Thursday, December 14, 2006

Apple damaged by leak

(original at The Inquirer)

This is just too classic. Reprinted in entirety.
Apple HQ damaged by leak

Streaming too much

By Nick Farrell: Thursday 14 December 2006, 07:29

THE HIGHLY secretive maker of computer gear for the elderly is famous for gagging newspapers who publish news of leaks. However, it looks like this one revealed by CBS yesterday proved a little tricky to contain.

More than 100 gallons of water per minute flooded into Apple's Cappuccino HQ yesterday morning from a burst pipe which was under the building.

Apparently there was more than a foot of water lining the floor of the building when the California Water Service managed to cut off the water.

Of course as any Apple fans boys will tell you, this will not stop the operations of their favourite computer hardware outfit. Steve Jobs walks on water - heck, everyone knows that.

More here. µ

The Boys From Brazil

(not this)

A Brazilian businessman traveling in Germany was sent a text-message alert by his automated home security system.

So he checked the live feed via the Internet. And called the cops to arrest the robber.

1 Million Kilometers Per Hour!

(from APOD)

A large solar flare from an Earth-sized sunspot produced a tsunami-type shock wave. The rampaging tsunami took out some active filaments on the Sun, although many re-established themselves later. The solar tsunami spread at nearly one million kilometers per hour, and circled the entire Sun in a matter of minutes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Juvenile Offenders In Solitaire-y Confinement

(thanks Cape Times and IOL)

The Southern African Media and Gender Institute (SAMGI) has arranged for a donation of 15 computers (from the Dell Foundation) and a printer (from Xerox) to be given to Hawequa Youth Correctional Facility in Wellington on Tues Dec 5th.

The computer trainers believe that this training will boost their self-esteem and open doors to better jobs after prison.

The picture (fully visible in the Cape Times of Wed Dec 6th) shows one prisoner being supervised and working on some menu-ridden official-looking program. The other three prisoners are playing games - two of which are Solitaire (at separate computers, natch). Work skills, indeed!

[Emotional] cruelty to animals

(from Daily Mail via haha)

Meet Thumbelina - the world's smallest horse.

Standing just 17 inches tall, she is never going to be a champion show-jumper.
In fact, the tiny mare is so small she would struggle to leap over a bucket.
But such things are of little concern for feisty Thumbelina who has just been officially recognised as the world's smallest horse.

Monday, December 04, 2006

100 Gbps

Yes, you read that right.

Santa Cruz researchers have demonstrated a 100 Gbps stream running reverse-multiplexed over 10× 10 Gbps channels from Tampa to Houston. A special packet-multiplexing scheme from UCSC allowed retention of packet ordering, even as flows are multiplexed across channels.

A number of groups were involved:

Finisaroptical transceivers
Infinera [PR]DWDM & project management
Internet 2 [alt]methodology & support
Level 3transmission paths
UCSCMAC & packet re-sequencing

Note that this was not a 100 Gbps transmission interface; but consider that local interfaces faster than 10 Gbps (e.g. STM-256 / STS-768 at 40 Gbps) do exist and traffic could conceivably be generated at this rate for transmission over long distance. The LHC leads the way!

Friday, December 01, 2006


(while reading Engineering News)

a spokesperson, who asked not to be named, stated [...]
(my emphasis)
Talk about letting the cat out of the bag (and onto the Matt)! If the source is supposed to be anonymous, then don't give away any clues to the person's identity.

Alternately, if he/she specied that identification (i.e. that of a spokesdroid), then perhaps it's a call for help? A wry, dry, sly jab at the coporate edifice? Armscorborg ahoy!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Google Alerts vs RSS

Why oh why doesn't Google make RSS feeds available for Google Alerts?

Simple importation into the customized homepage or the Google Reader would be very useful and so convenient.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Best ... NANOG ... post ... ever!

(from the NANOG archives)
  • From: Randy Bush
  • Date: Sat Nov 04 22:48:52 2006

Chris L. Morrow wrote:
> "Could you be any less descriptive of the problem you are seeing?"

the internet is broken. anyone know why?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


The USA has a policy of separation of powers, to act as a set of checks and balances against usurpation of power and dominance by any one branch.

