The Lies of Net Neutrality

(Update: taxes, too; click through for just the update.) I was just taking a few minutes to check my newsfeed a few mornings ago, enjoying the final days of autumn before the polar blast that came to Colorado this week when I started reading them: the polarized, ignorant perspectives on the misnomer of "Net Neutrality."

On the one side, there are apparent ignorant politicians making comments both pro and con. They oversimplify the issue, and make it seem obvious to their own constituents that their view is right. The fact is, however, that neither "side" is right about this issue. As is typical when politicians attempt to stick their controlling efforts into science and technology, they damage the good with the bad and crush the possible benefits to the United States.

So, if you really want to understand the issues and the way that this should play out, read on. If you'd rather just pick a side and go into pitched battle, feel free. Just leave me out of it.

How the Internet Works

If you're an IP engineer, you can skip this part. If not, take a moment to understand some of the basics about how the Internet actually moves all that data around. It'll help you understand the rest of what's important about how the network gets managed and what is allowed and what's not.

Although it may seem like your downloading web page, video, or music is one continuous stream of ones and zeros, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, every last bit of data flowing across the Internet is broken into chunks called packets. These packets are typically a bit less than 1500 byte long, and it takes many of them to constitute a single uni-directional communication. These packets do not necessarily take the same path from the source to the destination, each individual packet being individually routed by the hardware and software that makes up the Internet. As a result, they may not arrive in the right order, some may be lost, and others may be corrupted. The receiving system works with the sender to reconstitute the original data, and you often see this as buffering, as that reconstituted data is collected for playback sufficient enough so you don't see any interruptions.

It is critically important to understand this aspect of the Internet before considering how you want to govern it and what rules you insist on creating. Let me explain why next:

How Different Data Needs Different Internets

There are a number of types of data used commonly on the Internet, and hundreds more that most people never experience. Focusing on just the common ones, consider these:

  1. Interactive voice and video. These data require near real-time delivery and controlled streaming. Large gaps between packets received will cause freezing and other issues with the interaction, effectively making the communication unusable. We have all had voice and video over the Internet freeze or fail, and this is why.
  2. Streaming voice and video. These data require the controlled streaming of interactive voice and video, but can be buffered or otherwise can make up for some of the vagaries of an unreliable network. As long as the stream of packets continues to arrive at a predictable rate, the results are good, since it's not interactive. However, if the packets are throttled, have errors, or get dropped, the experience is poor. Most of us have had the experience of Netflix or iTunes dropping back in quality due to poor network performance.
  3. Bulk data. These data do not have time or delivery constraints, and include most web data, email, downloads, and the like. This data can have packets with issues, but the ultimate goal is simply to get all of them to the destination within a reasonable timeframe so that the file will be available for use, regardless of whether it's rendered on a browser screen, played on an mp3 player, synced to a Dropbox folder, or read on the screen.

You should now see that these three types of data place different requirements on the network, and should be treated differently when bandwidth is at a premium. And therein lies the issues with so-called Network Neutrality. Data isn't neutral, so a neutral network will actually create a worse experience for the users of the network than will a network that is well-engineered to prefer the right kinds of data.

This means that networks should be engineered to prefer data packets in the order I listed above, and to use interleaving of lower-class packets with higher-class packets when bandwidth allows. So, for example, if I am on an HD video call and it's using 90% of my available bandwidth, my network should only use that remaining 10% to deliver any of the type 2 and type 3 traffic. If it uses any more, my interactive video experience will suffer. In other words, the network should prefer (there's that word that is so vilified in these discussions) the interactive video packets over the bulk and non-interactive video packets.

Impact on Net Neutrality Planning

Please note that nothing here indicates a desire to see "pay to play" kinds of arrangements in the industry. However, it is common for providers to charge for access to their bandwidth. When I want greater bandwidth, I have to pay more. If I want a guaranteed bandwidth availability, I'll pay more than a best effort bandwidth of the same amount. What I mean is that a 50Mbps download for consumers is usually best effort, and happens when the overall network is relatively uncongested. If I want 50Mbps regardless of the state of the rest of the network, I need to buy dedicated bandwidth, which costs considerably more (and is typically only sold to businesses).

If I sell data delivery to my customers, and that delivery requires a certain bandwidth, I typically buy that bandwidth from two or more Internet Service Providers (ISPs). And I have to pay for the bandwidth as either best effort or dedicated. This is the way packet delivery has worked over the Internet and between content providers and their ISPs since the Internet went commercial in the early 1990s. This arrangement is appropriate, it seems to me.

