Tuesday, May 31, 2005

PSP's VoIP opportunity

Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) is hackable and is WiFi enabled, has a USB port, and a fully complaint TCP stack.

Its a perfect handset for a VoWiFi phone!!

Recent news is that Xten, leading SIP softphone provider, is planning to scramble together a softphone for the PSP.

Yahoo Mindset Beta

Mindset is a beta release from the Yahoo Research Labs. They are calling it intent driven search.

It marks each search result with a rating on a scale which defines the nature of the content - commercial or academic. Also, it provides the user with a slider on top of the search results. You can use the slider to define your preference on the commercial-academic scale. Based upon your choice, Mindset rearranges the search results accordingly.

I tried a search for the keyword "routers". You can see the results here. Now if you move the slider to the shopping side, results like Amazon.com and tigerdirect.com move to the top. On the other hand, if I move the slider towards research then the top results are a few RFCs and Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Next Generation 911

Columbia University along with Texas A&M and University of Virginia unveiled an open technology for E911 call handling this past Thursday in Washington DC. The project, named as NG911, is a 2 year effort to solve the nagging problem of locating E911 callers on VoIP networks.

The use of an IP based solution allows NG911 to add multimedia capabilites to the existing archaic 911 system. For instance, it'll allow capturing and transmitting of video.

Though the project is still at early stages, it was claimed that as part of the demonstration phase, the NG911 group will be setting up two E911 capable call centers at Texas and Virginia by the end of this year.

Apart from the three universities, this project involves Internet2, Cisco, Nortel Networks, and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).

The relevance of this research has further increased given FCC's E911 regulations announced last week.

Skype to launch VoWLAN phone

Skype CEO announced at a conference in Paris earlier this week that they will be launching a voice over WLAN phone by the end of this year. Yes a phone not just an application - is Skype digging itself a E911 hole...? I wonder...

Add this to the similar announce ment from Verizon, and we have a competition for the VoWLAN market already in place.

It'll be very interesting to watch Skype's progress on this. My basic point of concern is the network model - will a VoWLAN Skype still be P2P...? We'll know soon enough.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

End of telcos

Recently, speaking at a VoIP event, Skype CEO Niklas Zennström predicted that VoIP would force POTS providers to stop charging for voice calls by 2015. I have to agree..!!

Look 10 years into the future, where everything is hooked onto the Internet. In such a scenario, any realistic chance of revenue must come from online services. Disruptive technologies like Skype would never go away - voice call will be free. All this has been possible because voice communication today is a software product and not a hardware product as with the POTS systems.

The old telcos still hold the last mile copper and hence will still have a say. But, come wireless (wifi and wimax) the last mile copper will no longer be needed. Being on the inside, we can already hear the rumblings, the winds of change, it'll become more obvious in years to come...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Skype's affiliate program

Skype has 39 million users and it claims to add 150,000 new users everyday. These are pretty daunting statistics in themselves. Now they are planning to further bolster those numbers.

Recently Skype launched their affiliate program. As part of this, it'll give affiliates the chance to get commisions of upto 10% of the revenue that they generate. Over the past 2 weeks since its launch, the Skype affiliate program already has close to 2000 members and is growing fast.

Long hiatus

Been busy - with work, parents coming over, research - so have been away from blogging. Things should be regular again.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

PS3 controversy at E3

At the E3, Sony showed a concept video for a PS3 game called KillZone to showcase the power of the PS3. The video can be seen at IGN via this link. The quality of graphics and detail of gameplay is amazing..!!

Now comes the problem - IGN themselves have posted this article questioning the authenticity of the video. And many others also share the same opinion. Why..? Well, their reasoning is this - its too good to be real..! - I have heard that phrase before - used in a metaphorical way!! - but this time it is being used literally :)

I can undestand the sentiment though, Sony has not done a hardware or software demo for the console - they haven't even given those hardcaore gamers a look at the console (apart from videos). Most people have no doubt that the PS3 could achieve that sort of performance, but given the rudimentary stage of PS3's development (assumed), suggestions are that this particular video is a fake.

My opinion - I like that video - graphics are stunning - gameplay is impressive - if they can deliver a game like that, then even an established franchise like Halo will be looking at daunting competition. Gamerspeak: I hope they will deliver it..!!

My Google

We never thought they would do it... but I guess we all wanted them to. To compete with the likes of Yahoo and MSN, Google needed to provide a portal interface at some point - also they needed to integrate their different services under a single user/password combiniation - a la the Google Account.

