Wednesday, January 31, 2007



Went to a conference in Amsterdam today and was interested to see the posters advertising next year didn't have the month on it. It will be January 2008. Its all about conference equipment and audio for big gigs.
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Bulbs to be Banned

I note from BBC news that a Californian politician is aiming to bring in a law banning the sale of traditional light bulbs in the state by 2012. The new style energy-saving fluorescent lights and LED bulbs would continue to be sold instead.

Because of local offers in the Netherlands, I have replaced most of the halogen spots at home and in the office - the energy consumption is now 25% of what it was. I did try some LED bulbs, but they didn't give enough light output, although they do climb to their brightest faster than the fluorescent ones. They don't work well in the bathroom where you need a lot of light for a short time.

I see California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine plans to introduce legislation this week called the How Many Legislators Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb Act. Bearing in mind 20% of the US electricity consumption goes into lighting, this is a good move. I am surprised that Philips has not been more active in the LED bulbs for domestic consumption. They have made press releases, but not put bulbs in the shops.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Underwhelmed by Vista

Won't be upgrading until I have to. Many drivers for applications I have don't work and the security claims are a challenge to a whole new generation of virus authors. If you have ever been through an OS re-install process, you dread moving platforms. And this is almost like going from XP to Mac. The launch in the Netherlands was toned down considerably from the way XP was launched 5 years ago at a theatre in Bussum.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Niklas Zennstrom at Davos

Loic le Meur has been doing a number of interesting vodcasts from DAVOS in Switzerland. In fact, I saw Niklas Zennstrom in the flesh on a panel last week in Munich (see the Sunday 1600 hrs video session "The Future's Future in the DLD 2007 Video archive) . But because the DLD session was so general about the future, Niklas didn't say as much about Joost (surprisingly pronounced as "juiced" rather than "jo-st". In this DAVOS video cast though, he talks more in depth about the future of TV and how they plan to position Joost. Worth watching.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Just got rid of my (Gas Guzzling) BMW - so it was ironic for me to find a big BMW outside the hotel for a test drive. This one is different through - its runs on liquid hydrogen and is one of a small fleet of test cars being tested in Southern Germany. There was little difference in performance between H2 and ordinary petrol, the main difference being that when on hydrogen, the exhaust gas is simply water vapour. At the moment quite a lot of energy is put in to making the liquid hydrogen. The 5 "gas" stations in Germany have had some special modifications and the insulation on the tank inside the car is so good that a cup of coffee put into such a tank today would still be piping hot in a years' time. Currently, BMW seems to be betting on hydrogen. They're also sponsoring the DLD conference I'm attending at the moment.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nicolas on One Laptop Per Child

I read a great article on the OLPC that Ethan Zuckerman had tried to get published and used it as a briefing before a press conference this morning with Negroponte at the DLD conference ( When we heard figures of 50 million laptops being produced next year, I quizzed him on repair centres and when we would see the first OLPC on e-bay. It seems these laptops are assigned to specific kids and without the "key" the laptop freezes within 48 hours. The whole idea is to make the grey market nonsensical...companies that might steal them would quickly be targeted as having stolen equipment from children.

Negroponte says they will ship 5% to countries that order, to cover the machines that are broken on arrival or breakdown during the lifetime of the machine (nominally 5 years). He couldn't give guarantees that every component has not been made in a sweat-shop (but if they find evidence of this kind of practice they will change suppliers immediately. There will be repair centres as from this year. I think he will keep the first 100 machines and turn them into "the special series", auctioning them off to collectors and putting the money back into development. I have been sceptical in the past- but was impressed by the way Negroponte took the time and trouble to answer questions. He was gracious even though under a lot of pressure from journalists many of whom didn't bother to do their homework. I conclude that they're getting there. It is because Nicolas is in the education business not the laptop manufacturing business. This project is wider than just making laptops.

Esme Vos & Anina

Bumped into two charming women on the train-ride from the airport to downtown Munich. Both are based in Amsterdam and both are very active in technology. Esme is the driving force behind open municipal broadband projects worldwide that are funded or supported by cities and towns, especially those projects that incorporate wireless technologies. These range from downtown hot-zones & city- and county-wide wireless broadband networks, to country-wide deployments.