Except that sometimes the Executive and Legislative branches get a little intertwined...
"To my knowledge, there are only three current Members of Congress who work with the CIA"

South African nukes redux

(this from Green Clippings)
(cf. prior post South Africa leads the way)

The pendulum starts the long swing back...
[Professor] Christie warned of possible future wars in Africa, and suggested that that South Africa needed to quickly be able to revert to a nuclear weapons state if it became vital to the country's interests.
and, interestingly
The professor noted that South Africa still retained a stockpile of weapons grade highly enriched uranium derived from the country's former nuclear weapons programme. He also reminded everyone that technical knowledge of South Africa's former atomic bombs was still contained on CD's held by the current government.
Vaalputs [possibly] I could understand, but CDs? Heh.

Monday, September 11, 2006 announces FTTH build has announced an FTTH build to start 1H2007.

They will be investing 1 billion € and covering up to 4 million connections by 2012.

They're keeping the current unlimited calls to national and various international destinations.

The current connection (the Freebox) will be upgraded to a 'Freebox Optique', it will support HD TV via an appropriate STB.

The connection speed will be 50 Mbps!

And all of this for only 29.99 € per month!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on LLU in South Africa

Another snippet from Prof Marwala.

I asked about municipalities owning or using or managing the local loop (thinking especially of UTOPIA), and received:
We are actually looking very seriously on how municipalities can get involved in the local loop after unbundling. We have done a study on this regard.
Consider that many municipalities in the Cape Town area have been successfully involved in many different utilities infrastructure ownership and management (electricity, water, sewage).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

LLU in South Africa

I've reproduced below a reply from Professor Tshilidza Marwala to my questions on the status of the LLUC (Local Loop Unbundling Committee) which was instituted by the Department of Communications:
So far we have conducted a comprehensive and deep investigation on how Local Loop Unbundling was conducted in the UK, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Netherlands, Italy, Canada, USA, India etc. We looked at the following aspects: Pricing Models; Regulation Models; Management of the Local Loop etc

We then have studied the South African market structure and based on all these we came to some optimal models that are evolutionary in nature and factor in parameters such as service provision, infrastructure investment, policy trajectories, locking out tendencies, etc.

Our mandate is on the wired local loop and we believe that after our work and based on competitive pricing and reliability of service issues, the SNO and future entrants will find the the wired loop more advantageous.
Not much meat, but at least the skeleton is starting to take shape...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Corporate social networking

(thanks Coloribus)

Burger King takes off Marlboro

Back to the Future!

Mere days after the release of Microsoft Vista Release Candidate 1, the old-school strikes back!

Behold FreeDOS 1.0!

(they do offer some legitimate and interesting reasons for its existence)

Pay your TV licence

(thanks My Broadband)

18 applicants for a pay-TV broadcast licence as ICASA extends the market beyond MultiChoice's monopoly with their DSTV.

Some applicants:
  • Multichoice (again)
  • Telkom Media (partnership with Videovision & more)
  • SABC & Sentech (partnership)
  • e-TV (via controlling shareholder Sabido)
  • On Digital Media
  • Worldspace (satellite radio provider)

Telecomms World Africa 2006

The conference is running at the CTICC from 4th-8th September 2006 (i.e. NOW).

But the prices... Ouch!

Where's a Telecomms Bar Camp?

SNO re-brands, launches

The SNO is now Neotel. And does now appear to have been a valid interim site: it now plays a flash animation directing visitors to Oops.

There are many interesting snippets but frustratingly little detail on:
  • Geographic number portability (GNP) - the landline counterpart to MNP
  • Consumer access - 2007 :(
  • Carrier selection and pre-selection
  • Last-mile access including µwave, optics, CDMA2000 (eek!)
The site is well worth a visit.