Furthermore, ISPs should not be restricted from shaping data in order to deliver better service to customers, as I outlined in the story of the 3 data types. They should be able to prefer interactive packets over streaming packets, and both of those over bulk packets.

This is not to say that content providers should be held hostage based on the type of data they are delivering. That should be up to the consumer, and the content providers should simply purchase dedicated bandwidth and be able to use all they purchase, filling it with any of the types of traffic their provider will deliver. Consumers should receive the service to which they subscribe from any provider of that service, delivered with the quality possible given appropriate preferences. But, providers need to be able to shape traffic or they will be forced to over-provision, passing the bill along to consumers.

The United States Compared with The Rest of the World

All of this said, do not buy into the myth that the US has the best Internet access in the world. In fact, it's abysmal. Wikipedia has an article summarizing a damning Akamai survey of Internet capabilities worldwide. South Korea (the leader) has services more than 100x faster than the average speed in the US, for $20/month. So, providers in the US need to do a much better job of delivering bandwidth for the fees that consumers pay.

What does this mean for so-called Net Neutrality? You decide. Now you understand some of the engineering complexities underneath the typical political bluster. At least you can decide if any of the politicians and pundits have a clue what they're talking about.

Update: Taxes, Too

Today, FCC Commissioner Mike O'Reilly said that, “Consumers of these services would face an immediate increase in their Internet bills” during a seminar held by the non-partisan Free State Foundation according to this article. This is an example of the repercussions of choices that involve a government maze of regulations, fees, taxes, and legalities that are unforeseen. Such is the case with the siplmistic idea of "net neutrality" that doesn't take into account the implications of government regulation as a telecommunications technology.

All Clouds are Not Created Equal

After I read about another Google customer losing all of his Google data when Google decided to delete (or at least suspend) his account, I got to thinking about all of the times that Google has made a mistake and deleted user accounts or deleted email for Gmail users, I thought about how the different approaches of the key players in the emerging world require you to make some choices, some of which may be untenable. So, I thought I'd lay them out in clearer form than you will get from the hard-core technical blogs or the companies themselves. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this year (WWDC 2011), Steve Jobs and the Apple executive team introduced iOS 5 and iCloud. During his iCloud introduction, Jobs said this: "We are going to demote the PC to just be a device. We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud." This is Apple's philosophy: the iCloud is the sync-master for  your digital life. It provides the axle to your devices that are the spokes. However (and this is a vital distinction!), your digital content lives on your devices when you are using it. The iCloud, then, is the master copy, but Apple expects you to have copies on one or more of your devices.

This is in sharp contrast to Google. In Google's world, the cloud is the only place where your data resides. You'll use your browsers (on your PC, your tablet, or your phone) to access, manipulate, create, and use your content. You may even cache some of it locally for performance reasons (for example, caching the first part of a video so you can watch it without "stutters"). However, the content is in the cloud and your devices are simply windows into it from Google's perspective.

...and then there's Microsoft. They want to get in on "this cloud thing," too, but they really aren't sure how to do it. Their business is Windows and Office, so how can they use the cloud and keep those lines humming? What they are doing now is having the cloud be a glorified backup service with some of the capabilities of their apps. The best experience, however, is to use their native apps on a PC and hook them into the cloud for backup and collaboration. This means that Microsoft Office 365 is a different perspective than iCloud (which is personal) and Google (which is all about the data being in the cloud only). It's effectively a hybrid of the two.

Regardless, you will want to make a choice based on these distinctions, because to the cloud you will go, one way or the other.

Define Your Terms

In a scene from "The Princess Bride" that keeps running through my head these days, Inigo Montoya turns to Vizzini and says, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

It seems to me that much of communication suffers from the same issue: in a rush to reduce conflict, words have been watered down and their meanings changed to the point that one person says or writes a word intending one meaning while the hearer or reader interprets another. Then, communication doesn't happen.

So, it's time we review one of the first rules of good communications:

Before you say something important, define your terms.

It's easy to assume that your listener understands your words as you intend them, but we've discovered that more often than not, they don't. Often, it is very difficult to precisely define some terms, and it is those that it is best to address in your communications.

For example, I've lately been struck by the use of the word "love" in contexts as varied as Sunday sermons and teenage gigglefests. While I'm working on a series of articles about it that I'll post here in the future, right now I'll make the observation that many people would not agree on what it means. Is it a good feeling? A commitment? Physical intimacy? Or something else? How is it different from "like" or "devotion"?

