Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Stations are now leaving for Indonesia by sea. Should arrive by May 15th in Banda Aceh. Posted by Hello

Antenna mast is on top of the container. Project designer is Marcel Booij of BFN/Radio Netherlands. Fred Vloo took the pictures. The three mobile stations are named after three female members of the Dutch Royal Family. Posted by Hello

Work begins on the seacontainer

after acoustic baffle, carpet and tables have gone in, the presentation studio looks like this... Posted by Hello

Insides are painted and then wood put in... Posted by Hello

Practical response to a Tsunami...

Reconditioned sea containers arrive at the Radio-in-a-box building site in Hilversum. They are used but in excellent condition.  Posted by Hello

On Wednesday, Radio Netherlands will be sending three complete radio stations, each in a converted container that sits on the back of a truck. The 1 kW transmitter will allow local stations devastated by the Tsunami - and subsequent earthquakes - to get back on the air.  Posted by Hello

Monday, March 28, 2005

New Eathquake affects Indonesia - A comment

Not sure a picture of the warning center is the main priority when you are looking for news of a possible Tsunami....or is it just me? Posted by Hello

Heard on the news a few minutes ago that there had been a new earthquake off the coast of Indonesia. BBC World Service went into continuous coverage. It seems ironic that BBC 1 carried an excellent TV documentary on the Christmas Tsunami just last night (Easter Sunday). They interviewed a scientist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach Hawaii. They pointed out that the Indian Ocean was not their area, but that once they realised the scale of the Tsunami they had done their best. Not good enough - according a newspaper in Hawaii (the Advertiser) that reported on Sunday March 13th that the agency which operates the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is being sued by Indian Ocean tsunami survivors and relatives of victims. The suit says the center and other defendants did not do enough to protect people from the December tsunami, which killed as many as 300,000 people.

The lawsuit does not seek damages, but instead asks the court to preserve evidence for the plaintiffs so they can decide whether to pursue damages. NOAA's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center monitors seismic and ocean conditions in the Pacific Basin and issues warnings to member nations. The Ewa Beach center has been criticized for not being more aggressive about warning southern Asian nations after they were alerted to 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia. NOAA officials refused to comment.

All this may be, but I think they need to do something about their website. There was another earthquake today and I turned to them for news (at least a copy of the bulletin they had issued to others?) Nope...just a picture of the monitoring post. Other parts of NOAA issue warnings of geomagentic storms on the web.....but not these NOAA Tsunami guys.

It seems the media did respond this time, especially in Sri Lanka and Thailand. The actual situation on the Indonesian islands close to the epicenter is unknown as I post this. The website you should really check for news is the Tsunami blog (both during and after an event) at http://tsunamihelp.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Do you look like an East European?

East Europeans?

This leaflet, being left around in hotels in Amsterdam, is one of the wierdest brochures in Europe. Apart from the spelling mistakes, I wonder if the Asian tourists know what an "Eastern European" looks like - don't think they mean the "types" in the photographs. Surely it should be beware of anyone asking to see your wallet? And have you tried ringing 0900-8844 and speaking Spanish?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Is Skype Safe?


A Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Tactical Tech, based in Amsterdam has an excellent report on its website into the use of Skype software, what is known about how it works and what the possible threats might be. Here is the conclusion from the report, written by Simson Garfinkel.

With the increased deployment of high-speed (“broadband”) Internet connectivity, a growing number of businesses and individuals are using the Internet for voice telephony. This technique is called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
All telephone systems in the world use a microphone to turn sound waves into an electrical signals and a speaker to turn electrical signals back into sound waves at the other end. But the techniques used for connecting microphones and speakers has seen considerable development over the past one and a quarter centuries. Early systems connected the microphone directly to the speaker using a copper wire. In
the 1970s AT&T deployed the first systems that could transmit multiple phone calls over a single wire by converting each phone call into a stream of digital data. VoIP systems continue this evolution by taking independent digital streams, compressing them, breaking the streams into packets, and sending those packets over the Internet. Naturally, the process is reversed at the receiving end.

