Saturday, July 31, 2004

Mexico Follows Korea

Following South Korea, Mexico has also decided to adopt the US digital TV standard, rather than the European version. Stands to reason in Mexico's case.

Google IPO

If you're not a "US person", then you won't be able to grab shares in the Google IPO. Website about the public offering now seems to be active

Not a very global Google offering....pity

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Re-charging Batteries - Please Stand By

Currently travelling between Birmingham, Cyprus and the Middle East as part of a research project - and a few days rest in between with the family. Weather here in Cyprus is hot, dry and sunny at 34C, instead of the 18C and rain back home. Thunderstorms and even a small tornado in that part of Europe.

In the Middle East, I can only access webmail at the hotel and at 10 Cyprus cents a minute, will suspend this weblog until the 31st July.

If you're vacationing, have a good one too. Safe journeys in these troubled times.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Playing with Google

I have been over to Google labs and enjoyed playing with their beta engines, of which Google Personalized has helped me find more theme related sites than some of the other engines.

Google has been running a series of puzzles to recruit new people to its labs. This past week, a billboard on Highway 101 in Silicon Valley proclaimed

"{ First 10 digit prime in consecutive digits of e }.com"

Roose tried to solved this puzzle at Fog Creek Software

and after writing a little python script to calculate the answer got to:

Check out that site and see what it says. So what is f(5)? f(4) is the number you just found, and f(1), f(2), f(3) are all 10 consecutive digits of e. Their indexes are 1, 5, 23, 99 within e, or maybe 0, 4, 22, 98 depending on how you count.

So what comes after that? Roos looked up here:

There is an entry with 401 as the next number, but it is quite obscure. Not something you would come up with unless you knew about this site (which most people probably don't). Trying e[401..411] as the password did not work, as well as some others.

Others found out the page could be traced back to Google (using Google!). After following all clues you get to a Google Labs recruitment page put up by Googler Doug Edwards:

"Nice work. Well done. Mazel tov. You've made it to Google Labs and we're glad you're here.

That billboard was a big one, so Google must be going well.

More US audio studios working on games

According to a Trendwatch survey, 26 percent of audio recording/mixing studios/facilities in the United States say they do work for games, as do one in five animation studios. Since Trendwatch’s Summer 2003 survey, the number of audio recording/mixing studios doing work for games has jumped 16 percent. Game enthusiasts not only require hot FX, but also demand high-quality surround sound as part of their gaming experience. With the cost of game development now hitting the $15+ million mark, watch for more animation, FX and post houses to be working on game development projects. Major artists, such as Sting, are also recording tracks for first release as part of a games soundtrack. In the meantime, several major NY audio studios have shut shop as the market consolidates.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Forbes Man Shot in Moscow

Chief editor of Forbes magazine Pavel (Paul) Khlebnikov has been killed in Moscow, Interfax has learnt from the capital's main internal affairs directorate. At 2200 Moscow time [1800 UTC] today several pistol shots were fired at Khlebnikov near 16, Ulitsa Dokukina [Dokukin Street]. He received four bullet wounds and died in an ambulance. A group of investigators is working at the scene.

Moscow is getting scary place to work.

South Korea Rejects European Standards

South Korea decided to adopt a technology backed by the United States as its digital television standard, ending a four-year dispute between the government and the broadcasting industry, the Ministry of Information and Communication said Thursday 8th July. So the European's with their DVB standard have lost an important battle. However, it was hardly surprising, bearing in mind the pressure the US has put on the country to be compatible with US markets. And Asia and the US are putting much more money into HDTV production than Europe.

Global Business Freebie

For nearly two decades, Global Business Network has pioneered the evolution and application of scenario thinking primarily for organizations in the private sector, but also those in the public and nonprofit sectors. GBN has trained thousands of people in scenario thinking and has worked with hundreds of organizations, including more than 100 civil society organizations ranging from large national and international associations to much smaller networked groups.

In early 2001, GBN entered into a partnership with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s Organizational Eff ectiveness and Philanthropy Program in order to raise awareness of scenario thinking among nonprofi ts. The free downloadable guide is but one result of that collaboration. Over the past three years, GBN and the Packard Foundation have worked hard to understand the unique strategic and organizational challenges facing nonprofits.

