Thursday, May 21
After the astronauts on the International Space Station finished up their communications with Space Shuttle Atlantis yesterday, the crew on the Space Station did something that no other astronaut has ever done before - drank recycled urine and sweat.
To boldly go indeed…
Broadband Census points to a recent interview with Acting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Copps on C-Span. During it, Copps reiterated the FCC’s commitment to a national broadband strategy.
While a number of airlines continue to experiment with in-flight WiFi service, Virgin America is moving all-in. From a company press release:
Virgin America, the California-based carrier, announced that as of today it is the first and only airline to offer Gogo® In-flight Internet service on every flight. As of today, guests on any of Virgin America’s 100 daily flights have the option to surf the Web, check e-mail, or log on to their corporate VPN – all from the comfort of their seats at 37,000 feet.
To mark the occasion, Virgin will be conducting a special air-to-ground Skype session with none other than Oprah Winfrey.
(* Apologies for the cheesy headline.)
While TV still rules America’s video viewing habits, YouTube is no slouch when it comes to content. In fact, as TechCrunch reports, it’s so big that every minute more than 20 hours of video is uploaded to the site. Marvels TechCrunch:
Think about that for a minute. In that minute, nearly a days worth of footage will have been uploaded. And the pace is quickening. Back in 2007, shortly after Google bought the service, it was 6 hours of footage being uploaded every minute. As recently as January of this year, that number had grown to 15 hours, according to the YouTube blog. Now it’s 20 — soon it will be 24. That’s insane.
The New York Times “Bits” blog reports on new data about worldwide broadband access provided by the Economic Cooperation and Development, which finds that Denmark leads the charge when it comes to access for its citizens.
As for the U.S., we rank squarely in the middle, sandwiched between Germany and Australia. Poor Mexico, meanwhile, brings up the rear, ranking below Turkey and even the Slovak Republic.
Check out the OECD’s full report.
Via Ars Technica comes the latest results from Nielsen on American viewing habits. For online and mobile video, the news is good:
About 131 million people are watching an average of three hours of video per month via the Internet, according to Nielsen’s data. That’s up from 116 million watching a monthly average of two hours this same time last year. Additionally, about 13 million mobile phone subscribers—up 52 percent from nearly 9 million last year—report watching an average of 3.5 hours of video a month on a mobile phone (time measurements are not available from Q1 last year).
But while online viewing is up, it turns out traditional TV has nothing to worry about—at least not yet:
But those increases pale in comparison to television, which Americans watch more than ever, averaging about 153.5 hours in front of the boob tube in a month. “Television is still the dominant choice for Americans who watch video,” according to Nielsen’s report. “Almost 99 percent of the video watched in the US is still done on television.” You can see how the amount of TV watched by Americans dwarfs the small amount viewed online and the even smaller amount viewed via a mobile phone in the chart below.
Wednesday, May 20
Over the weekend, the awkwardly named Wolfram Alpha—the “revolutionary” new “computational knowledge engine” was released. But despite some claiming it was going to be a “Google killer,” the project left Slate’s Farhad Manjoo unimpressed:
Wolfram Alpha is a neat concept, and some of the posted sample queries—you can calculate the payment table for a mortgage or how many calories a 40-year-old male who’s 5-foot-10 and weighs 160 pounds would burn if he ran at 4 miles per hour for 30 minutes (272)—are quite impressive-looking. But in my few days of using it, I’ve found Wolfram Alpha almost completely useless.
Those secret questions websites ask you to answer in order to retrieve forgotten passwords? You know, questions like “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” and “In what city were you born?” Well it turns out that they might no be so secret after all. Technology Review reports:
In research to be presented at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy this week, researchers from Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon University plan to show that the secret questions used to secure the password-reset functions of a variety of websites are woefully insecure. In a study involving 130 people, the researchers found that 28 percent of the people who knew and were trusted by the study’s participants could guess the correct answers to the participant’s secret questions. Even people not trusted by the participant still had a 17 percent chance of guessing the correct answer to a secret question.
“Secret questions alone are not as secure as we would like our backup authentication to be,” says Stuart Schechter, a researcher with software giant Microsoft and one of the authors of the paper. “Nor are they reliable enough that their use alone is sufficient to ensure users can recover their accounts when they forget their passwords.”
South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster has recently taken on online classifieds juggernaut craigslist over the site’s “Erotic Services” section. And now, in what could turn out to be a major online free speech battle, craigslist is punching back. From their official blog:
Two weeks ago Mr McMaster presented craigslist with an ultimatum, “to remove the portions of the Internet site dedicated to South Carolina and its municipal regions which contain categories for and functions allowing for the solicitation of prostitution and the dissemination and posting of graphic pornographic material” within ten (10) days.”
“If those South Carolina portions of the site are not removed,” McMaster said, “the management of craigslist may be subject to criminal investigation and prosecution.”
In addition to being unwarranted by the facts, legal experts agree that the charges threatened represent an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech, and are clearly barred by federal law (sec 230 CDA).
Telecommunications Online interviewed IIA Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman about IIA’s mission, broadband expansion, and the federal stimulus. Here’s a taste:
Telecom Engine: In determining what the right speed is for broadband, one analyst recently said it’s like a moving target. Do you think there’s a certain speed by which we can define a service as broadband?
Melhman: First, it’s a shame that we have the order of battle that we do whereby grant rules happen before a national strategy has been laid out. Both happen before broadband mapping to determine to really understand where broadband is and where it is not and why is done. In a perfect world we would probably go in reverse order.
My sense is policy makers can first focus on first principles first by working with what we know. We know that roughly that roughly 7 percent of the US has no access at all, according to Pew’s information and 47 percent that could sign up has as chosen not to get access. We have a 7 47 problem. It would make plenty of sense to do our best to bring any broadband to the 7 percent that have not been yet found by the markets.
Second, we know the private sector is investing $50-$80 billion every year in telecom network infrastructure. Once this $7 billion stimulus funding has gone through we’re going to need ongoing private sector investment to continue build outs, upgrades and to maintain networks. I would think we would not stimulus rules that scare away either current or future investments.
Check out the full interview.