In 1960, the 11th CGPM named the system the International System of Units

Since the famous Bentley V8 engine was introduced in 1959 - 1 year prior to the introduction of SI - perhaps they thought they could retain some Olde Worlde Charme in the engine designation. What is the metric prefix for "Quarters"?

And yes, this is in the current Bentley Arnage

Thursday, August 31, 2006

ICE arrests 15 aliens in Roswell working for U.S. military contractor

(thanks El Reg)

You just cannot make this stuff up.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents today arrested 15 illegal aliens who were working for a local company here that is under contract to paint U.S. military aircraft, including Lockheed C-130 military aircraft.
Proof for the paranoiacs! What will they do next?

Oh wait, I almost forgot: "They took my job!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More on asset forfeiture

(thanks Dave Farber)

In the amusingly-titled "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," a man who was neither accused nor convicted of a crime was deprived of the above amount of cash, as it was in itself deemed "strong evidence" of connection to drug activity.

Once again a lone judge spoke out as the dissenting voice against the majority ruling: Judge Donald Lay:
There is no evidence claimants were ever convicted of any drug-related crime, nor is there any indication the manner in which the currency was bundled was indicative of
drug use or distribution.
Judge Lay has some very interesting things to say about the prison system in the US in the accurately-titled Dissenting Opinions series (along with a case of the missing millions).

Perhaps the courts are trying to help their brethren in the of the Treasury's FinCEN to help guard against evil kiddy-fiddlers, or terrorists, or perhaps drug dealers, or (let's face it) people wanting to keep their deals off the books, in cash, and away from Big Brother's prying eyes...

Why bother with cash-transaction reporting limits? If people don't want to carry around easily-confiscatible cash, then perhaps they'll use more [in]secure methods.

Technology vs The Law

I saw this along Main Rd Rondebosch today.

It seems to refer to this article, but I still nurture strong hopes of a technical solution to the proliferation of lawyers...

[For those not in the know, DNS is Afrikaans for DNA. Check out this edumacational poster]

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Live, Free, or Die [pick two]

(thanks L'Inq)

New Hampshire is going crazy.

First we had the police getting upset with being recorded.

And now we have the State Supreme Court in the capital getting confused as to whether items which have not been declared as contraband can be confiscated...

Dissenting, Justice Linda Dalianis wrote, perceptively, that “the majority does not explain how statutes prohibiting the production, publication, or sale of certain works render possession of such works unlawful.”
Although no-one seems yet to have made the connection yet between such "indefinitions" of possible crime (cp "Pre-crime") and asset forfeiture.

The article opines:
It should go without saying that speculation by a few judges that a crime might have been committed is a frightening basis for taking someone’s property.
but doesn't take the article's conclusion:

If the government can seize and keep a citizen’s property by simply asserting that it is contraband, even when the assertion is unsupported by the facts, then we have entered into dangerous territory.
to its logical conclusion: asset forfeiture (very often here in South Africa) is mostly speculative and should therefore not be allowed.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

70" is enough for anybody

(thanks L'Inq)

70" oughta be enough for anybody? I don't think I've got enough room for this, never mind the sound system you'd need to do it justice.

And yes, it is 1080p.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


This is a user comment from a story on EA's new Portal mini-game - itself based on Narbacular Drop.
hmmm, what do i see?
7h0r4x3 (07/13/2006)

I see this as making lots and lots and lots and lots of lag. I mean lag upon lag upon lag upon lag. Maybe, even some form of lag never even conceived by the human mind before. Maybe, just maybe, lag so bad, you need to reboot your pc twice then clean it, then take out your gfx card and clean it 3 times, then reboot 4 times more. just to get windows to reopen. i mean that is a lot of lag. more than i want.
No-one likes lag. That's more than I want, too!

Ending suffring

(Thanks Wired)

No one likes to hear about human rights abuses, so what better way to contribute than to sign a petition to end women's sufferage suffrage? Right?

South Africa leads the way

First country to independently develop and give up nuclear weapons!
First country to be involved in radiological terrorism!

Yay SA!

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Tech-Support Wisdom of Crowds

Regular readers will know of my distrust of 'The Wisdom of Crowds'.