The guide gives an overview of scenario thinking customized for a nonprofit audience. In Europe, I have found Daniel Erasmus of the Digital Thinking Network to be one of the more inspired thinkers in this field - currently working with the Dutch government.

British Forces Broadcasting Documentary

Found a fascinating documentary (made last year in fact) on the history of British forces broadcasting which is the training ground for many of the better British broadcasters. They do some really creative stuff. And now you can listen on line. Interesting to hear that one of the first forces broadcasting was the SEAC, South East Asia Command. The transmitter was in Sri Lanka and if, like me, you visit the transmitter site at EKLA, the photos of Lord Mountbatten are still on the wall.

BFBS 60th anniversary documentary in Real Audio

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

MicroSoft Knowledge Base

Found this nice collection of Microsoft Q-error explanations from Jilly's drive in. Jilly, it seems, is also interesting in international broadcasting, although the recordings are rather historic than contemporary. The Italian problem is so embarrassing they leave you to work out what the problem is.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

CHRYSLER backs out of reality show 'APPRENTICE'

As if to echo the blog yesterday, Ad Age reports Chrysler Group won't be back as the automotive sponsor for the second season of NBC's popular reality show The Apprentice, according to several executives close to the car industry. Although other automakers were approached, none stepped up to the plate to succeed Chrysler because the asking price was too high -- at least $50 million. Over at News Corp's Fox, Ford Motor Corp. said no to a third year as sponsor of a commercial-free premiere of 24.

GM, DaimlerChrysler and Toyota Motor Sales USA were among six leading automakers that spent more in national broadcast network TV in the first quarter vs. a year ago, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. GM's tab rose by only $7 million from a year ago to $215 million, while DaimlerChrysler increased to $103 million from the $74 million it spent in the first quarter of 2003, according to CMR. Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus spent $9 million more.

American Honda Motor Co. cut its presence on the broadcast networks by $8 million to $21 million in the first quarter. Nissan North America's spending dropped by $12 million vs. a year ago, according to CMR. Ford Motor Co. spent $120 million in the first quarter, $4 million less than a year ago.

Ford not only is passing as sole sponsor of 24, it also gave up prominent product placement in the show. But the marketer returns as a sponsor for the network's popular American Idol. Jon Nesvig, Fox president of sales, says the premiere won't be commercial free.

Monday, July 05, 2004

No Demand For Messages

I had the honour of meeting Doc Searls at Supernova. What a great down to earth person he is. Funny and dead serious at the same time. Had a short chat with him about radio and discovered he'd been shortwave radio listening a lot in the past - quoted listening to PJB (callsign for Radio Netherlands on Bonaire) back at me in a flash. I note on Terry Heaton's site a great quote from Doc from the past. In May of 1998, Doc offered a prophecy in the form an essay called, "There is no demand for messages."

The Web is not TV. Repeat after me: the Web is not TV. Excite, Lycos and Yahoo see themselves as the new TV networks. They may have newfangled services, but they make money the old fashioned way: by aggregating scarce access to dumb eyeballs. That model will fail once the Web starts meeting its promises:

1. the need to know; and
2. the need to buy.

In economic terms, these are the only promises made by the Web. Neither of these are met by this year's "portals," last year's "push," or the original notion (circa what, 1995?) that all people really want is to surf through Web sites the way they click through TV channels...the main reason I got out of advertising and PR was this epiphany:


Let me see a show of hands:

Who here wants a message? Right: none.

And who wants to shield themselves from messages they don't want? Exactly: everybody.

TV advertising has negative demand. It subtracts value. The day will come, hopefully soon, when we will measure demand for advertising on a customer-by-customer basis, and not just by its indirect effects on large populations. When that happens, and direct vendor-customer conversations start adding serious value for both parties, that new conversation will disintermediate most media. Companies will drop advertising like a bad packet.

Looks like that time has come

European Book Search

We know Amazon, but if you're looking for books in foreign languages I recommend Eurobuch. Has a great search engine and seems to find the more obscure books I was looking for about radio.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Silly & Serious Films

First time I have been able to write off seeing a cartoon as a business expense. Shrek 2 is worth seeing on the big screen just to see how far animation has come in just a short time. Puts the animation awards right back into the Dreamworks camp. I went to and to Dreamworks in California to see how they do the rendering.....each frame takes between 2 & 4 hours!