Furthermore, it's not that any of these uses is wrong. It is simply that you, by using a word without clarifying what you mean by it, may deliver a very different message than you intend.

What words do you think are particularly troublesome in this way? How do you define your terms?

Creating a System

It's easy to wing it. It doesn't even matter what subject we're discussing; winging it makes it all seem easier. It really doesn't, though.

In the back of your mind you deal with the niggling sense that you might be forgetting something. Did you pack your socks? Turn off the oven?

And that's true of everything you do, from something as simple as packing for a trip to something as complex as building a new business.

For the more basic tasks of our lives, we typically have or make a list. When we go to the grocery store, we take a list of the items we need to buy. When we plan a trip, we have a checklist of what we need to pack... don't forget the swim suit!

But in business, leaders often put off building the list. In many cases, there is a lot of activity and the appearance of forward movement even though there are much more effective ways to do what you are doing. At least you're moving. It seems to be progress.

But, it's not. It's confusing activity with productivity, and it's lethal.

Build your plan first. Make a list. Then (and only then) go to it.

CES 2011 - Verizon's Big Splash with 4G LTE

It is 10:00am PST on Thursday, January 6, 2011, and the CES show is now open. As I mentioned in previous posts, the CES show has a gigantic focus on mobile, broadband, and portable devices. Since I have spent the past 3 months working with team members from Verizon and Ericsson developing a 4G LTE demonstration, I am looking forward to letting you in on all that Verizon is doing.

The Verizon booth shows the breadth and depth of the 4G LTE ecosystem, showing LTE-connected devices ranging from enterprise telepresence to gaming, home automation to live broadcast television, a connected OnStar car to a broad range of smartphones and tablets. The point is that high-speed wireless access is available today from Verizon nationwide, the footprint is growing, and the capabilities are imaginative and useful for virtually everyone.

In the smart home area, Verizon is showing devices that control home temperature, shades that are remotely controlled, and of course entertainment over both FiOS and LTE. Alcatel Lucent is showing augmented reality systems running over the LTE network. Panasonic is showing HD enterprise teleconferencing over LTE, and Nomad Innovations is showing their system for broadcast media electronic news gathering.

I will get a closer look at devices both in the Verizon booth and in other booths in the area and I will let you know if I uncover anything surprising or especially innovative. But, right now, if you're in the market for wireless broadband, Verizon has to be on your list.

CES 2011 - Apple Follow the Leader?

As I have walked through the CES halls as all the exhibitors prepare for the onslaught of attendees starting tomorrow, the pre-show expectations have largely proven true. As expected, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are all the rage, and Verizon is making a big splash with the 4G LTE network roll-out. Since I am spending my time working with Verizon and Ericsson in the Verizon booth, I'll hold off on specifics until tomorrow. Suffice it to say for now that there will be a lot of high-speed mobile devices to discover and explore. I've been getting Facebook and Twitter messages with questions about what technologies people are interested in understanding, so I'll be looking especially hard for those. If you have areas of interest, be sure to let me know either with a comment here on the blog or a message on Twitter or Facebook.

My observation thus far is this, however: CES is going to be a game of "Follow the Leader," and the leader isn't even here.

That leader is Apple.

With a $300B market cap and the most innovative products in the markets it serves, Apple's leadership cannot be disputed. Here are CES, smartphones are compared to iPhones, tablets to iPads, and mobile business to Apple's iOS ecosystem.

My question is this: Where's the innovation? I'll be looking for it. Any idea where I might find it?

CES 2011 - What do you want to know?

I am sitting inside the Las Vegas Convention Center helping to set up for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Since I am both working with a client who is exhibiting and am also a member of the press, I will be able to learn from both inside and outside. Just from walking the floor yesterday and today, it's clear that the anticipated focus on 3D TV, tablets/slates, mobile phones, and high-speed wireless will be the central themes. Sitting in Verizon's booth, you see a broad range of products that will take advantage of their 4G LTE network, including tablets and phones, but extending into other imaginative areas that I'll reveal after the show opens on Thursday.

RIM's booth is very large, and is all about their PlayBook. Android looms large, as well, and I'm sure there will be a broad range of announcements.

One of the more interesting booths I've seen is for the technology center in Beijing, China. Clearly intended to recruit companies to the "entrepreneurial center" of Beijing, reading the booth signs were reminiscent of reading an authentic Chinese restaurant menu.