Hours ago, Google came out with My Google - previously planned to be called iGoogle - a service to personalize your Google page with customized content. Anyone with an existing Google Account should be able to do this now. Another offering from Google Labs.

FCC makes E911 decision

As expected, FCC ruled 4-0 in favor of enforcing the requirement of E911 capabilities of VoIP providers. All service providers will be required to provide the same emergency calling services as those provided by traditional POTS.

The FCC ruling will come into effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register. Rough estimates are - it would take about 30-45 days to publish this. So, I guess VoIP providers have about 4 months to comply.

E911 capability requires providers to have the following provisions: Any emergency call must be routed to a user's local E911 operations center. The system must also provide the dispatcher with a callback number and its location. Unlike POTS, with VoIP services, a call can originate from anywhere on the Internet. Hence, there is no way (reliable enough) to determine the exact location of the caller. Therefore, providers will be required to have a system whereby users can update their location and callback numbers.

Btw, the order does not apply to Internet based service providers. Examples being Skype, YIM etc which provide VoIP in addition to instant messaging or gaming etc.

Customizable input system

We have all been through the torture of playing a PC game which requires the use of 15 keys all spread across the face of your QWERTY keyboard!

A hardware newcomer Ergodrex has come out with the DX1 Input system. The DX1 is a USB periphery device which allows the user to arrange an assortment of programmable keys anywhere on its 11 inch X 9 inch DX1 pad. Thereafter, you can use the provided software to assign functions/values to each key.

DX1 Input System Posted by Hello

Above is an example of the DX1 customized for a PC game. Pretty cool!

3G for India... hmm.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has recommended the Indian government to provide free 3G licenses to existing telecom providers. If the recommendation is accepted, then only new players in the telecom market would be required to pay licensing fee. Looks real smooth doesn't it!!

Ok let me explain - India is definitely one of the fastest growing telecom industries in the world. Also, credit must go to Indian telco providers for being early adopters and even innovators of technology - unlike a country like US, which was still holding on to AMPS in the new millenium.

Another observation which I often make to compare the telco industry in India to the rest of the world - is the difference in customer maturity. Even today, for a typical NYC customer, the primary concern is to get good coverage on their plans - and many are willing to pay the extra buck to get it. Whereas, back in India, its about the best value added services (like 3G) for the cheapest prices - take my work for it - prices in the Indian mobile phone industry are amongst the lowest in the world.

But, despite all these attributes, the Indian telco industry has often shown lack of direction - and a lot the fault for this lies with the Indian govt due to their obvious lack of regulation. This has resulted in many prominent international carriers staying clear of India. And the current issue of 3G licensing is no different.

The two warring factions of the industry - GSM based providers and the CDMA based providers are worried about the allocation of spectrum to the other - hence both are feeling hard-done-by this recommendation. Of course, the government may not accept this recommendation at all, but they haven't swayed either direction thus far. The only comment of note has been from the Indian communication minister - who is in favor of skipping 3G alltogether and going straigt through to 4G (remember my point of early adopters :)).

I can foresee an: allotment - a set of licenses - followed by a string of court cases - falling prices - a few more internation carriers packing their bags. You don't believe me..? Trust me - its a protocol - works like clockwork :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

PS3 unveiled

Finally get the chance to post about the PS3. After all my posts reagarding XBOX 360, I was hoping to balance the equation with details from Sony's end - but resisted the temptation to simply write stuff off the rumor mill.

So finally, the PS3 was unveiled on the first day of the E3 gaming expo in LA. I needn't say much about this console - if you were impressed by XBOX 360 - the hardware on this will blow you away. 1UP has this good detailed review of the PS3. Its awesome!!

It'll still be a very interesting battle - PS3 Vs XBOX 360. Lot of trend analysts are already at work making predictions. I read a report yesterday - claiming that the XBOX will definitely match the PSX in market share if not beat it over the next 5 years. These reporst never fail to amuse me. Anyway, who are we to complain - we gamers get the best end of the deal - excellent products to choose from - I'm personally favoring the PS3 right now.

Also, the XBOX is still on track for an earlier market release(year end) than PS3 (expected next spring). So I guess its good they will stay clear of each other. But, the tactician that is Bill Gates - in a recent interview in Time magazine he stated that upon release, the PS3 would walk into Halo 3 - possibly the same day - ouch!!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Keyhole covers entire globe

Keyhole announced earlier last week that now their primary database has natural color images of terrain of the entire globe at the resolution of 15 meters/pixel. This new dataset replaces their old 1 km/pixel dataset.