With a VoIP system two people can speak with each other by using headsets and microphones connected directly to their computers. Alternatively, a VoIP adapter can be used to convert electrical signals from a standard analog telephone to Internet packets. VoIP gateways interconnect the Internet-based systems with the world-wide Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN). Typically there is a fee for using such
gateways. Companies like Vonage sell consumers a package that includes a VoIP adapter and use of the Vonage VoIP gateway, giving Vonage customers the illusion that they have a standard PSTN telephone ---the only difference being that the Vonage adapter connects to a cable modem or home network, rather
than connecting to a pair of wires that leads back to the telephone company’s central office.

Overall, Skype appears to offer significantly more security than conventional analog or ISDN voice communications, but less security than VoIP systems running over virtual private networks (VPNs). It is likely that the Skype system could be compromised by an exceedingly capable engineer with experience in reverse engineering, or by a suitably-motivated insider.

When using Skype, the following recommendations may be helpful:

1. Make sure that any computer used for Skype is free of all spyware, adware, remote-control programs, worms, and computer viruses. All PCs running the Windows operating system should be equipped with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs.
a. A free anti-virus program is available from http://www.grisoft.com/
b. A free anti-spyware program is available from http://www.lavasoftusa.com/
c. Although there is probably little risk at using Skype to communicate with KaZaA 3.0 users, KaZaA 3.0 should not be used as a substitute for Skype given the potential liability created by the exchange of copyrighted files without the permission of the copyright holder.

2. The username/password combination used for Skype shouldn’t be used for anything else.

3. The username used for Skype shouldn’t be readily identifiable. It should have no relationship to the user’s name, organization or occupation.

4. Both Skype usernames and passwords should be changed on a regular basis if the Skype network is used for any kind of sensitive discussions. Changing usernames makes it harder for an adversary to track the actions of the user. Changing passwords reduces the window during which a compromised password will be useful.

5. Skype users should assume the Skype system could become permanently unavailable at any moment. As a result, they should always have alternative techniques for contacting each other.

6. Do not assume that the person behind a Skype username today is the same person that it was yesterday. Somebody could be sitting down at your associate's computer and using Skype without their permission, or their account may have been hijacked. Always independently verify the identity of a person that you are communicating with if sensitive material is going to be exchanged.

7. Although Skype insists that its voice system cannot transfer a virus, there is no evidence of this claim. In particular, a buffer-overflow in the voice decoder would enable another Skype user to execute commands on any system that the user was in contact with. Furthermore, Skype can be used to transfer files; these files can contain viruses or spyware.

8. Remember, just because Skype is apparently encrypted, the conversation is decrypted at the other end. There is no way to assure that the person you are communicating with is not, themselves, recording the conversation in which you are engaging. Using encrypted communications is no substitute for being careful about what you say.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Dutch Connection Anniversary

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Ton Zijlstra, Elmine Wijnia, and Colby Stuart on the first anniversary of the Dutch Connection just outside the Felix Meritis centre, Amsterdam, March 18th 2005

Creative Capital Congress

Creative Capital Congress
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Closing ceremony at the Creative Capital congress. James Burke (foreground) and I had trouble finding the connection between the Amsterdam Agenda presented to Karien van Gennip, Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs (in the light blue jacket).

Creative Capital Conversations

Creative Capital
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Steven Graham with Manja Dorlandt at the Creative Capital Congress in Amsterdam (March 18th). Steven is based at the University of Durham and gave a fascinating talk entitled: Remediating Cities: the changing city and public digital domain.

