The need for speed.

Om Malik asks how much bandwidth do we really need:

Can your eyes tell the difference between a web-page loading in one second or 0.27 seconds. I guess not. If you can download a music file in 1.08 seconds, does that really mean you will be buying music all the time. No you perhaps will be buying better quality, and perhaps marginally more music. There is the other option, but its just easier to pay! Sure at 30 Mbps you can download DVD quality The Bourne Identity in 11 minutes, but its still going to take you 2 hours to watch it. These are analog questions in an increasingly digital world.

I’m running at about 8 Mbps and I rarely notice a delay in downloading. It is typically a problem in DNS resolution or overloading at the source site that cause me a problem. After all, the fact that the last mile (or thereabouts) runs at 8 Mbps means nothing when the speed from source to destination is wholly dependent on the weakest link. If the site at the other end is connected at 512 Kbps I’m still going to waiting no matter how fast my connection is.

Robert Scoble thinks that the need for bandwidth will be driven by HDTV:

If you want one of the new IPTV boxes that’ll deliver four simultaneous channels of video to your house you’ll need a 30mbps line. The problem is that the first systems will be setup in 2006, but it’ll probably be years before even a decent percentage of people have IPTV ability in the home.

I already have 300 or 400 simultaneous channels of video to my house. I have cable in a system that is designed to do that. Just because you can do something doesn’t you should. We already have a couple of systems – satellite and cable – that move multiple streams of video to my house. They aren’t interactive, and they aren’t internet-enabled. But I’m willing to be that for 90% of the population that will be more than enough for some time to come.

We seem to be stuck in the paradigm of having to get the file (download it) before we can use it (i.e. watch the video). But to be usable, the download just needs to stay ahead of where I’m viewing. After all, we still view video in real time. It’s the same way that we watch TV. The movie is essentially streamed to us, which is why we can’t fast forward current TV. Even TiVo records in real time.

Om’s chart shows that even at 6 Mbps I can download a DVD quality movie in less than one hour, approximately half the length of the movie. Which means that even four HDTV streams over IP would be able to stay ahead of where I’m watching.

Now if Robert wants to grab four movies to take with him for at trip I can see the desire for 30 Mbps, because even then it will take the better part of an hour. But for the segment of people that want to watch IPTV, better streaming tools are probably a pretty good solution. Of course for Robert to see any benefit, the site he is watching will need to be running at 30 Mbps just to service him, and every link from source to destination has to be providing the same flawless low latency bandwidth.

It’s easy to provide more bandwidth at the edge of the network. It’s a lot harder to guarantee that quality of service along the entire path.

Technorati: bandwidth speed bandwidth speed


Russell Beattie notes that the latest XBox 360 live update has killed backwards compatibility completely. He also notes with some surprise that few people seem to have noticed that this has happened.

Sony and Nintendo can release game consoles that run well for years without upgrades. But Microsoft is still mired in the decidedly non-consumer world of constant software upgrades. This of course does allow the possibility of fixing bugs or adding additional features later. But it also opens the door to removing features in the future, much as Apple has done with iTunes.

This time it was an accidental defeaturing, one that is detrimental to customers like Russell. But there is nothing to stop Microsoft from turning other things off later. And just imagine the potential for viruses.

Attention Brokers.

Jeff Jarvis wants to know when someone is reading his blog:

How about this as a fundamental principle of content and conversation on the internet:

I have a right to know when what I create is read, heard, viewed, or used if I wish to know that.

Now if I understand the concept of Attention correctly, Jeff’s readers are “attention owners”. That makes Jeff an “attention receiver” I guess. That makes My Yahoo, Google Reader, Pluck, Newsgator Enterprise and other RSS readers “attention brokers”.

And just as information gives stock brokers or real estate brokers an advantage, that aggregated attention information gives those attention brokers a powerful advantage as well.

Unlike the stock or real estate world though, even if they share Jeff’s information with him as he asks, because of the network effect of all of the users whose information they aggregate, they still hold that advantage.


Eliminating the surplus.

Canada has consistently understimated their tax revenue surpluses. Last year a surplus of $1.9 billion was predicted; it turned out to be $9.1 billion.

This year with gas prices at record highs, the surplus was likely to be high as well. So the government has come up with a novel solution – just spend a lot more:

Monte Solberg, the Opposition Conservative Finance critic, said Mr. Goodale’s office made several last-minute spending plans to soak up enough surplus cash to bring the final amount below the expected $3-billion.