Other fun stuff to watch look to be The Anchorman for a bit of "Afternoon delight" - I remember watching TV stations like that (some might argue that in some areas of rural US they never went away). The Corporation is out in Canada, but not in Europe for a while.

I believe many of those local news stations are in trouble, if the predictions in the Hollywood reporter are anything to go by...

CANNES -- The head of the biggest U.S. advertising agency expects to see a staggering decline in spending on network television commercials, even worse than most of the negative expectations for the medium. Bob Jeffrey, the chief executive of J. Walter Thompson -- the largest U.S. ad firm by revenues -- said he expects the share of dollars spent by advertisers on network TV could decline by half over the next five years. "I think companies that now spend 70-80% in network TV, in five years I think you could see it go down to 30-40%," Jeffrey said in an interview last week during the International Advertising Festival in Cannes.

Soundtrack Clip for Shrek is at

Great Demotivator Site

Back in the US last week I couldn't help to notice the motivators on some of the office walls. A great picture, but usually a corporate slogan dreamed up in a cubicle somewhere. Instead, this site rocks with the antidote to the nonsense on the wall. High recommended.

End of Dutch Domestic Public Broadcasting in Sight - The Endless Ether

The Endless Ether is a Dutch language report which has been causing a bit of stir here in Holland, since it links the explosion of new technology, especially fast-broadband, to the demise of public broadcasting in the Netherlands. Reading the report on line, I think some of the predictions are a bit optimistic - In my experience Dutch entrpreneurs are not as good at taking any form of risk as would be needed. But, in general, the writers are definitely on the right lines. The authors are Frank Biesboer, Herbert Blankesteijn and Christian Jongeneel. I am sure it was Herbert who edited out the IT mumbo jumbo and succeeded in explaining modern technology in a very clear way.

(from page 98) :Regulation of the current public broadcasting system is based on scarcity. There are only a few transmitters offering national coverage and locally there is only room for one broadcaster that has to be given space on the cable. Without a transmission licence, you cannot be a "broadcaster".

Once the endless ether is a reality, all this form of regulation becomes out of date and impossible to enforce. The current Dutch media law doesn't even recognise that webradio and videostation exist! And there is no way they will allow themselves to be a regulated by some government ministry. .

So if you speak the language, or want to try, I recommend you download the PDF file

Water Armour for Cars.

Spotted by John Robb on his weblog Global Guerrillas (see list of weblogs on the side)

Norwegian scientists have come up with a smart and cheap way of bullet proofing cars by lining the vehicles with flat tanks which, when filled with water, provide excellent protection against gun attack. Each tank is thin, like a domestic radiator, made from plastic or light metal, and has several energy-absorbing carbon-fibre sheets stacked inside.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Apple Plummets

I am amazed, but not surprised, by the news from Apple Computing which said on Thursday that it will run out of current inventory of its iMac machines before a new model debuts this autumn. It is a major marketing mistake that sent its stock sinking because the company will miss the crucial back-to-school selling season.

The Cupertino, California based computer maker has stopped taking orders for iMacs at its online store, and posted a message on the site that read, “We planned to have our next generation iMac ready by the time the inventory of current iMacs runs out in the next few weeks, but our planning was obviously less than perfect.”

“We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers,” the message concluded.

Apple also acknowledged that the new version of the iMac -- which currently looks like a lamp stand with a flat-panel display instead of a shade -- won't be available for sale until September. The blunder leaves Apple a window of perhaps months without supplies of one of its best-selling products, and means the company will miss out on much of the lucrative back-to-school computer buying season of late summer and early autumn. Schools, universities, and their students are among Apple's most important and loyal markets.

The delay took an immediate toll on the company's stock price. By mid-day Friday, Apple shares had fallen by 4 percent to $30.89 from Thursday's close of $32.30.

Personally, I was disappointed in Jobs' video show at this year's conference. Far too happy-clappy from the audience on what are very expensive monitors. I was an Apple fan for more than 12 years, starting with the Apple IIe and stopping with the Apple Macintosh IIx. It might have been different had I livewd in the US. But Apple Benelux has always been overpriced, over confident and less than helpful if you're operating your Mac in a language other than Dutch. It is a shame but the Apple Evangelist feeling of the old developers fairs in Europe has long since disappeared. In short, on the occasions I have recommended Apple to clients, I have been severely let down by the poor and expensive dealer never again.