Now Qunu has created a system to match up users needing tech support with [unaffiliated, unpaid] domain-experts. All this through Jabber-compatible IM clients (and the comment on KoolIM at the end of the list is classic)!

I know that customer support via chat can work well - Ndizani (now defunct) was doing this for Sento for McAfee 5 years ago!

Of course Qunu is adding the Web2.0 goodness!
1) Feedback on the helpfulness of the 'expert'
2) Feedback on the system itself
3) Tagging of subject areas (amusingly the demo pic has "web2.0" as a tag)

As to whether this is all not just an unpaid helpdesk:
Passionate volunteers will provide better and more timely information. They hope.

Plans for providing for-pay matching (i.e. fees for experts) are in the works.

'Sorry celebrities'

(from Yahoo!)
Mr T says seeing the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina has led to a change of dress - not a change of heart: He's getting rid of the bling!

He "saw some, I call it 'sorry celebrities.' They'll go down there and hook up with the people to take a photo-op. I said, 'How disgusting.'"

And "If you're not going down there with a check and a hammer and a nail to help the people, don't go down there."

So he's now got a heart of gold, not a chest-ful.

I pity the hurricane


Impressive demonstration of the power of the network effect...ahem

And these guys have waaaay too many CDs.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Human animation

(thanks to the ever interesting

The leg animation is especially brilliant:

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Spider of Doom

(thanks Daily WTF)

Recipe for Disaster

Acquire the ingredients
1 government website
1 contractor
1 Content Mangement System development contract

Mix in proper order
Allow employees to paste Edit-links into publically accessible pages
Allow the Googlebot to "bypass security" by
---a) not storing cookies
---b) not parsing Javascript
Allow the Googlebot to follow all "Delete Page" hyperlinks

And viola! You have successfully created a delicious disaster.

This goes well with "Find-an-old-backup" [you] pudding for dessert, and a glass of "Blame the Employéé 2005".

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

There is no spoon

(thanks Gizmodo)

Hammacher Schlemmer have a new self-stirring mug.

They do mention re-mixing tea and coffee to prevent sugar from settling out of solution, but more interestingly they mention honey - which is difficult to mix adequately in the first place. Result!

$29.95 for a set of two. That works out to about R220 - not bad! Of course shipping from the USA to South Africa won't be cheap.

And it runs at 3000 rpm!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hooters for Neuters

I realise this isn't the standard subject matter, buy the irony is too compelling.

1) The NY Times (re-printing AP) has an article on a planned bikini contest to raise money for spaying pets.

2) Various people (City controller, councilwoman) complain about degradation of women.

3) The complaining City controller's surname is Chick.

Future numbering plans

(thanks Financial Mail)
The basics
ICASA's future numbering plans include a whole bunch of things - 10 digit dialling, prefix definitions, etc. The prefixes will be:

01x-05xGeographical areas
07xMobile cellular and "future non-geographic services"
08xMobile cellular, paging, inbound call services and future nongeographic services
09To be replaced by 00 for international dialling

Hidden nugget
M-Web has been allocated the 0877 prefix for its VoIP customers. Telkom will not terminate calls on (i.e. won't route to) 0877. International telcos will.

This means you can call an M-Web customer from overseas, but not from next-door.

Perhaps ICASA should determine whether being granted a portion of the limited numberspace should come with the cost of being forced to terminate on other licensees portions/prefixes (as a licence condition)? This is not directly analogous with IPv4 routing, as the only licensing effective is the RIRs selling IP space to whomever wants it (e.g. ARIN's fee schedule).

MNP scheduled for 18 September

The basics
ICASA's statement confirms the multiple delays (although does not mention the suspended fines for missing the December 2005 deadline), and gushes about consumer choice, improved quality of service, and lower prices.