Mr. Solberg said that explains the inaccuracies by private-sector forecasts analysts, hired by the opposition parties to do their own budget predictions.

Those estimates have ranged from almost $7-billion to $8-billion in surplus cash left over after fiscal year-end March 31.

My friend.

One of my oldest and closest friends died of cancer yesterday. He was a little over 50, and we had known each other for almost 20 years. Our kids had grown up together.

Peter was the most relaxed guy you could ever imagine. He used to say that he had picked up a little cancer on his shoe. His wife would then ask, couldn’t he have scraped it off his shoe?

He used to build boats – big 100 foot steel yachts. And he was a sailor too, spending years around Florida and the Keys.

I can remember often sitting with Peter having a cool Margarita, listening to a little music. I went for a walk today, with some Jimmy Buffett on my iPod, and that reminded me of him as well.

I’ll miss him.

Modern Rules of Advertising.

The BBC News Ad Breakdown has provided a list of the modern rules of advertising:

  1. Men are obsessed with sex but will forego sex in order to watch football or drink beer.
  2. Women are locked in a constant battle with their weight/body shape/hairstyle.
  3. Career success is entirely based on your ability to impress your boss.
  4. Mums are often harassed but NEVER depressed/unable to cope.
  5. Any act of male stupidity (e.g. walking across a clean floor in muddy boots, putting the dog in the dishwasher, etc.) will be met with a wry smile, not genuine annoyance/anger.
  6. Married men will flirt with other, younger women but NEVER act upon it.
  7. Anyone with a scientific career will have a bad haircut and dreadful clothes.
  8. If you work for the emergency services, you are a better person than the general population.
  9. Elderly relatives NEVER suffer from senile dementia.
  10. Scandinavians are, without exception, blonde and beautiful.
  11. Women have jobs they never do in real life, e.g. dockworker (who looks like a model).
  12. Children will not eat fruit or vegetables. Ever.
  13. Both men and women find driving deeply pleasurable, never boring or stressful.
  14. Men are inherently lazy/slobbish; women are the reverse.
  15. Chocolate, however, will cause women to immediately fall into the languor of the opium eater.
  16. High Street bank staff are (A) friends of the customers, and (B) of slightly above-average attractiveness (only if female).
  17. Modern men own a cat.
  18. Hot beverages have miraculous rejuvenating effects.
  19. Professional people have strangely trivial preoccupations, e.g. a female barrister who is morbidly obsessed with finding a healthy snack bar.
  20. All women (except stay-at-home housewives) have interesting and enjoyable careers.
  21. Any over-the-counter medical product will work instantly and 100% effectively.
  22. Children know more than adults.
  23. Women never merely hop in and out of the shower, instead preferring to act out some sort of soapy Dance of the Seven Veils.
  24. School is a happy experience for all children.
  25. Tortilla chips are the most exciting experience any group of young people can experience.
  26. Playing bingo is THE number one pastime among 18-25 year old British women.

Tip of the hat to Learned on Woman.


I’ve been thinking a lot about recruiting lately. I’ve worked in high tech since I was a kid, and I’ve often noticed a tendency toward a kind of ageism.

We never want to hire anybody who is too old. They are assumed to be either too expensive, or they just won’t fit in with the young company culture. Yet we also insist on hiring gray haired senior management, because investors expect it.

And we assume that you don’t know anything until you graduate from college. Of course we also want to hire younger employees or new graduates because they are cheaper.

But I often think to myself that Bill Gates was a college dropout, Sam Walton only had a grade school education, and Jim Clark has created a few great companies.

It seems that we’re far more concerned about age and education than we are about the drive to succeed.

As long as it’s for science.

Reverend Jen Miller decides to become a stripper as a science experiment. She concludes:

Initially, I thought that taking my clothes off for the approval of others would be difficult. I imagined hecklers shouting, “Put it on!” and covering their eyes. But the customers I encountered were decent. They even applauded, which was unexpected. Of course, I got lucky: no one tried to inappropriately touch my vagina.

While the customers were an important variable, where I chose to strip was even more important. I know plenty of women who’ve worked as strippers, and they described atmospheres in which their coworkers were friendly and easygoing. But the atmosphere I encountered at Wiggles was oppressive. Being confined and ignored brought me to an existential crisis. Given what I experienced, I don’t know why more strippers don’t go postal. The slow, glowing dream deep inside my mind never came to fruition. I hadn’t the patience, the time or the thick skin needed for such a demanding endeavor.