I'll be bringing you more thoughts from CES, but if there are any products or categories that particularly interest you, let me know in the comments, by Twitter, Facebook, or any other means you have of reaching me.

How You Can Change the World

It's been beautiful here in Boulder for the past week. Cool in the evenings, sunny during the day, with the occasional thunderstorm to brighten up the afternoon. During this week, I've had a great exchange with Stephanie George, my brilliant friend who helps businesses to see their current business situation through objective eyes, offering business development and strategic consulting. One of her emails to me yesterday was so perceptive that I'll share it with you in its entirety in this post. Her insights are right on. The rest of this post (with minor edits for the change of medium) is from her:

I think that we also need leadership. The two quotes were right on and - they came from leaders. Leaders do not have to be the President alone, Leaders emerge at all levels. I think it would be refreshing for a bold, non-partisan heavy hitter to enroll some outstanding legislative leaders, the President, and the media to stop cramming fear and uncertainty down the public's throat.

Bad news sells better than good news, so the media may be challenging to enroll on a wholesale basis. Also, I don't think a pollyanna outlook would sell well.

It's not just a policy or a budget patch that we need to crank the engine and that's all that I've heard proposed from our legislative and executive branches so far (red or blue). There is no Unity. Remember "Together we stand, divided we fall"? That's what's missing. There is too much interest and money to be made in dividing up the sentiment and no one working to unify it.

A mortgage broker actually told me once that he didn't care if the market went up or down, as long as there was some sort of change, he would make money. His interest was not in seeing an overall rising of the tide or in others successes, but in keeping things off balance, because it kept creating opportunities for him to make money.

I think that Bush actually tried to connect everyone on the war - it worked immediately following 9/11 and in WWII, but when there is dishonesty as the foundation (WMDs anyone? then one after another different reason for making war was brought forth, none of them more substantial than 4th grade retribution), the rest of the construct falls apart. And when our leadership cannot be trusted, people lose confidence. As long as our bodies of leadership snipe at one another endlessly, it firstly, seems utterly arrogant and self-righteous, and secondly, does not engender faith in their ability as a corporate body to get on the same page.

I know that I have simplified foreign, economic and political policy in there. It's not a simple problem. However, on confidence:

I don't stand on there being THE ONE omniscient leader; all of our elected officials have the freedom be the leader that we need. However, they would need to give up personal hubris.

So, that's top-down confidence.

How about bottom-up confidence? Enroll and empower everyone to develop their own confidence. Probably creates a bigger tide than waiting for the top-down to get it done.

Educating everyone we meet that who they are is bigger than their circumstances; they are not defined as a possibility in the world by their checkbook balance or net worth or job or their diploma. Joy, confidence and happiness are not a function of any material detritus they manage to assemble in their lifetimes. Acknowledging one's own true personal power is at the source of confidence. It is not someone or some thing outside of us, it is in each of us. (Cue Marianne Williamson quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”)

Maybe we should bring back that old Skin Bracer commercial with Jack Palance telling us all that Confidence is sexy. That's it! We need a new marketing campaign for Confidence! Confidence is Sexy. (Editor: As I mentioned to Stephanie in a follow-up email, Palance had it right in City Slickers, too.)

I went through the Harn Museum of Art a week ago and they have on display a series of public propaganda posters from around 1924 - 1936. How about some National Confidence propaganda - lots of it - that is not one diva or guru's pocket lining? That's not tied to some partisan agenda? That doesn't come out of Obama's mouth or John Boehner's mouth?

More on the Remedy for the "Hireless" Recovery

There are a number of very specific reasons that this worldwide economic situation persists, primarily, as I wrote earlier, due to the very poor decisions and lack of clarity from politicians. While we do live in a worldwide economy, the United States remains that primary engine of that economy. For that reason, what happens in the US leads the rest of the world in a particular direction. Right now, that direction is aimless wandering. For more evidence of the repercussions of the unpredictable environment that the US government has created with its fast-changing taxes, fees, and laws, realize that the 500 largest non-financial corporations are holding more than 10% of their assets in cash according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. That's about a trillion US dollars sitting on the sidelines. It's not hiring new staff, developing new products, or buying new capital. It's sitting there doing nothing.

Why? Because the management of those companies doesn't know what they are going to have to do next as the US government changes the rules yet again. So, they hold on to the funds just in case they might need them to handle yet another "great idea" from government bureaucrats who have never had to make payroll or delivery a product or produce a service that customers value. They are utter unequipped to understand -- much less implement -- effective solutions to economic issues involving the complex interrelationship of business.