Hidden nugget
Number Portability in practice
We remind all that number portability will also apply to fixed line operators currently Telkom and the SNO and that processes are at an advanced stage to see that through later. Of course their co-operation with regard to mobile number portability is also required, e.g. for call termination on their networks where the number is ported or is in that process.
So there is already involvement of the fixed-line operators. The eventual portability of non-mobile numbers was pretty much a given, but it's nice that ICASA has spelled it out.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Internet2 advances

(PR and details)

Level 3 will be providing circuits for Internet2's next-generation network. The backbone will be 100 Gbps and be upgradeable to 800 Gbps(!) - about 5 mLoC/s.

They expect up to multiple 10 Gbps circuits for [certain] participating academic institutions, with the ability to reserve up to 1 Gbps for an individual user (!) or up to 10 Gbps depending on scheduling issues.

And the "new Internet2 network will provide production IP capabilities and bundled access to the Internet". This is quite a change from the current policy of not allowing commodity IP through Abilene - the current network (there's a rather detailed Cisco paper on complex routing at GigaPoPs). Especially when you consider the AUP (aka Conditions of Use)

"Abilene does not carry traffic originating at or destined for organizations other than Abilene participants."

A. Principles
2.Except as a reasonably unavoidable and very marginal by-product of its core activities, Abilene does not compete intentionally with the commodity Internet or other telecommunications services, which are readily and affordably available from other Internet service providers.
Also, how will the current so-called Network participants in the present Internet2 network connect through Level3-provided circuits without introducing at least some conflict-of-interest?

Still, 800 Gbps!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Advanced dispute resolution

(from Fortune via CNN)

Federal judge Gregory A. Presnell of Orlando, Florida ordered two Tampa attorneys to use a traditional dispute resolution process to decide scheduling for a deposition. The magic method? Rock, paper, scissors, to be played on the steps of the Federal courthouse in Tampa at 4pm on Friday, June 30th, and to be witnessed by a paralegal from each firm.

Being part of case-law, this can now be invoked to settle other minor disputes. Unfortunately, the judge ordered only 'one (1) game of "rock, paper, scissors."', with no mention of what to do in case of a tie.

Perhaps the attorneys could Ro-sham-bo, Cartman-stylee, for the honour of deciding the location of the deposition. Perhaps that method could become federally-mandated, leading to fewer attorneys: less attractive working conditions as well as less family practices...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Buy more sales


eBay's feedback system is intended to help potential buyers and sellers to gauge the likelihood that the transcation will occur with little post-sale trauma (not covering buyer's remorse, of course). A higher rating implies more reliability, less chance of being scammed, etc etc.

Ironically you can now buy a higher rating on eBay itself. This could easily become a positive feedback loop, except that eBay allows only one rating per buyer-seller pair.

But is this really so bad? Or, to put it another way, how is this different from what is already happening? You could just do loads of transactions through eBay and earn the points the good old way. This auction just skips most of the eBay ads and fees.

This reminds me of the short-lived period that a locally well-known mail-order retailer had an outlet right next door to a Bang & Olufsen shop in an upmarket mall. I realised that both shops had similar philosophies - serving a particular price-point in the market with innovative products. It was just the price points that differed. Interestingly the mail-order outlet is still there, while the B&O shop is no longer.

Thanks to The Inquirer for the pointer to the auction

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

M2Z's nationwide 'free' wireless proposal

(from the latest DSL Prime, as usual)

M2Z recently filed a proposal (copy hosted at DSL Prime) with the FCC to provide 'free' (ad-supported) wireless broadband (384 kbps down, 128 kbps up) across the USA. They plan to provide up to 95% coverage as part of the licence condition - so truly a universal product.

M2Z is Milo Medin - who built the @Home cable network, and John Muleta - who was FCC Wireless Bureau Chief. Three rather large VC firms are providing financial muscle and also have reps on the board.

They also claim that this will spur broadband competition, especially as they will sell higher-speed connections on the same network and give 5% of gross profit to US Treasury, also as part of the licence condition.

Also: mandatory (obscenity) filtering for the free/low-speed offering, and free user attachment for public safety agencies (although the filing slips up and mentions law-enforcement agencies directly), with an advanced wireless mesh for their use.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Skype introduces free landline and mobile calls

(in the USA and Canada)

Skype has introduced free SkypeOut calls to traditional landline and mobile phones in the US and Canada. No 911 yet, of course.

