Monday, December 31, 2001

Film is Dead

Minolta stops making APS cameras. John Robb said that 2001 was the year of death of film cameras. He's probably right.

In order to not look too old fashioned, I bought my first digital camera today, a Canon IXUS V.
Unconventional thoughts on fundamentalism and tolerance

The German weekly newspaper "DIE ZEIT" had an excellent article recently titled "What is fundamentalism".

The basic messages of the article:

"What is worrying about the current debate on fundamentalism is an often almost irrational fear of any type of absolute truth and faith certainnesses. Often, people consider as a danger for the free society not only those who want to force their convictions on others, but even those who have convictions at all.

This is based on a misunderstanding of the term "tolerance". Tolerance is not a world view, which considers last questions unanswerable or senseless. It is rather a handling rule under/inbetween world views (Weltanschauungen), which give most different, each other excluding and perfectly seriously meant responses to the last questions.

Paradoxically, and for anti-fundamentalists particularly disturbing, the respect for those having different convictions does include the right to try to alienate them from their current convictions, i.e. to convert them. The general renouncement of this principle would degrade the other person and his convictions to a folkloristic or psychological phenomenon.

The history of martyrs advises us to be careful with the judgement that absolute truth convictions are necessarily hostile to liberty. They belong also to the strongest bastions against bondage. From the arenas of the Roman Imperators up to the concentration camps of the 20th Century it was often the believers which refused the claim for almightiness and absoluteness of the prevailing executive authorities."
"When software development works, it's because people worked together, not because someone blew everyone's mind with their greatness and got everyone to stop competing for mindshare. No single solution works for everyone. We need lots of minds working to create the systems that users want." (Dave Winer)

Sunday, December 30, 2001

Why a "tirelessly enthusiastic supporter of Microsoft and their products since 1980" retires his NT box and moves to Linux

brentashley : Taking control
Interesting Bob Geldorf Interview

english version: Bob Geldof: "It's the ugliness that marks you" - Kultur - SPIEGEL ONLINE

german version: Interview mit Bob Geldof: "Das Hässliche hinterlässt Spuren" - Kultur - SPIEGEL ONLINE
For the first time more writable CD's sold in Germany than original CDs

A SPIEGEL article says that this year for the first time more writable CD media have been sold in Germany than original music CDs: Raubkopien: Selbstgebranntes überrundet die CD - Wirtschaft - SPIEGEL ONLINE

190 Million writable CDs have been sold in 2001. The same number of original CDs have been sold in Germany in 2000. For 2001 they expect 15% less sales of original CDs. In 2000 only 85 million writable CDs were sold, i.e. for every two original CDs one writable CD was sold ( So within one year the sales of writable CD has doubled, while sales of original CDs decreased by 15%.

An interesting article of the German Association of the Recording Industry describes the legal situation regarding copying of CDs in Germany: The Germany copyright law does allow making copies "for private use" (§ 53 UrhG). According to this article, this does include making copies for family and "close friends" . This is limited to a "small" number of copies. Private use means that the intention for making the copy must not be for selling, exchanging or making a gift. It's allowed to make copies from the original only, not from other copies.

To me it appears to be a contradiction that § 53 UrhG does allow making copies for relatives and close friends, but at the same time probibits making any copies for selling, exchanging and giving away. Why am I allowed to make a copy for a relative or close friend but then I'm not allowed to give it to him? It probably means that I am allowed to lend copies to relatives and friends. Further it seems to allow that I lend a original CD from a relative or close friend and make a copy for myself.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Building a Wireless Internet Access Infrastructure

How will the wireless Internet be built? Will it evolve from today's digital wireless cellular phone networks, i.e. GSM, GPRS and finally UMTS? Or will it be WLANs? Will it be a few nationwide network infrastructures built by large carriers (today's telecoms), or will it be an interconnected network of islands owned by any size and kind of network providers similar to the structure of the Internet itself?

The nationwide-carrier-model seems to be limited by physical restrictions. The model does work economically only if ubiquity can be achieved by a limited number of base stations. This did work with GSM. A single base station can cover an area of several kilometers in diameter. With UMTS it does already get difficult. A UMTS macro cell, which is several kilometers in diameter has a maximum transmission rate of only 144 kBit/s. This is not so much more than GPRS and also degrades if there are many users inside the same cell. UMTS micro cells (<1km) support up to 384 kBit/s and only the pico cells (<30m) support 2MBit/s. However, if the pico cell is shared by 9 users, each user has only 64kBit/s of bandwidth. If you move faster than 10km/h you are referred from the pico to the micro cell, if you move faster than 120km/h to the macro cell. Considering this, the advantages of UMTS over GSM+GPRS seem small.

WLANs offer 2 MBit/s or more and have a similar reach like UMTS's pico cells. The problem is that both the UMTS pico cells and WLANs have a reach that is too small to allow carriers to economically build network infrastructures with nation-wide coverage (it would work if only one infrastructure would be built by a monopolist, but that's history...).

In summary there is a choice between nation-wide wireless network infrastructures that are limited to bandwidth in the 9.6 to 64kBit/s range on the one hand, and WLAN networks that provide >2 Mbit/s but are limited to "hot spots", i.e. places frequently visited by many people, your office and your home. Actually it's not a choice, the solution is to combine both infrastructures:
  • the national wireless infrastructures provide ubiquity, but a limited bandwidth that is sufficient primarily for asynchronous messaging (email, SMS) and bandwidth- and latency-optimized synchronous applications like chat/Instant Messenging.

  • WLANs provide bandwidth that is necessary for pleasant user experiences with web surfing, video conferencing and mobile VPN access to corporate networks and enterprise applications.

This combined infrastructure has only one problem: without a further infrastructure there is no roaming and no billing between the WLAN islands. I think it is unlikely that this can be solved by direct roaming agreements between WLAN operators. This will not scale because there will be too many of them. It's not just cafe's, hotels and airports. What about schools, universities and hospitals? Neighbourhoods that today share satellite dish or TV cable and tomorrow have a WLAN too? Corporate WLANs? What seems to be required here is an intermediary that is neither a network operator nor a hot-spot / public / private / semi-public space owner. Someone who hides the complexity of the different authentication and billing schemes of each WLAN operator. I think this is what [Boingo] is doing. Here are two interesting articles:

They provide seamless roaming by making billing, authentication and confidentiality/encryption of the transmitted data transparent to the user. I think this is a simple but brilliant idea. They are service providers only, not network providers. Even corporate networks, neighbourhoods etc. could have peering agreements with them. Finally these few national/international service providers will have peering agreements between them.