The first thing to do is to promise and then deliver predictability to the market, and not just for interest rates. Interest is not the only expense that businesses have to plan to address, so predictability must extend to the other areas such as regulation, taxes, fees, and other mandates. When that happens, those funds will find their way into investment, turning into jobs, investment, and an economy on the rebound.

Until then...? A continuing malaise.

The Value of Decisiveness

Earlier this past week I was in my home office working on a new iPhone app for a client when my phone rang. On the other end of the line was a northeastern accent that I recognized right away. Last winter, this friend and I had spent the better part of a day skiing around Copper Mountain. He and his family were visiting from New Hampshire, and I had the joy of showing he and his two boys some of my favorite secret stashes on a day that still had some powder to be found. As I answered the phone, he asked me how I was doing, and I mentioned to him the wonderful Colorado weather. "Yes," he said with a wistful longing in his voice, "the boys still talk about that day with you at Copper. That was a great day!"

Yes, it was. But, that's not why he called. You see, he's a Vice President of Marketing at a major corporation and he was calling to find out if I'd have time to take on a small project for him. We chatted for a few minutes so I could get a basic understanding of what he needed. "Yes," I said, "that's something that is a good fit for me, and I'd really like to work on it with you."

...and like that, it was a done deal.

We had our kick-off call the next day, and I'll be working with him over the next few weeks to build content for marketing one of their product lines as they launch a new set of communications.


It can really make a difference for you and your business. It's going to help him with their process, we'll get a lot done, and their customers will get some great insights into their products.

Your decisions are best in this order:

  1. The "right" decision
  2. The "wrong" decision
  3. No decision

Today more than ever the adage applies: You can't steer a ship that isn't moving. Make a choice. Get moving. And adjust as you go along.

How My iPad Makes Reading Better

As I sat finishing breakfast at our kitchen table yesterday morning with the Colorado sun filling the back yard and the kids enjoying their last few days of "freedom" before they head back to school next week, I caught up on my news reading using my iPad. I use Feeddler, an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) reader for iOS together with the Wall Street Journal and Guardian Eyewitness apps to stay current with news and insights from my favorite content sites. I thought about how this was so different than it has been for me until just recently. I no longer need to go to my desktop computer or pull out my notebook computer to check my favorite web sites; I just pull out my iPad. Not only that, but because Feeddler uses Google Reader to sync what I've read, I can use Feeddler on my iPhone and my iPad or Google Reader or one of the Google Reader compatible applications to stay up-to-date throughout the day.

Of course, I also use the iPad to stay current with email, some web browsing, and my eBooks, too (mostly using the Kindle app). I even use it for a bit of Bible reading and study using Logos.

As a result, what I have noticed is that my iPad, this small, lightweight device, has become the center of my reading world. It's like I'm carrying my entire stack of books, magazines, newspapers and websites with me all the time. I am beginning to see very clearly just how much the iPad has simplified my life. And this from a guy who definitely wasn't sold on the idea of an iPad for my own personal productivity.

Pretty interesting...

A Further Analysis of Network Neutrality

Earlier this week, you may have read my post on Why "Net Neutrality" is Wrong. In it, I illustrated the reasons for network management control of the network, and also mentioned how most of the politicians involved just don't get it (and believe me, I got email about the video linked to my "idiot politicians" statement!). Today, Larry Downes of The Technology Liberation Front breaks down the Google/Verizon model legislation and outlines the irony of who is complaining about it in his excellent article Deconstructing the Google-Verizon Framework. When you read it, you'll begin to see the disingenuous nature of so many knee-jerk reactions to political gamesmanship. It's a good read.

The bottom line remains: if we are to have all of the applications that we want to have on the Internet, we need to protect it from being controlled by political whims and wanna-be political engineers. The challenges are far greater than can be solved by political debate, and most of what we're seeing these days makes it clear that actually solving problems is beyond the ken of most in political life. Note that I don't call them "leaders." That's on purpose. I have too much respect for true leadership.

Being Careful Isn't Enough

"Want a free iPad?" That's an email that my Facebook friends received from me this morning. The problem is, I never sent it. In fact, I never saw it until it had been sent on my behalf. Being careful isn't enough. I wrote here on this very blog last year about the various trojans and other attacks made on and through Facebook.

Today, I was used.

This morning as I was starting work, my daughter sent a text message asking me about a free iPad. I didn't know what she was talking about. Then, after a bit of investigation, I learned that some rogue application that I had approved for access to my Facebook account, had sent an event invitation to everyone on my Friends list.