NEXT STEP - Integrate into Google Maps :)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Cool XBOX video

In case, you missed the unveiling of the XBOX 360 console here is a link to a cool video which showcases a lot of the technology and features.

XBOX.com is running a free E3 sweepstakes for the XBOX 360 gaming console. Registration is only open for 10 days - between May 13th and 23rd - so hurry and sign-up. Link is here

Btw, GWA shut down

Btw, forgot to mention this. Google, shut down downloads of their Web Accelerator. I wonder if it was the bad publicity - or technical glitches. Anyway, the GWA website has a message saying
"We have currently reached our maximum capacity of users and are actively working to increase the number of users we can support."
I have a feeling, the dust is far from settled on this issue...

Open media from BBC

Earlier this week, BBC launched the public beta of its Backstage project. It is essentially a developer network for applications that can be designed using BBC's content.

The idea is simple - over a period of time, BBC shall provide feeds and APIs to various forms of content from their network. These shall be available to anyone who wishes to use this content to develop applications and/or remix the content.

It would be very interesting to note how far BBC would take this - basically how much content will they make accessible to the developers, and more importantly what sort of control/ownership would the developer have on the content.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Search for source code

This had to come soon enough. I am referring to koders.com, a new vertical search engine for open source code. It has an extremely simple Google-like user interface. Plus, it allows users to specify the programming language and/or the License for the code being searched for.

I just ran a few test searches today - Koders returns search results really fast - but the search as of now looks like a simple text search through the source files. So unless the programmer's did a good job of commenting the code (yeah.. right!!), it is going to be hard to find results. It worked well for common data structures like B-trees, doubly linked lists, etc., but failed to return any useful results for something like - a P-trie.

Its a good idea, but a little short on implementation. Btw, Koders is also selling an Enterprise edition for search within enterprise code bases.

Speaking of code search, I must mention the IBM Prospector project. I first read about the prospector late last year. IBM is working on this with UC Berkeley and a beta version of Prospector can be found (at most times..) at the link above. The problem with Prospector is, that it is a search engine only for Java code. The final version of Prospector is expected to come out by the end of the year.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Google buys Dodgeball

Report here. Google buys another social networking site called dodgeball. I haven't used it but from I gather, its a mobile social network. They require you to send mail/mssg from your mobile device checking-in your location, and they shall pass on your information to your friends and friends of friends etc.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Now that is tech put to use..!!

I would be surprised if you haven't heard of CERN. It is the world's largest particle physics laboratory, and incidentally, is also the place where the WWW was born.

Well, currently, the flagship project of CERN is the Large Hadron Collider(LHC). It is due for its final launch in 2007. Get this.. When it launches, the LHC will be the most data intensive physics instrument on the planet. It will pose one of the biggest data storage and processing problems of all time. When operational, it is expected to produce 1500 mega-bytes of data every second for about a decade. It'll take a global grid spread across Europe and US to house and process this data. Brilliant testament to modern science and technology..!!!

About 2 weeks ago, the LHC passed its second service challenge. A total of 4 such challenges have been slated before its final launch. This test managed to sustain about 1/3rd of the max data rate of the eventual LHC, reaching peaks of around 800 MBps. This test lasted about 10 days.

The next test is scheduled for start sometime this summer, and is expected to last 3 months. For more information on the LHC Grid project follow this link.

XBOX 360 details leaked...?

Tomorrow is the BIG day. May 12th, as posted earlier, tomorrow is the official unveiling of the new XBOX 360 console. But, guys at 1UP are reporting that they have the leaked out details of the new XBOX specifications. Take a look here - looks pretty neat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

SIP goes P2P

To some of us here at Columbia, this is old news. Our very own Internet Real-Time Laboratory headed by Prof. Schulzrinne (of SIP, RTP fame) has been working on SIP over P2P for a while. But, it seems like the IETF effort in this direction is increasing. Recently, we have seen the publishing of a few Internet drafts in this area.

This is very positive. For those of us who are not aware of how the IETF functions, let me tell you that the standardization process is a very slow and tedious one. It is extremely thorough, as probably it should be - but to us techies sitting on the outside, sometimes it looks like a waste of time. So am glad that the wheels have started turning.

You can find latest information, including I-Ds and relevant reseach about SIP P2P over here. For me, SIP P2P is another contribution of Skype. They have nothing to do with the project, but they were the first ones to show that secure VoIP over P2P is possible. Now SIP is responding with its own P2P enabled version.

