Wow, this is an interesting turn. The Librarian of Congress
findings of the
The Librarian of Congress now has until June 20, 2002 to issue his final
recommendation. This should be thought of as a victory, because the CARP
pricing scheme would have effectively killed Internet Radio. However,
things are still up in the air, because this is only a rejection of
CARP’s report, and does not detail the new pricing scheme that the
Librarian will accept.
Yet another reason why infrastructure should be as open as possible,
eWeek goes over last week’s Microsoft’s testimony where Microsoft VP Jim Allchin tried to explain to the court that
Microsoft should be allowed to keep certain APIs secret because they are
so vulnerable that disclosing them would constitute a threat to National
Security, incluiding issues in its digital rights management systems,
and an enterprise system called Message Queueing. To quote from the
When pressed for further details, Allchin said he did not want to offer
specifics because Microsoft is trying to work on its reputation
regarding security. “The fact that I even mentioned the Message Queuing
thing bothers me,” he said.
The mind boggles. So Microsoft’s screw-up will be an acceptable defense
to keep its protocols secret? Wow. If this isn’t one of the mist
Alice-in-wonderland turns in recent memory, I can’t think of many better
ones. Perhaps it would only be stranger if the judge actually bought
the argument, I suppose.
It’s as if asprin could actually be turned into poison if it was taken
while a particular high-pitched tone was sounded, but the asprin
manufacturers used the fact that asprin is a part of the Army’s standard
medical kit, and that if they had to disclose the frequency of the
sound, it would put our military at risk. Rather than just FIXING THE
PROBLEM, of course.
openhotspots.net has just announced their
existence. Started by a pair of German CS graduate students, they say
it is not just another database of open APs. Rather, they are working
on an authentication system based on NoCatAuth (sound familiar yet?)
that will allow for free roaming across registered hotspots. A first
Java-applet based client is done and they are working on integrating it
into NoCatAuth. Rock on, guys.
Rob Flickenger’s slides from the
O’Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference are now available online.
Gives a good discussion on how NoCat Authentication works.
Cory Doctorow, blogging from the O’Reilly Emerging Technologies
notes that the NoCat folks are proposing to hand out slices of the
10.*.*.* network-space to people who operate radios that use NoCatAuth.
Interesting idea – but there are a few problems:
(1) You’ve got a limited IP Address space. (2) No one considers you the
authority, so others are going to use the space as well. (3) How do you
deal with rogues? (4) It is going to require a huge VPN – or at least
IP-in-IP tunnelling system to allow for routing between nodes in the
private space over the public internet, along with all the routing
headaches associated. These are not small problems.
It is an interesting idea, though, akin to Sputnik’s roaming
capabilities – by placing authentication databases at a number of
centralized points, Sputnik already provides this free roaming
capability, without the need for tunnelling or dedicated IP space.
We’re solving somewhat different problems – Sputnik for example, is not
built to give each wireless user his own unique IP address; rather it is
allocated from the pool that each Gateway delivers, and therefore some
of the whiz-bang routing features of the NoCat proposal aren’t
implemented. However, at the same time, the smaller problem set allows
us to avoid the big problems mentioned above.
Glenn Fleishman posts a great
commentary on the recent discussion about the “tragedy of the commons”
of the 2.4 GHz space. Given some comments on the matter by Dewayne
Hendricks, member of the FCC Technology Adisory Council and chairman of the FCC’s Spectrum Management Working Group. Definitely worth a read – Glenn points out the real issues involved, the technology limitations, and the industry standards coming out designed to promote shared use of the spectrum.
This is an interesting thought experiment – will the success of the
2.4GHz spectrum (and any other unlicensed spectrum) fail due to its own
success? Will illegal amplifiers turn the spectrum into another
Citizen’s Band? Even without illegal amps, is it doomed to failure
because the density of devices will increase too quickly?
I don’t think so. But it does remain an open question – how much is
enough? In other words, as 802.11h and other standards that help to
reduce interference become more popular, at what density of spectrum do
even those methods fail? Surely there is a transmission power and
density for which the specrtum becomes unusable. The question is, can
technological advances outpace the bandwidth needs of the public? As
more bandwidth is available over the airwaves, whether by spectrum
allocation, frequency increases, or new standards for interoperable
devices, at what point will the spectrum be rendered effectively
unusable? To what extent is legislation or regulation needed here?
Maybe the answer lies in the fact that the unlicensed spectrum (2.4GHz,
used by 802.11b and others, and 5.3GHz, used by 802.11a), while
unlincensed, IS NOT UNREGULATED. Among other things, all devices have
to follow FCC Part 15 rules, which means that they must be approved by
the FCC before the manufacturers can offer them for sale. Perhaps the
key to saving the commons is to ensure that these devices are
interoperable and, well, for the lack of a better term, polite to other
users of the spectrum.
Of course, this would be an extension to the FCC’s regulatory capacity -
essentially asking it to endorse certain protocols at a layer above the
radio. However, I think that by focusing on protocols rather than
products, it (a) does not act anti-competitively, and (b) promotes
the public good (remember, WE own the airwaves!) by enabling more
functionality and usability of the spectrum we use. And if we are
smart, we can agree to a level of interference protection that all
higher level radio protocols can use, allowing for even greater
Think of it as a new layer, sitting between layers 1 and 2 of the
network stack – the new layer would provide for interference detection,
channel switching, and possibly even automated changes in the spread
spectrum algorithms to make sure that different devices, running
different higher-level protocols, would automatically detect each other
and not interfere with each other.
I’ve been playing with the latest OpenOffice
(which has just gone to 1.0) and I must say that it is pretty darn good,
giving me no problem with common documents, both .doc and .xls files.
Yes, it is a hefty program, weighing in at about 60MB, but it works
You can download it from the main site or
there are debian binaries available by putting the following in your
deb http://apt-proxy.sf.net/openoffice unstable main contrib
and then doing “apt-get install openoffice.org”. Kudos to the