This is a big deal.

It's a big deal because I cannot even easily send a message to everyone on my friends list. Therefore, my apology email took a while to create, since I had to manually create a list with all of my friends on it.

It's also a big deal because there was no way for me to find out from the invitations which application sent it. Was one of the seemly appropriate applications like Twitter or Foursquare the issue? Or how about that Fast Company Influence Project app that I set up yesterday? I can't tell. The invitation does tell anyone how it was created, and I have no way of working backwards from the invitation to the app and removing its permissions.

This is a Facebook security problem, and Facebook needs to address it. As a result of this issue, I have removed a number of apps from my Facebook page and will remove all of them if it happens again.

In the meantime, I'm committed to doing what I can to track down this rogue app. If you have any insight into how this was done or what app might have done it, I'd love to get your insights. I'll update this post as I discover more.

The Real iPhone Impact

Recently, Apple parted ways with Executive Vice President Papermaster. Antennagate was a convenient time to part ways with Papermaster. He didn't really fit in to the Apple culture. You'll see the Verizon iPhone in January, I think, with CDMA/LTE. What isn't clear is whether it will be able to be an international phone, which may also be an issue. With Qualcomm effectively custom-designing this chipset for Apple, though, it could actually potentially be CDMA/GSM/LTE, which would be VERY interesting from a marketplace impact perspective.

I view this all as great for competition. All devices are vastly improved from the state of the marketplace in 2007 (when most people had to compromise and carry a Treo, a Blackberry, or one of the abjectly awful Windows phones). I expect Apple to continue to push the envelope of capabilities for mobile devices, keeping everyone on their toes and finding ways to make devices better and better.

Why "Net Neutrality" is Wrong

In the late 1990s, I worked with an amazing group of brilliant network engineers building the InteropNet for the Interop trade shows around the world. We were always pushing the envelope, introducing next-generation technology before it was really ready. During a number of those years, we delivered real-time video traffic over the network, often using multicast methods that are still not widely used. We were always a little ahead of our time. Before I explain the details, allow me to mention one concept that is critical to understanding everything about the Internet: all transmissions across the Internet are made by packets. This means that every file or stream across the Internet is chopped into little 1400-byte chunks, each of which traverses the network independently of all the others. There is literally no relationship between the packets on the network. They are only reunited at the receiving end after they are off the network and in the device that will interpret them and deliver the result (like a video playback, email, file transfer, or any other end-to-end application).

But over the network, those packets are 100% independent of each other.

Because they are independent, they are subject to all kinds of issues. Sometimes, packets are dropped because a device is overloaded. Since packets can take different paths, they can arrive out of order or with varying time between them (called "jitter"). For many types of data transfer (like email, files, and even instant messaging), most of these things don't matter at all.

However, some traffic is very sensitive. Especially audio and video that is time-sensitive (used for applications like video calls, audio calls, live broadcast).

Back to Interop and the InteropNet... Delivery of video, even over the high-speed networks we were using, meant having to recognize the different requirements of traffic types and using the network resources in ways that accommodated those requirements. During those years, the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force, the volunteer organization responsible for the standards that allow the Internet to function) defined the Differential Services (diffserv) standards to provide network performance appropriate to the type of service required.

This is an essential concept! Networks must be able to differentiate all of those independent packets flying around the network.

The New York Times has been reporting on both the FCC comments about so-called "Net Neutrality" conversations and the rumored Google/Verizon agreement on network usage. The typical idiotic political conversation has ensued, of course.

The entire idea of "an open Internet" is foolish at best and dishonest political posturing at worse. In this situation, it's actually both. Besides, "Net Neutrality" is not possible! Not only that, it's not even desirable.

Bandwidth costs money. Equipment costs money. More bandwidth costs more. Differentiated services also cost more. We all want them to be offered by the providers so that we can have live video, reliable voice-over-IP, and additional services that we haven't even imagined, yet.

The conversation, then isn't about "neutrality," but rather about universal access to differentiated services... at an appropriate cost that will be determined by the market if we just allow it to do so. After all, nobody wins by denying access, and in a free market, those who do will lose business.

There is one group who benefits: the idiot politicians who want control.

The entire focus is wrong. Typical of the politicians playing at being engineers. It just doesn't work.

Update: The Wall Street Journal ran a bit more detail on the Google/Verizon agreement today. The comments from the so-called "Free Internet" speakers are very telling: they don't understand how the Internet actually works.