Apple should have outsourced its hardware years ago, or at least made sure that others were making similar boxes (remember Franklin?) May be this new little "bump in the road" will make them think again.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Marlon Brando's (Un) Welcome

TV reporter Bryan Frank had this nice shot of Marlon Brando's Doorbell about 4 am GMT today, well before the tributes. Check out his blog

First 3D view of solar eruptions

Using data from the ESA/NASA SOHO observatory, scientists have produced the first three-dimensional views of massive solar eruptions, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). When directed at Earth, CMEs often disrupt radio communications, satellite links and power systems. This new result is critical for a complete understanding of these dramatic phenomena.

CMEs are the most powerful eruptions in the Solar System, with thousands of millions of tonnes of electrified gas being blasted from the Sun's atmosphere into space at millions of kilometres per hour. Researchers believe that CMEs are launched when solar magnetic fields become strained and suddenly 'snap' to a new configuration, like a rubber band that has been twisted to the breaking point.

To fully understand the origin of these powerful blasts and the process that launches them from the Sun, scientists need to see the structure of CMEs in three dimensions. "Views in three dimensions will help us to better predict CME arrival times and impact angles at the Earth," says Dr Thomas Moran of the Catholic University, Washington, USA.

In collaboration with Dr Joseph Davila, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, USA, Moran has analysed two-dimensional images from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) in a new way to yield 3D images.
Their technique is able to reveal the complex and distorted magnetic fields that travel with the CME cloud and sometimes interact with Earth's own magnetic field, pouring tremendous amounts of energy into the space near Earth.

"These magnetic fields are invisible," Moran explains, "but since the CME gas is electrified, it spirals around the magnetic fields, tracing out their shapes." Therefore, a 3D view of the CME electrified gas (called a plasma) gives scientists valuable information on the structure and behaviour of the magnetic fields powering the CME.

Whilst the light emitted by the Sun is not polarised, once it is scattered off electrons in the CME plasma it takes up some polarisation. This means that the electric fields of some of the scattered light are forced to oscillate in certain directions, whereas the electric field in the light emitted by the Sun is free to oscillate in all directions.

Moran and Davila knew that light from CME structures closer to the plane of the Sun (as seen on the LASCO images) had to be more polarised than light from structures farther from that plane. Thus, by computing the ratio of polarised to unpolarised light for each CME structure, they could measure its distance from the plane. This provided the missing third dimension to the LASCO images.

With this technique, the team has confirmed that the structure of CMEs directed towards Earth is an expanding arcade of loops, rather than a bubble or rope-like structure.

Although this technique had been independently developed previously to study relatively static structures in the solar atmosphere during eclipses, this is the first time that it is applied to fast moving CMEs.

Moran and Davila believe that their method will complement data from the upcoming NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) mission, scheduled for launch in February 2006. STEREO will use two widely separated spacecraft to construct 3D views of CMEs by combining images from the different vantage points of the twin spacecraft.


3D Movie here

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Rocket Hobbyists Abandon Countdown

On a recent weekend, Erik Ebert traveled to Nevada's remote Black Rock Desert to shoot a rocket 11,000 feet in the air. But before he could even think about launching, he had to cross his fingers and hope that the motor he had ordered for his rocket would also be there, hand-delivered by the vendor.

That's because, thanks to increased regulation after 9/11, it is more difficult than ever for rocket hobbyists like Ebert to legally store rocket motors -- which often include fuel that is now classified as an explosive -- at home. That often means the motor has to go straight to the launch site in the middle of nowhere.

"To store at a house, you need to get additional storage permission, and for me, since I live in a residential area, it's basically impossible," Ebert said. "You have to get local fire marshal approval. The fire marshal's not going to give you permission to store explosives."

What's more, before Ebert could fire his rocket, he had to go through a six-month permitting process that included fingerprinting, a background check and a visit to his house by a government agent.

To be sure, Ebert is no average rocket hobbyist. He is part of a group of several hundred enthusiasts who trek to the Black Rock Desert three times a year for launching events. On the recent weekend Ebert was there, one member of his group hit 45,000 feet.

Rocketeers up and down the skill-level range are feeling the pinch of post-9/11 regulations promulgated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Today, thousands of people fly model rockets that range in size from about 12 inches to more than 30 feet tall. But since the ATF imposed new rules, some hobbyists have abandoned their pastime, and the next generation of engineers and scientists, some fear, is being driven away. More...