The last time I saw Anina she was at Les Blogs 2, in which she made considerable publicity for her blog and her modelling work. Having moved from Paris to Amsterdam to persue her modelling career, she's now done a deal with NOKIA and made some amazing photos with the N-series cameras. Check out the site at 360Fashion. I was amazed about what this lady knows about network protocol and production technology.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

DLD Munich - my presumption was wrong

DLD is an annual invitation-only event organized by the Burda group in Munich, a day or so before DAVOS. When I discovered that Burda is a 103-year-old family-owned German company run by a 66-year-old man who is the grandson of the founder, the gut reaction was to dismiss the corporation as a dinosaur. That reaction turns out to be wrong. Burda turns out to be a huge publishing operation. They publish 250 magazines worldwide, many of them being fashion and lifestyle titles. Revenue is around 1.1 billion Euro and around 7000 staff members. Hubert Burda Media is also the largest magazine publisher in Russia and one of the biggest in Eastern Europe and Turkey.

That makes them big enough to organize a pretty impressive party, namely the DLD-Conference in mid January. I think the strategy is brilliant. Why spend money sending people to conferences all over the world to plan your next moves in new media? Instead, throw a 2 day celebration of the future - create scarcity by making it invitation only - and at the same time invite the world's movers and shakers to inspire top managers inside your company. Get Google, BMW, Lufthansa and some venture capitalists to sponsor.

Hubert Burda is quite a character. He bursts into song on stage and peppers conversations with references to classical music and world literature. He has been the driving force behind the company's move Burda into social media, insisting that he will never open a printing plant again. He has insisted that his company's publishers, editors and investment arms concentrate almost exclusively on digital strategies. He sat on the front row of his conference and took an active part for a great part of it. Burda himself worked in a variety of jobs in his family's company until he was appointed editor in chief of the celebrity-oriented magazine Bunte in 1974. I remember that magazine in the school library in the UK - the fashion photos were a great encouragement to learn enough German to find out what they were talking about...certainly better than the exploits of Hans and Gertrude in the school textbook "Deutsches Leben".

Now many publications from Burda are trying to build all sorts of communities. This ranges from a new website which allows women to access sewing patterns which has been put in the public domain to 45,000 subscribers who pay a monthly fee of Euro 4 to have nude photographs of 10 women sent to their mobile telephones each month through the company's links with Playboy. Burda holds the German license to produce Playboy.

It appears that Burda became a convert to digital scanning of photographs in the 1980s when he saw that it eliminated the need for the company's 250-person photo-retouching operation. He built relations with Marc Andreesen, a founder of Netscape Communications, after reading about an early version of the Web browser in 1995.

His conference is certainly a fantastic network opportunity. His staff manages to get a great line up of speakers which don't seem to pop up at other media events - at least not in this grouping.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nokia 9300 firmware blues

So what happens when your Nokia 9300 Communicator keeps freezing? You take it back to the KPN Business Centre in Amsterdam where you got it. There you discover that KPN hasn't updated its database and still thinks you're using a different phone - one which was replaced a year ago. They won't help you. You return home to get the receipt to prove you are who you say you are - guilty until proven innocent at KPN. A day later, it takes 55 minutes to download "the latest firmware" for that phone and another 40 minutes to reset the thing and reload certain applications and specific settings.

The Blackberry function doesn't work any more. KPN Business Centre is clueless - thats a Blackberry problem. No it isn't according to Blackberry. It takes 3 calls to KPN Helpdesk (33 minutes on hold) to discover that the Blackberry client on the phone needs upgrading, from . There I discover that they didn't give me the "latest" firmware upgrade at all...version 6 has been out for a couple of months and solves (apparently) the bugs that are causing the phone to operate v e r y s l o w l y. Oh, and a new (reserve) battery for the Nokia 9300 is a special order because the phone has been discontinued (6 months ago).

In short, trying to get clear answers is Mission Impossible. Why on earth can't users download firmware updates either over the web, or ideally over the network? My next phone is going to have this....and it may not be a NOKIA if they can't get their act together.
While I am ranting...the NOKIA message board is one of the worst in terms of organisation - I use it in class to show people how not to organise discussions. You just see a cloud of frustrated NOKIA users hoping to find answers from other users - no-one from Nokia wandering around the boards to help out. Am I disappointed - you bet. Is Sony Ericsson much better - not in my experience - see the comments further down the blog about the P-800 firmware fiasco. How come these jokers don't take high end phone support seriously? Because customers don't complain.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Joost - goodbye Venice Project

Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis were the brains behind Skype - and having sold it to Ebay are now working on the next project - which today has changed its name from the Venice Project to Joost. They must have been waiting for enough people to have broadband so that the viewers become the network. The problem with current streaming software on the web is that you can quite easily become victim of your own succcess if too many people download video fromyour site - and most streaming software has a limit to the number of concurrent users. In under a year, the Joost website reports, they've grown from a handful of people to more than 150, establishing offices in five countries.