Joi Ito in the Amsterdam Podcast Studio

Joi Ito In Colby's Studio
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.
Joichi "Joi" Ito was one of the best speakers at the Creative Capital congress last week. So we invited him to come for an indepth interview as part of a new series of videopodcasts Critical Distance is producing with the Dutch Connection. It is rare to meet someone with some much enthusiasm and passion for the future - and fundamental change in our society. Joi Ito is the founder and CEO of Neoteny, a venture capital firm focused on personal communications and enabling technologies.

Pedestrian's Only...

That big blue pedestrian sign on the back side of the Rijksmuseum is just that...Don't try to go by car from East to West in Amsterdam for the moment.....the main roads in the area are closed for construction of the North-South metro line. Amsterdam is even more of a building site than usual. Posted by Hello


Concertgebouw in the spring sun. Interesting that the Media Commission in the Netherlands wants to know what happened to 250,000 Euro in the accounts of one of the public broadcasters, the AVRO. The chairman of the AVRO board and the Concertgebouw were the same person, until last Saturday.....  Posted by Hello

Netherlands' Youngest News Agency

Novum has a great view out of their windows in the East of Amsterdam. Much better than a car-park in Hilversum. Posted by Hello

Impressed with the facilities at Novum news, not only for making news bulletins for many of the better commercial stations in the Netherlands, but also what they are doing in the mobile phone space. These guys get what is meant by cross media production! Posted by Hello

are for sales at the toilets? Curious to see the sales figures! Posted by Hello

In the cafe is an advert for the t-shirts, which we are told.... Posted by Hello

The Vondelpark is the centre of Amsterdam is a few weeks away from bursting into green....had lunch in one of the cafes there and was amazed... Posted by Hello

Spring is bursting out all over the place...even in the garden, just South of Amsterdam. Posted by Hello

Monday, March 21, 2005

Steps in the Right Direction

Creative Capital Congress
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks.

I am positive about last Thursday and Friday. 300 people from 20 countries gathered in the heart of Amsterdam to discuss issues that govern the future “creative capital” of this country – and indeed the whole of Western Europe. In 2015, India will have more than three times more qualified scientists (60 million) than the ENTIRE Dutch population (currently 16 million). And that knowledge will cost 10th of the price than can be found in Europe.

So is Europe, and the Netherlands in particular, destined to become the retirement home for the world, with frequent visits from Chinese tourists curious about empires of the past? A few people are waking up to the fact that something must be done if that future scenario is not going to become a reality. Already, too many intellectuals are leaving the Netherlands (both foreigners and Dutch nationals), with 2004 having the largest emigration figure (40,000) since the 2nd World War. There are more than 300,000 empty workspaces in the Amsterdam area – the IT ‘Silicon Polder” area near the Amsterdam football stadium arena is a wasteland of empty offices.

A Different Future

In good times, Amsterdam had a “West Coast” feel, just like the US West Coast. Inspiration, both creative and technological, came from a salad bowl construction…people from all kinds of background bumping into each other in the inspiring surroundings of the canals and houseboats of central Amsterdam. There was a buzz, a feeling that cool things were happening, that anything was possible and there were incentives to get things done.

Like a knife, the blade in Amsterdam has dulled. Routine has set in – as well as the Dutch desire to organize and regulate. With the routine, “norms” have been set which celebrate mediocrity, rather than reward the outstanding. Success is not celebrated, it is frowned upon. And rather than get stuck in this celebration of mediocrity, younger Dutch professionals are getting the hell out of the country.

That’s a hell of a shame.

The conference in Felix Meritus last week was the first time I have seen creatives, business people, academics and government get together to discuss the issues in a broader forum. I thought the mayor of Amsterdam. Job Cohen, set the right tone for the meeting, speaking about what Amsterdam needs to succeed – infrastructure, tolerance and an ability to act as a catalyst for new ideas.

Members of the newly formed Dutch Connection got the chance to interview and debate with the keynote speakers.Stephen Graham, Pekka Himanen, Joichi Ito, Charles Landry Charles Leadbeater Geoff Mulgan. They showed that the leaders of the future are coaches for society, operating on a sharing model rather than shouting and spin doctoring. I am currently shaping those video interviews into a new series of video podcasts to be released soon.