Now, consider that we don't even have the option of free local calls, let alone free long-distance calls (or by definition of the PR, international calls, since we'd be calling the USA or Canada)! Gotta love that low interconnect fee!

IS, Storm, et al: Are you listening?!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Google behind the times!

Google recently introduced four new search tools.

I'll only write about the first-mentioned, Google Co-Op, here.

Way back in 2004(!) I wrote two posts, a day apart. At the bottom of both of these posts was a short paragraph explaining the technical requirements and projecting the probable user experience (i.e. the actual user operation).

The posts are archived at the bottom of:
(Selection is Censorship, and Recognizing Blogging Bias)

What Google now needs to do is to streamline the subscription to those sources, as well as allowing transitivity - so I can subscribe to multiple levels of sources (with appropriate damping of relevance as number of links increases). They already use PageRank to iterate through complex networks of links and back-links (of webpages) and settle on a stable representation. That could be used for this "distributed source approval".

And they already have a large database of "approved" internet sites.

Skype offers live translation service

(seen at

Skype will be partnering with Language Line Services to offer live translation on calls from Skype's network.

The Top 10 languages demanded (out of 150 offered) are:
  1. Spanish

  2. Mandarin

  3. Russian

  4. Vietnamese

  5. Korean

  6. Cantonese

  7. Portuguese

  8. Polish

  9. French

  10. Japanese

And it costs $2.99 per minute. Ouch!

Big Brother implementation date

Oops! I forgot to mention that the mobile phone registration dealie should be implemented as of June 1!

Only two more shopping weeks until un-Christmas!

Friday, May 12, 2006

D-Link and The NTP of Death Part Deux

(from an update at Poul-Henning Kamp's site)

"D-Link and Poul-Henning Kamp announced today that they have amicably
resolved their dispute regarding access to Mr. Kamp's
NTP Time Server site. D-Link's existing products will have
authorized access to Mr. Kamp's server, but all new D-Link
products will not use the NTP time server. D-Link is
dedicated to remaining a good corporate and network citizen."

Since the existing products will have authorized access to the server, they're probably buying the bandwidth for him (as part of his original suggestion). And D-Link will presumably not harvest any more Stratum 1 NTP server addresses...

PS This update did occur a while back, I only noticed it now.

RIPE vs route-flap damping

RIPE has issued ripe-378

It suggests that 2 major problems arise from implementation of route-flap damping:

1) Impeded convergence
Basically a ripple effect, caused by the flap penalty with a change in BGP attribute (in this case, a new path to the same AS). The prefix probably has not been withdrawn from the routing table at all, but route-flap damping can be triggered at the 2nd remove - i.e. at the neighbour of the router/AS making the routing change. Not mentioned, but tunable on some implementations, is that attribute changes can incur a lower penalty than straight prefix withdrawals. This could help alleviate local problems, but will start causing inconsistent (and difficult to diagnose) path selection.

2) Transit of updates
Related to the consistency of implementation of RFD: timing of routing updates. Because of differences in the Minimum Route Advertisement Interval (MRAI) Timer (the amount of time a router waits before passing on a route update), as well as differences in paths, multiple updates for the same 'flapping' AS can arrive at a router many hops away and cause multiple updates as the router evaluates the new routes available. This can easily trigger flap damping. There have been actual measurements where this resulted in a single prefix withdrawal producing 41 BGP events a few hops away!

Result: ripe-378 recommends against RFD, citing higher router CPU power as able to cope with flap events without damping.

Yay Stupid Network!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Big Brother's crackdown on crime

FM has an interesting sidebar in the current issue.

All SIM cards and phones that are sold or given away must have a paper trail: a record of the recipient's name and address and a photocopy (old skool!) of the recipient's ID!

Of course, post-paid (i.e. contract) users already have this in place courtesy of their Service Provider taking down their details to ensure payment.