Steve Jobs is Right (Again)

Yesterday, Steve Jobs directly addressed the YouTube videos, press reports, and bloggers who have been reporting on signal strength loss with the new iPhone 4 (I'll address the iPhone 4 in a focused post early next week). He was 100% right in what he said, and I'm appalled by the response from both the mainstream media and the tech bloggers--both of whom I expect to know better and behave with better integrity. So, what is he right about?

He's right that:

  1. The press and many others can't stand it when a person or company performs well and consistently. They tear others down in an effort to look good. What do you call people who behave that way towards others?
  2. Every wireless device is effected by being close to a bag of salt water like a human body.
  3. Apple made it's biggest mistake by having the spot that's most effected by the touch of a hand be marked by the black line between the two antennas.

You know from reading this blog that I think success is to be celebrated, not destroyed, so you can imagine how I feel about the ridiculous attacks on Apple and Jobs by the press and bloggers. But, that's how they sell ads, I guess. What it means for you is the same as it does for most so-called news outlets: take it with a gigantic grain of salt!

What you may not know about me is that my engineering background is in analog electrical engineering. When everyone else in my class in the MSU Engineering College was focused on digital systems, I was working on antennas, transmission lines, and cellular radio technologies. Recently I have returned to work in that area of engineering (primarily with 4G networks), and I can claim far more expertise than the riffraff who have been writing about "Antennagate." As a result, starting with the announcement of the iPhone 4 (in fact, from the photos and dubious article published by Gizmodo of the iPhone 4 before the announcement) I expected that the less-knowledgable would grab onto the external antenna as a bad idea.

But, it was a good idea. And Jobs is right: every wireless device is impacted by proximity to a human. Unfortunately, the FCC creates tests that don't do a reliable job of representing real-world use scenarios. And to add to that, the manufacturers have to comply with the FCC requirement often to the detriment of performance.

Lastly, completely unintentionally, Apple happened to mark the weak spot with the black band at the bottom of the iPhone 4. With the design of the antenna and that obvious black line, curious amateur engineers would bridge the two antennas with their hands to see what happened. What they found was that the device's signal was negatively impacted.

Of course, it's not for the reason that they think. It's not the bridging of the two antennas. If it was, turning off the signals to the second antenna (which is Bluetooth, GPS reception, and WiFi) would eliminate the issue. But, that's not what happens, because that's not the real issue.

I'll post my specific thoughts about the iPhone 4 for business use early in the week next week. In the meantime it is vitally important to understand that most of the people writing about this situation have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, are more concerned with controversy and page views than truth, and do not look at devices as tools but rather as collections of features.

None of which is helpful to you as a person looking for a tool for your business. More about the iPhone and business next week. In the meantime, post your thoughts in the comments...

Here are a few posts from other places on the iPhone 4, so-called "Antennagate," and more rational commentary:

Inside Apple’s Actual Distortion Field: Giant Chambers, Fake Heads, And Black Cloaks

Radio engineer: Consumer Reports iPhone 4 testing flawed (u)

FaceTime and Why Apple’s Massive Integration Advantage is Just Beginning

Total Recall Or Total Bull? Some Perspective On The iPhone 4 Antenna Frenzy

The Anandtech iPhone 4 Antenna Review

iPhone, Android, or Blackberry?

I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago, shortly after buying my iPhone 4. I decided to wait based on some of the initial reports of issues with the iPhone 4. Following the Apple Press Conference today, I've realized that I let the press's typical bad-news advertising-driven reporting skew my thinking. The following remains the truth, and if you are a business person trying to read through the hype, here's what you need to know:

Which Phone for You?

With everyone interested in the battle of the smartphones, Nielsen released their smartphone analysis. The analysis shows steady growth of smartphones when compared to the overall mobile phone market, with 23% of users carrying smartphones in 1Q10, a 2% increase from 4Q09.

Perhaps more interesting, both RIM's Blackberry market share and Microsoft's various Windows Mobile systems lost 2% market share, and Apple's iPhone and the variety of Google's Android phones picked up 2% each (to 28% and 9%, respectively).

As interesting as numbers geeks might find this, what is the real implication for those trying to make a decision about a smartphone?

Here's the easy version:

  1. An iPhone is the choice if you are looking for a full-featured handset.
  2. If you do not like Apple, or since the iPhone is saddled with AT&T in the US and you will not (or can not) use their network, choose an Android phone.
  3. If you only want to use your smartphone for phone calls and email, a Blackberry may be your best choice. I'd still choose an iPhone for you, though.