15 mins of chaos

Around 6 pm on the 7th day of May, in the year of 2005, for about 15 mins - there was no Google..!!! I repeat - NO GOOGLE..!!! Its like our whole world came tumbling down.

Following Google's outage, there has been much discussion about what happened. Well Google's press release stated that it was a DNS failure. For a short period of time Google's global record was missing - probably, change of software or something as negligible as that. People questioned, that if the Google DNS record was missing, why were they being directed to another search website called "SOGO"..? Let me assure you that it wasn't a hack.

See here is what happens. When we enter a URL in our browsers, it tries to resolve its IP address by doing a DNS lookup. Now, courtesy of the smart logic in modern browsers, we can simply put in the name of the site without the ".com" or "www." and still get to the desired page. How this works is simple, if the DNS lookup fails for say the word "google", then the browser automatically appends it with ".com" and looks up. Then with ".net" and so on and so forth - till we have a resolved result.

So now lets consider our own case, the DNS resolution of "google.com" failed. So the browser appended it with a ".net" and resolved for "google.com.net". See where that goes - "google.com.net". That page look familiar...? Yup, it is the same SOGO website which was displayed when Google was down. So that should explain exactly what happened.

What I personally observed from this episode, is the how Google has become an integral part of our lives. I have seen how we Net-surfers has become accustomed to the use of search. Even at times, when we know the URL of the site we want to go to - we go through Google - just to make sure we have the correct name :) The amount of discussion that followed on the Internet concerning this 15-minute downtime is also a measure of Google's integration into our daily chores.

UPDATE : The redirect link to SoGoSearch does not work anymore.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Blogger goes mobile

Hmm.. Blogger launched a Mobile version last week. The idea is really simple actually - send an e-mail/MMS to go@blogger.com and they get automatically posted to your blog.

They also issue an identification token, which you can use at the website above to go and "claim" your blog. Doing this will give you complete Blogger dashboard based access to the blog's settings.

I wonder how many people will use this.

I think there are still many features/services that Blogger can add to their regular accounts. Though, I am glad to see that the down-time for this site has gone down considerably. Thats what we need more of...

UPDATE : An article in the American Daily is reporting that Blogger is hosting a blog by some terror extremists and the content contains threatening messages to Bush and Blair.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Web accelerator needs a good discussion...

Ok - My previous post just reported the release of the "Web Accelerator" from Google. Now this one - actually goes a little deeper.

In the meanwhile, two basic problems have been reported from regarding this piece of software.

Firstly, as pointed out in the comment from Anshul on the previous post - there was a case, where someone went to a forum's website - and realized that the set of pages he was viewing were from somebody else's profile - this was deemed as the "privacy" (this term is really getting over-used and abused) issue.

Second problem is a more technical problem - and I find that interesting. It seems to be creating problems for web-apps and for sites which have admin controls built into the page UI. The GWA basically goes through a page and tries to prefetch the content behind every link. This essentially implies - that Google is clicking through every link on the page - Now imagine a web page with links like "Remove this" or "delete profile"..!! And it turns out, that even if you have a Javascript confirmation page for such a link - Google simply ignores it. So this isn't good news.

But if we look into this a little deeper - we realize that the problem is not GWA's fault. The GWA prefetches only those links which issue a HTTP GET request and NOT those which issue HTTP POST requests. According to standard HTML recommendations, any data changes - like the links above - should be issued only as POST requests. So if the webmasters fail to comply with HTML recommendations, there is little that GWA can do.

Now coming to utility. I have been using GWA for a day - haven't seen much of a speed improvement - but haven't come across any of the above mentioned problems either. But, as I have personally worked with web caches before - I can tell you that the effect of such software increases with the time you have it on your machine - So am not giving up on it till I have given it a good shot.

Oh yeah.. also about the forum problem - it can very well be a problem in one of the forum's own links - so I won't jump to conclusions about "privacy" issues as yet. I would like to hear more complaints.. Ok at least one more issue like that before I agree.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Google Web Accelerator (Beta)

I'm back, and again Google is making the news. They just launched another piece of software called the Web Accelerator. It works with both Firefox and IE

It will accelerate your web-browsing by using smart cahing algorithms to speed up the loading of web-pages. The ideas are basic, caching frequently visited pages, downloading only page modifications in case of slight changes to webpages, prefetching webpages and transferring compressed data. Enjoy.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Sorry folks

Am traveling for a conference till Wednesday morning. Therefore posts have frozen for a while. Will be back to regular ways soon. Thanks for your patience.