separates it from being "TV on your mobile", as it were. Usage patterns are different, which means that formats and contents need to be different. Marlk Selby of Nokia compares selling mobile TV to selling mobile web access, and while he says the former may be easier, there's certainly a similar shift in understanding needed to get from a large screen format to a small one.

This quote, near the end, though, just makes my eyebrows go all wobbly...

"3G has capacity limitations and if two or three people in one place are receiving a TV picture, you can't make a phone call," explained Mr Sharp.

Ouch. This is effectively a Denial of Service against the main purpose of telephones then - a handful of people accessing a few video feeds sounds like it might kill voice access for anyone near them. The "one place" aspect is fairly vague though. Does a whole road count as a "place"? An office block? Given that the only way this is really going to take off is if a certain length of time (not data - consumers don't want to understand compression algorithms) is pre-paid, it sounds like you could render a busy area 3G-less with a small number of flat-fee handsets. Ah well, there's still landlines :)

It's also great to see Nokia breaking out into the world of "mobile" television. Now that they've gotten away from using the phone as a starting point, and moved more towards mobile computing devices, their new products are looking promising - indeed, I'm not sure when it's arriving but I'm looking forward to the delivery of a new Debian-based Nokia 770 to hack around with. If only 10% of people watching TV on their mobiles are at home, then devices like this could be pretty big - indeed, why bother paying for 3G data when you have a flat-fee wireless broadband access point 3 metres from you? If I had to bet on either Nokia's or Endemol's ploy, my money's already on the former.

Finally, missing commas lead to a faintly amusing quote from the article...

"One solution said Mr Bazalgette could lie in advertising."

Should the BBC be condoning such blatant flouting of advertisement honesty law? ;)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Technology Culture

My essay over the holidays is (hopefully) on the link between technology/items and politics. A pretty broad area so narrowing it down towards, perhaps, cultural and sociological effects of individual items. Which makes this Wired story on Americans' addictions to gadgets quite interesting.

Some nice quotes first off:

"Our culture is about distraction, numbing oneself," said David Greenfield

The appeal of different high-tech products differs from group to group.

"Part of the reason is the hype, the commercial selling of it," [Greenfield] said. "Some people feel the products will improve the quality of their lives. But do we really need to be connected in every way, shape or form?"

This relates to the direction I was thinking of - that (in addition to other, more technical/economic factors that I want to blog about at some point) technology as a "product" (e.g. iPods) or a "brand" (e.g. DVDs, or even RSS) acts as a social indicator - not just of status (e.g. how much it costs to adapt to/invest in a technology), but also of the nature of a person (at least in a limited, technically-biased sense). The rise of the PS2 was, I claim, a social phenomenon rather than a technical one - people bought them because others bought them and because of the image portrayed by marketing, not because of any particular applicable functional advantage.

My essay hopes to go into why this "social compatibility" aspect to technology affects society and therefore politics, but politics aside, it's similarly important for technical pioneers and entrepreneurs to understand the nature of the playground as it stands currently - i.e. that one cannot rely on a technology being taken up on a large scale purely on technical grounds.


Proof of Survival of the Fittest, surely?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bull in a China Shop

Western Banks are probably about to explode (not literally) in China. Barclays enters the fray.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Internet triumphs over Record Industry (Again)

JCB Song hits top spot.

"We have refused deals from record labels, as we feel that we want to go our own way, and represent our values, rather than the profit-driven values of the mainstream."

This should freak the music industry out even more than the rise of the download era - because it shows that the technology allows independents to find popularity. Whereas the music industry can offer people cheap downloads if they really wanted to, there's not much they can do if people no longer need the industry.

Let's see 'em ban legal downloads now :)

Spying on your own population is the norm these days

Bush defends phone-tapping policy:

"Mr Bush also said he expected a "full investigation" into who leaked information about the wiretap programme.

"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important programme in a time of war," he said.

"The fact that we're discussing this programme is helping the enemy," he added.

Politicians struggle to deal with the ambiguous, vacuous, dual-use nature of nuclear technology, but leave sorting out the ambiguous, vacuous dual-use nature of their own laws to revolutions and the politically argumentative. It's good to ask questions.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Language is all about what's left unsaid...