"The measures are part of a security crackdown on the use of cellphones in crime , security officials say"

I wonder what the penalties for non-compliance are? Gareth, David, Herman: I'm talking to you here! You don't have photocopies of my ID and probably don't know my exact address. And I've got your phones! HAHAHAHAHA. I am a criminal genius!

PS Vodacom wants to use an electronic form for their customer registration. Mmmmm...electronic photocopies...

PPS [For extra credit] How many pre-paid cellphone users are there in South Africa?

Cell C number portability

Cell C has a small FAQ on Mobile Number Portability

Interesting points
1) MNP will take effect on 1st July 2006
2) No mention is made of offers to buy subscribers out of current contracts with competing networks. So much for customer acquisition. Maybe Virgin will be more proactive.

At least we don't have some of the crezzy US problems like GSM vs CDMA, BREW vs Java, etc etc

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Analysts suggest that any company with leased telephone-number-space (i.e. currently to be Telkom, the SNO, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, and the upcoming Virgin) will be able to connect to LLU customers and provide PSTN voice service.

Of course any (other) company can provide VoIP service. The crucial differences are:
1) Standard PSTN equipment (handsets & PABXs) vs VoIP equipment
2) ’Cheaper’ termination on PSTN calls (although e.g. IS can terminate on other networks, they don’t get anyone terminating on their network, so they don’t recoup anything as a percentage of calls) – reminds me of partial-settlement network peering
3) Inbound calls from the PSTN via standard dialling – basically the definition of PSTN/leased telephone-number-space

These deficiencies are not endemic to being a VoIP provider. VoIP refers just to the transport method, of course, but is traditionally used to imply an IP connection for the voice equipment too.

And the solutions to the above-listed problems aren’t too difficult (from a technological, if not policy, view):

1)Use Asterisk as a VoIP (service) to PSTN (handset) translating PABX. Comparatively low hardware cost depending on implementation size
2a)Technological solution: Avoid PSTN termination. As more users migrate to VoIP, Metcalfe’s Law comes into effect – more users means more value for users to migrate, which means even more users.
2b)Technological solution 2: Terminate on the cheapest destination interface (‘least-cost-routing v2’ – this pre-supposes ability to determine that multiple interfaces connect to one destination (either a sort of reverse-NAT, or a lookup, e.g. NAPTR) vs traditional hot-potato routing)
2c)Policy solution: Regulate excessive interconnect fees (that 600%!)
3)Acquire alternative numbering. ITU-T should demand that Enum compliance allows the various Carriers to dish out extra space (currently only a maximum of 10% of the number space is usable because of the way that area codes are assigned – 2 digits instead of 3) and that it is routed to by the PSTN. Policy questions will probably block this for a while, until ICASA decides whether to promote competition. Alternatively an international provider could supply globally-visible telephone number space and use NAPTR records to direct SIP sessions.

New Zealand to implement LLU

The Register has an article on New Zealand's desire to leave the bottom third of the log of broadband countries. plans will do this by implementing LLU (local loop unbundling), increasing regulation, and promoting investment in new rival networks (including fibre and wireless).

Go Kiwis!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Number portability and Virgin

Number portability is supposed to be implemented in South Africa from June 30.

The original deadline - December 2005 - has already passed. The fines for missing this deadline (R500,000 per operator) have been waived because of the late passing of the regulations.

Interestingly, Virgin Mobile plans to launch around June - the same timeframe, with the CEO of Virgin Mobile, Sajeed Sacranie, saying:
"We will do everything in our power to mitigate the pain [of moving to Virgin]."
"[Number portability is] a brilliant opportunity for consumers to shake the shackles off."