Having been a beta tester for a couple of months, I am amazed at the quality versus bandwidth. Yes, the software downloads about 320MB per hour (as a maximum) and uploads up to 105 MB per hour. Just like Skype, you are not only downloading, but passing on video to others. You do this without noticing....the client sits in the system tray and doesn't appear to slow things down. They say that the number can be as low as 220MB per hour of viewing, though my average is around 290 MB watching full screen.

On the content side, I see Boom Chicago and MTV are on board. Its old stuff, but it is good stuff. And there are some wildlife documentaries on their - animals don't ask for performing rights. I suggest some public broadcasters need to get involved too, especially if they are interested in reaching people below 30 years of age. Wonder if the BBC i-Player will be part of this concept, or evolve into a competitor for the UK market. Channel 4 also is doing more and more on line.
The blog also answers the question why the called it the Venice Project. Nothing to do with canals or beaches. It was the name of the conference room at the hotel they were staying at. The first and main production data-centre in Luxembourg City. These guys are going to get more column inches than Second Life once it gets going.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Great Conversations Peter Jenner on Music

  Had dinner with two very interesting people last night, and watched them perform at 12.30 today. Peter Jenner, on the left, was part of Blackhill Enterprises, which managed Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett's solo career, Marc Bolan, Roy Harper (whose records Jenner also produced), The Edgar Broughton Band and The Clash. Peter currently manages Billy Bragg. He also is chairman of the IMMF and ELMF. he is the recent author of a report called Beyond the Soundbytes. Peter Jenner may be 64 years old - he has fresh outspoken views on the music business, which not only criticize the big labels, but also provide practical solutions as to what needs to happen next. His stories about trying to manage Pink Floyd, as well as the Clash were classic - also showing the hard realities of the music business. Those who survive do because of passion, not because they're going to earn big cash. Peter believes that anyone who signs a world-wide contract with a major label these days is being deluded - they will not be famous, simply controlled.

He was intereviewed by Tapio Korjus (Rockadillo Production Oy, Finland)
Tapio Korius has known Peter Jenner for 30 years and they have worked together on acts like Roy Harper and The Clash. Lately the two managers have been collaborating in IMMF and European Live Music Forum. He too, was full of stories at the dinner table. Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 12, 2007

Snapping Your Fingers

  No, this piece of artwork is supposed to portray "snapping fingers", a link to the entertainment going on inside the building. Easy to make a mistake though. Posted by Picasa

Not what you think

  The little piece of art work outside the Oosterport conference complex is misleading from this angle. Is it a raised middle finger to the world? Posted by Picasa

Noorderslag Panel 2007

 Great to be on a panel this afternoon on the future of radio. This time it is at the excellent Noorderslag Music conference up in Groningen in the North of the Netherlands. After yesterday's terrific storm, it was actually a pleasant 90 minute drive up here this morning. Groningen is a student city and well known as an excellent host for this music festival a Left is George Ergatoudis who is Head of Music for BBC Radio 1. He's busy trying to develop new services for Radio 1, but at the same time wrestling with the music labels who just want to prevent progress. To the right is Gerd Leonhard, Music & Media Futurist, Author and Digital Music Entrepreneur, who gave a truly excellent, updated keynote at Noorderslag this year about why the music industry HAS to change - and why Digital Rights Management has about 7 months left. He also pointed out that whilst many people are using iTunes as their search engine for music, relatively few are buying music from the iTunes store. Less than 20 tracks per iPod have actually be downloaded from Apple...most are sideloaded from (free) MP3 sites. There are now several groups that are totally fed up with the fact that both Apple and Microsoft's Zune wrap their own version of DRM around what is YOUR purchased content. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Happy New Year

  Went to one of the largest New Year borrels in Amsterdam this afternoon, which was jam packed despite a raging gale outside. The venue was the DDMA new year borrel in the Nemo Science Centre near Amsterdam Central Station. I conducted an experiment on this gathering below to see whether such a large crowd would watch a 5 minute video instead of talking through New Year speeches, as is tradition. In the end, I think it worked - the secret being to let the people in the hall do the talking via pre-recorded interviews. Tested out a new set of Mackie active loudspeakers - very pleased with the power and low distortion. Great for these kind of events. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bloggerbot - what's the deal?

Just noticed this little message if you try to upload a photo via Hello to a Blogger site. Funny, cause 8 days into the New Year and it is still working. But what will happen to photos that are already on the Bloggerbot? Will they be scrubbed? Strange that there's no mention of this anywhere - that I can find at least.

Monday, January 08, 2007

HD Radio in BMW 2007 cars - for a price!