Phil wonders about the standardisation (or not) of language. I was going to post this as a comment, but it got big enough to warrant its own blog reply...

"Search engines are a powerful incentive to keep to some kind of standards."

An interesting technical reason (and the same could be said - moreso? - of tagging), but I come at this from a slightly different point of view - does the ability to spell indicate some level of intelligence and if so, is that a cultural bias or a more instinctual, "group seeking" one? I started to think about this before but never came back to it.

I also find that I make the mistake between "they're", "their" and "there" far more than I do with "its/it's" or even "to/too" - maybe theyre's less nit-picking over it, so you look out for it less...

Anyway, my question is - are we right to use spelling and grammar as an indicator of "intellectual validity"? And/or do other factors come into play depending on the arena in which the content is?

For instance, spelling mistakes in an academic paper are considered far more serious than spelling mistakes in a blog entry, due to the air of quality and checking associated with the former. That air of quality is similarly applied to the concepts in the academic paper, which translates into a reputation for the content, regardless of what's actually written. Therefore, their are inherent associations we make between mistakes that we see, and the quality of content that we take in, but those associations are largely a result of the mechanisms that have built up around the publishing methods employed.

That's one aspect, as I see it. The second aspect (which I think I touch on in the "article" linked to above) is that there may also be a more "individual" (i.e. not bound to the infrastructural reputation mechanisms) connection between SPG and intellect that we, as native speakers of some language, make without thinking. That is, understanding and comprehension of a language indicates a certain level of thought, which translates (correctly or not) into a similar level of being able to pick up non-linguistic concepts, etc.

This would be fair if, say, the "model" that underlies any language is similar in comprehension to models for anything else. i.e. Language has rules, just as everything else has rules. Understanding those rules may or may not be the same for both linguistics and non-linguistic subjects, but if you can "get" the rules to the former, their's more chance that you "get" those for the latter too.

Thirdly, language is more than just an agreement. It can also be considered, I think, as an esotericism - a platform that has many non-obvious intricacies that require a thorough grounding in the language to understand - things like allusions, puns, cultural knowledge, and so on. I have noticed over the past year, for instance, that talking to foreigners is profoundly different to talking to English people - that level of tacit understanding - "unspoken implications" - achievable in any language speaks volumes. Unfortunately (but necessarily) this level often gets stripped out under "translation" (global English vs "local" English, say), or when using transfer means such as e-mail. While not completely confined to spelling errors and such like, the same idea that "linguistic knowledge == ability to understand tacit inferences" may prevail.

A last point, related to the first 2 above, is that (as Phil mentions) mistakes indicate "rushed" content. Perhaps the absence of mistakes indicates an ability to check over what you've written, which further indicates a more thoughtful approach to the content - if you've gone back and checked the lexical side, maybe you're brain has had time to process things semantically/logically as well.

In that sense, then, the gatekeeper is in all of us...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Monday, December 05, 2005

ISX a go-go

Iraq's Stock Exchange has reopened as the ISX, with slightly more "practical" technology than the Americans had hoped for... 2 questions then:

1. Could this act as an alternative rallying point for "conflict" - i.e. via a market mechanism rather than a Bazaar of Violence? (Or, even, act as a new target for the latter instead.)

2. Is this a useful mechanism for gauging "public" opinion in Iraq, and anticipation of the war efforts? Is it affected by current events much?

The ISX website requires Bling that I don't have, and I can't see it under the BBC nor Yahoo finance. Maybe it's too early.

Update: If you don't got Flash, here's the ISX main page.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Podcasting Guidelines?

Just noticed there's a new "Brighton Podcast" out (if a somewhat generic name). I'm downloading it now, but I'm curious - is there an optimal/maximum size/length for a podcast? This one's 2 hours long, and is a whopping 82.5MB download. (I remember when 100k was all I could download from my local BBS over a 2400bps modem and I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world, etc)

TBH, I start to lose interest in most podcasts after a few minutes, especially cos I can do something else at the same time, which generally takes over my brain. We'll see how this one fares...