This suggests Virgin will
1) Buy out contracts to get customers to move to Virgin (the bulk of the expected R750m is to go to euphemistically-termed "customer acquisition programmes")
2) Punt number portability as a way of keeping customers happy (especially those with numbers already kept for years)

Virgin's partnership with Cell C (Cell C's 2nd infrastructure sharing partnership - after their launch partnership with Vodacom) will not stand in Virgin's way of being a direct competitor
(although they are both red? -Al)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I recently was pointed to - a seemingly legitimate site. A quick trip to the lookup-o-matic reveals:

This domain is managed by RegistryWeb Discount Domain Names
PO Box 334,Turramurra,NSW,2074,Australia

and that it was registered on 25th October 2005. (not the rather more famous is also registered to the same P.O. Box, and trawling through old forum posts reveals some phishing fraud attempts (possibly not related to RegistryWeb). So all in all there seems to be something fishy going on - not exactly kosher.

Since the SNO has not chosen a trading name, and the majority shareholder of the (real) SNO is based in India (.in, not .au*), perhaps we should beware this poor imitation. Perhaps it isn't fish I'm smelling, but rather spam.

* Nor .il - considering the kosher comment...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

BT slow to implement LLU

(Some info from The Register)

BT's access service division Openreach, tasked with providing equal access to BT and competitors, is failing to deliver the required backhaul from unbundled exchanges (i.e. where competitors have access to facilities and can install their own equipment to serve customers) to the rival networks.

This means many ISPs have idle equipment - paid for, but not earning anything. And BT, intentionally or not, is the one benefiting. The UK watchdog (OTA) has said that BT's failure is "still unacceptable" and that "this has been an outstanding issue for some time".

Hopefully the South African situation will be a little better. If LLU is mandated, the other telecomms operators will be able to build their own backhaul. Sentech, in particular, should have some advantage in quickly-deployable 'fixed-wireless' links that should help buffer demand. Telkom itself now apparently has a WiMax strategy.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Replacement of the Telecommunications Act imminent

The end of April should see the signing into law of the Electronic Communications Bill, which replaces the Telecommunications Act (and some others) - a month late.

The Financial Mail expect the Department of Communications to issue policy changes that will be wide-ranging and that will have a dramatic effect on competition. Finally. The changes are expected to be:

1)LLU (Local Loop Unbundling). Essential if any ISP is to provide service without going through Telkom's convoluted distribution and billing network. It also would allow the SNO to offer access on those lines without an 'agreement' from Telkom allowing them access.
2)Sentech allowed switched voice. This effectively makes Sentech a competitive telecommunications operator - from a policy viewpoint. This would help mitigate the decision to not license more than one extra operator (i.e. the SNO) as there will effectively be another competitor in the market.
3)Possible declaration of SAT-3/WASC/SAFE as an essential service. Telkom will obviously oppose any such move. Searching for 'STM-1' (i.e. a 155 Mbps connection) on MyBroadband reveals a 6-to-1 price disparity for such a link between other operators on SAT-3 and Telkom. Ghana and Benin have cheaper international access (for large volumes) than South Africa!

D-Link and The NTP of Death

D-Link are not the first vendor to ship a DDoS 'poor NTP implementation' in consumer network hardware: witness Netgear vs University of Wisconsin. And you would think that other vendors have taken appropriate action to prevent a recurrence.

D-Link forgot. I think.

Other people have views that aren't quite so Slashdot-crowd-aligned - viz some NANOG comments about poor network implementations (of course). And some indications that this problem (i.e. D-Link's effective-DDoS on Poul Henning-Kamp) might take quite some time to go away - 6 years or more!

Verizon and AT&T confirm 'net neutrality' at USTA

(from the latest edition of Dave Burstein's excellent DSL Prime)

From the USTA conference:
“If the consumer has purchased three megabits of capacity from us and there is video coming to them, whatever comes from the Internet we will deliver to them without any blocking, degradation, or other interference.” Tom Tauke, Verizon’s VP and D.C. lead, at USTA

“We’ve said very clearly we’re not going to block, effectively or otherwise. We’re not going to degrade,” added Jim Cicconi, his peer at AT&T.

Is this marketing-speak? Dave says he will post tapes of this press conference (I guess I just answered my own question - it is marketing-speak).

But there are some teeth showing at the FCC:
Kevin Martin joined in the battle, reminding the telcos “If you sell 3 megabits, that’s what you should deliver.”
This sounds like one to remember for posterity.