...and that's really your answer in a nutshell.

It's hard for most people to remember what phones were like in the first half of 2007 when most of the analysts were talking about how Apple was finally going to make a poor choice and fail as they entered the overcrowded smartphone market. Instead, the iPhone completely changed the face of mobile phones--and the mobile Internet--forever.

As Apple introduces the iPhone 4, they are once again creating a challenge for their competitors. The quality and precision of the device itself sets a new standard for how your phone should feel in your hand. Doing so will make every other phone feel cheap in comparison.

This is simply brilliantly competitive.

In continuing to push for their "intersection of technology and liberal arts" as CEO Steve Jobs has mentioned in two separate keynotes, they are developing technology that is far more natural than its competitors. The fact that Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer said during this year's D8 conference that the iPad is "just another PC" shows just how limited the vision of most technology companies is.

So, unless you hate AT&T--or Apple--the iPhone is your best smartphone choice today.

The iPad Emerges

It has been only a few days since the emergence of the iPad, but already a large constituency of computer users are trying out the device and having very positive experiences. I am now among them, having picked up an iPad for use in testing the iPhone/iPhone apps that I have designed for a couple of clients. In fact, I'm typing this post on it. I found it interesting that about 20% of the first class cabin on my flight yesterday had one. They were the talk of the cabin, too.

However, it's early. Even though 450,000 were sold over the weekend -- and I observed many people at the Apple Store looking at the iPads while I was there, and the 32GB models were sold out -- it is clear that the adoption rate is going to be influenced by the early adopter response and the way that they communicate about it to their friends and confidantes.

Apple's iPad

What about you? Have you bought one? Tried one? Post your thoughts in the comments...

Religion on an Airplane?

I'm sitting here at 38,000 feet somewhere over the central US, thinking about religions. But not the religions you may think I mean. Instead, technology religions. I have been involved in various forms of technology for many years, going back to the first time I programmed a machine with patch cords when I was in 4th grade. I have heard much of the preaching over the years, too, first from geeks, but more recently from the man on the street.

For example, as I settled into my seat here on my flight home, the young women next to me turned after hanging up her cell phone and ask, "I see you're using an Apple iPhone... do you use an Apple computer, too?" After I told her that I did now after many years of using a Windows PC, she told me that she was thinking about getting one.

"I am really thinking about it," she said, "But, I'm in the legal field..." and her voice trailed off. That's when I told her that a Mac can run Windows, and is able to run anything you might want. What you are unable to run on a Mac should no longer stop you from getting one.

Although there may be other reasons.

What I've noticed, though, is that people react to my use of an iPhone and a Mac. They often have a very emotional response, and make all kinds of assumptions about me: "Oh, you're an Apple guy," they'll say. Or, like the new Microsoft commercials, they'll say, "I'm not cool enough to have a Mac."

Thinking like this has no place in business. While entertaining at a cocktail party or questionably effective in an advertisement, there's no reason to waste any time with it as you try to work out what's best for you. For that, you want to look at what you want to do with your technology and find the most effective option.

This takes the religion out of the conversation and makes the choices much clearer.

After talking a bit about what it was like to use their current computers for their work, we talked about her options. I listened to her needs, and let her know my reasons for using a Mac for everything after years of being a Windows expert. I also told her why I often recommending them to my clients. Since I can (and do) run Windows on my Macs for things that will only run there, it's not a limitation. And since the Mac has been far more reliable and secure than Windows was for me, I haven't had any downtime due to a hung system, a virus, or any other malware.

Of course, I don't make the same recommendations for everyone.

She has asked me to work with her firm to get her the right computers, and software. I'll also help her make the changes she'll want to make. I'll work with her just as I've worked with dozens of other companies and business leaders to put the right technology to work for them.

It's kind of like that with social media. Is it something that can help you and your business?

Almost certainly!

But which and how? Those are the questions. And the answers depend on you, your business, your strategy for leads, customers, and engagement with them.

Because social media are so new, I've been asked to help business leaders understand it. It's NOT hard to understand, but you DO want to understand it before you make any of the mistakes made with social media every day.

Go to this special page for more information on how you can quickly get going with social media in a way that will help you and your buisness.

To YOUR success, Stephen Hultquist Your Geek Whisperer™

PS There's even more to social media and its benefits than you realize. I'll show you at this new page.

PPS For information about that amazing photo of the airplane in the Hudson, look here: There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick... on Twitpic