The clue in this story is in the last line. The suggested retail price for having a factory installed HD-Radio (an option on all new BMW cars) will be US$500. Doesn't sound like much of a bargain when you compare the prices of satellite options or see how much Microsoft is charging for a HD-DVD option for the X-Box 360 (US$199). You could argue that those buying a BMW don't really care about another 500 bucks...but there are competiting cool options. My prediction.....HD radio will only take off when its a 100 dollar option in mid-priced cars. Posted by Picasa

Ketchup Level Indicator

Oh, and its the first time I have seen a "level" meter on a ketchup bottle. It is designed to warn you before you run out. Cute text. Posted by Picasa

McDonald's Back Door?

  In some countries, limits are being put on the times at which fast food chains can advertise on television. So I wonder if this is "Plan B" by the fast food chains like McDonalds? I just walked into a local supermarket (Albert Heijn) looking for ketchup and found this bottle on special offer. I'm not sure if having my ketchup taste the same as under the golden arches is really a compliment. But it is certainly a way that McDonalds can keep its brand alive in the living room. One door shuts and other opens. Wonder if this a trend for the great folks at trendwatching.comPosted by Picasa

Stay at home CES

The consumer electronics show in Las Vegas is interesting for some...but not for me. Its simply too big and there is so much hype it becomes boring. Just look at the language in the CES press releases about the keynote from Bill Gates.

Las Vegas, Va., January 8, 2007 -

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates electrified the CES stage Sunday night with his tenth keynote appearance. After crowd applauds following Gates' announcement that he will return to deliver the 2008 International CES keynote, more than 4,000 attendees sat spellbound as he shared how the company is delivering on the promise of the "Connected Experience." Windows Vista, which Gates characterized as the most important release of Windows ever, will make it easier, safer and more fun to use the PC and will play a central role in the experience. "

Which planet do these people come from? Gates does not come to mind as the most exciting public speaker at the best of times. But "spellbound?"

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Have Your Say in Video

Got invited to become involved with the technology debate currently going on at this website run by the BBC. They are trialling webcam software from a UK company called All New Video based in Newbury in the UK.

Once loaded in an IE7 browser (doesn't work with Firefox 2.0 yet), you can contribute to the BBC show with a live mike or webcam. You can also record a 1 minute contribution or statement. I thought the insructions on what you had to do by the BBC News 24 presenter were a bit "fierce" for anyone who hasn't done this before, but they are clearly moving along the right lines. Last time I saw something like this was Streampower in Paris, with the great show called "cult". My contribution may be used in today's show at 14 UTC on BBC WS radio, BBC World TV and on-line. Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 05, 2007

MP what?

I have a passing interest in logo design, especially since we are bombarded with logos every second of the waking day. I see the MPEG guys, who brought us MP-3 are now pushing the new logo to push its more modern standard, MPEG-4. So why does the logo have 5 blobs? The logic is lost on me. And if it needs an explanation, it doesn't work as a logo. Oh well, back to work.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Do you do Digital?

I think the current wave of digital radio "ads" on the beeb are well done and get across the concept that digital is no longer very expensive "is that all the presents you have for me?" . Some of the spots briefly made their way onto Youtube, but I see they have now been removed (late Thursday). If it was the BBC who asked them to be taken down, then I don't understand. Viral marketing is vital to any of these technology platforms campaigns. It makes no sense to copyright public information campaigns, especially since it is financed by a compulsory licence fee.

I see that many websites are still referring to audioblogger (adding clips to your blog) as still active. Nope...they're gone. Gap in the market? I don't think so. Posted by Picasa

I agree with these guys at the p2p foundation that the future of distribution is going to involve this kind of technology - basically the consumers become the network. What is great is that many of the development tools are open source. The current p2p traffic on the web is HUGE. This is one of my best bests for 2007. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Early Digital Music

 The world is going full circle. My parents have recently restored a superb musical box which had been severely neglected for many years. Dad remade the case in his magical garage (everything happens in sheds and garages in the UK) and the mechanism itself was restored by Keith Harding. Plays a treat...8 tunes on a single wind. Made around 1890, long before analogue recordings reared their head for around 100 years. Makes a great ringtone. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 2007

Clock Radio, Media Gallery
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.

Hello, thanks for dropping by and may all the dreams and promises for you and family come true in 2007. And let makes it a safe, fun and healthy one too for all of us. Its a blustery, windy night in the Netherlands on New Year's Eve. Hope you're with someone you love at the moment. And, if not, learn to love those you are with :-) (thanks to Zane for that line). See you further down this blog.