What a great big fuss!

11 June, 2010

I watched with interest as the news broke yesterday afternoon that O2 was to stop offering unlimited data to smartphone users, like AT&T has done in the US.

“This can’t be fair”, “I know people who only stick with O2 because the data is unlimited!” and so it went on.

No any more - it's for your own good!

The fact of the matter is that the mobile networks all struggle to keep up with the ludicrous volumes of data downloaded through mobile connections in the UK (mostly tethered to a laptop at home I have no doubt).  The BBC report I read said that 3% of O2’s customers are using 36% of the network’s data capacity! Capacity which you’ll probably know is borrowed from the voice traffic on the same network.  If you’ve ever wondered why mobile calls are harder to place and receive look no further than the nearest iPhone.

I use an iPhone for voice and data when I’m away from the office and warmly welcome actions which make the service better for the vast majority of users.

On the flip side the appetite for unlimited fully-mobile data at screaming-data-rates is a good sign for the industry. It will be satisfied when the networks are enhanced with the best that the next generation technology developers can provide, and it will probably give us a living for years to come.


Patience is a Virtue

25 May, 2010

Rumours surrounding Google’s forthcoming Chrome 6 suggest that this version will attempt to predict our next browsing moves, with the aim of making our web surfing even faster.

The ‘predictive pre-connections’ will apparently be based on an analysis of user browsing habits over time. For example, If you enter a search term, it will automatically pre-load in the background the pages you are most likely to visit, which then reduces the amount of time it takes to display those pages should you fulfil the destiny that the great Google has mapped out for you.

There are obvious privacy issues afoot, but am I the only one disappointed that the technological genius of some of the world’s most powerful corporations is being put to gaining a couple of nanoseconds in my web browsing? Isn’t it fast enough already? We have already seen the decline of a generation now insatiable for instant gratification, where will it end? Besides which, Google announced in February that they plan to test out ‘ultrafast’ gigabit broadband offering speeds 100 times faster than most currently available. Doesn’t this make their ‘predictive pre-connections’ a little obsolete in the speed quest?

It seems to me that Google is selling out on positive technological progress in favour of pursuing petty one-upmanship against Microsoft and its Internet Explorer with a pointless new feature. Let’s see some useful innovations please Google, you’re far more likely to find people coming around to Chrome that way.

Access denied – #nocleanfeed

15 December, 2009

The Australian government’s attempts to once again restrict internet users’ access to certain sites should be interesting. Do we have a basic human right to access all dangerous illegal content? Maybe not, but it comes down to who decides what’s dangerous and illegal – that is the real question.

The technology challenge is seriously high – a couple of years ago the Guardian covered another Australian attempt, but that didn’t go well. However this time the technology should be better, and according to the BBC they’ve done the trials and it “was 100% effective“.

So once again we have a technology story which is far more about society’s attitude to information, and freedom of access, than the science behind it.

There’s hope for us all yet.

Gagging the internets

13 October, 2009

For the first time in history, a newspaper has been gagged from reporting parliament. Specifically the Guardian was banned from reporting a particular question.

The following is taken from the story on the paper’s website; “Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found. The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament.”

In the 1970s a landmark ruling made it clear that newspapers can report whatever is said in parliament without ‘fear of contempt.’


However in the 1970s the internet and more importantly social media didn’t exist.

Unsurprisingly the news is all over Twitter and the blogosphere, and the best news is that several people have found the question that The Guardian has been gagged from reporting – and the news is currently being plastered all over the internet. In fact the name of the company in question is the top trending topic on Twitter at the moment.

This is known as ‘The Streisand effect,’ or as Alex mentioned in an earlier blog, this can also be classed as ‘Doing a De Burgh.

While the lawyers at Carter-Ruck may have stopped The Guardian from running this story today, it’s impossible to stop the news getting out there somehow. By setting the lawyers onto The Guardian they’ve drawn even more attention to it and now the news has spread world-wide. It’s possible to stop one newspaper from running a story, but stopping thousands of people all across Twitter from talking about something is impossible. Yet another lesson in how not to keep a news story buried.

Will Digital Britain ever get off the ground?

27 August, 2009

The Digital Britain report is turning into a laughing stock. It was supposed to be a visionary report outlining Britain’s digital future and how these services would be provided, but it turned out to promise broadband speeds a fraction of those being delivered in the rest of the western world and has now been sidetracked by the debate over file sharing.

The one over-riding conclusion from both parts of this debate is that the UK government doesn’t understand the internet, the way it works, the way people use it or the way the technology behind it works. Trying to force modern broadband speeds down outdated copper is like trying to kit out a mini to race in Formula One. Yes you can make it go very quickly compared to its previous speed, but nowhere near quick enough and it will soon get left behind by the rest. The clients and journalists we have spoken to about this are of the same opinion as most of the industry, the UK needs fibre rolled out and it needs to aim for higher than a pathetic 2Mb/s.

The latest row over file sharing is just bewildering. I’m sure the fact that Lord Mandelson has spent time on holiday with the anti-file sharing community is nothing to do with it, but suggesting we cut people off makes little sense. On one hand the report describes broadband as almost a basic human right, and now they’re talking about taking it away if someone using the connection downloads a few songs.

The report needs the support of the ISP and wider technology community – and so far it has alienated the ISPs with the proposed bill to cut off file sharers, and alienated the wider technology community by failing to deliver the fibre infrastructure this country needs. The ISPs will have to do a lot of work to monitor and identify illegal file sharers and then cutting them off will lose them money – so where is the motivation?

I saw a great comment on a blog the other week that summed it up perfectly -“If someone sends a stolen DVD through the post, do we expect Royal Mail to take action?”

Yes illegal file sharing does cost the entertainment industry a lot of money, but there are much better way to deal with it than to go around cutting off people’s internet connection when there’s a good chance they did nothing wrong.

The government needs to re-think the whole report and stop getting sidetracked by one relatively minor topic, otherwise this report will never get taken seriously and the UK will fall even further behind the rest of the world.


What did we do before Google?

13 March, 2009

The Telegraph opened today with “It’s 20 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee published a proposal that has revolutionised the way we live.” And it’s right.

The more you consider just how much things have evolved in the short time I’ve been paying income tax, the more incredible it seems.
Someone alerted me to a cheesy but inspirational YouTube clip the other day, it puts a lot of perspective on what’s going on. We’re preparing our kids for jobs that don’t exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems we haven’t even tagged as problems yet!

I’d go on – but the schedule’s tight today.

It’s all going to die

16 April, 2008

Well, we’re not just yet, but our access to the internet will be dead by 2010 if the doom and gloom merchants are to be believed. We’ll be on a road to nowhere.

It would appear that whilst providers of content are working hard to make the public’s use of the internet a full-on experience and a one-stop-shop for all our needs – think iPlayer, MP3 downloads etc – the actual infrastructure upon which this is being built is decidedly shaky. GB does not have the broadband capability to match the ever-growing demand and when we all change to IPTV – well, don’t even go there.information super highway

The suggestion is that fibre to the home would be the answer but that would be a costly exercise and who would foot the bill?

This conjures up an interesting vision of a sudden reversal to life without the Internet. Where would we all be? No on-line shopping, no instant answers to questions, having to post letters and press releases (having to print them off too – not very green), the list is endless.

I am sure it will never come to that but it once again it is a case of “seemed like a good idea at the time” with anyone realising where it could all lead.