So what needs to happen?

Amsterdam needs to stimulate a much better mix of ideas between academics, business and public institutions. Ultimately, the creative spaces need to be everywhere in the nationals capital. But to start with some centres of excellence need to get cracking on some innovative projects. I see some seeds already starting to germinate. They need to be nurtured and their growth stimulated. They will flourish by being seen as centres of excellence, providing they remain inclusive to society, not exclusive. The seeds of success will be killed off by mediocrity and “stichtingization”. They will benefit from “think global, act local”. I’m optimistic. I think that after this dark period of Dutch indecision, it could be that a tipping point has been reached.

Two national politicians also gave speeches: Judith van Kranendonk (Director-General Culture and Media, Netherlands Ministry of Education, Science and Culture) and Karien van Gennip, State Secretary of Economic Affairs. Both their speechwriters should get the award for missing a great opportunity to show that politicians are listening to all “creatives” in society. May be they had good intentions. But because they didn’t stick around for anything more than their speeches, both politicians missed the opportunity to bust the clich├ęs as “only politicians”. Looking at the body language of the audience during the speech by Karien van Gennip at the end of the conference, there was a mixture of sadness and anger…what did this have to do with what they had been discussing the last few days?

Tangible Results?

The aim of the conference was to come up with an agenda for the Dutch government. It has to answer the question – what does Dutch society need in place in order to be creative. This agenda published on Friday consists of several elements on the concept of creative cities, creative economies, and creative commons. But there are some things missing from the discussion. I’m going to post my suggestions later this week. For now, the document is too much of a glossary and not enough of a working agenda. But once again – I am positive about these first steps.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

What in the world is the BBC saying?

Still a World Service?

Can you imagine an announcement printed in the Times of London warning readers that the number of pages in the newspaper were to be reduced because there are fewer readers of the printed page?

Of course not. But BBC World Service seems to have a strange policy of announcing its gradual wind-down of analogue shortwave broadcasts. In 2001, former Director of the BBC World Service, Mark Byford, got into a needless discussion/scrap with shortwave listeners because BBCWS announced the closedown of their English broadcasts on shortwave to North America. When the time came, they just pulled the plug...talk about a build up to nothing. Had they simply reduced the number of frequencies beamed in that direction, few people (in theory) would have noticed. But to publicize it in such a way was simply a PR disaster. Now they are at it again....

If you check the BBC World Service schedules website it says

From March 27 2005 there will be adjustments to the BBC World Service shortwave provisions to reflect global changes in audiences' use of short wave. The number of hours broadcast on short wave in English, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese for South America will be reduced.

What on earth does that garbled syntax mean? Is Arabic really going to South America? Doesn't it totally contradict other recent statements by BBC Managers that they have a strong committment to shortwave, albeit a digital shortwave future - DRM? So it is a logical shift to digital - not a closedown - they should be talking about. Or come clean and say that their policy is a network of FM stations in capital cities, with Internet as a fill-in and shortwave as a last resort.

Disastrous Websites

I think there should be golden raspberry awards here in Europe for websites that just waste you time.

My nominations are:

- Adobe Netherlands. Doesn't recognise the format of a Dutch VAT number and gives the error message : java.lang.NullPointerException. Brilliant. So forget the upgrade to Adobe 7, I'll stick with Adobe 6.

- Sony. Each department in Sony, (VAIO, Cybershot, Phones) has its own customer department, website, URL - and the product has its own unique power supply. No wonder their consumer division is just that - divided! Wake up lads, this mess in Europe has been going on for YEARS!

- British Airways! Ever tried to book a ticket from London to anywhere? You go through the whole system to be told you can only pay with a UK credit card. Thanks for wasting my time.

It is no wonder that on-line sales are still only a fraction of those in the real world! These PR people have never used their own system.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

DRM will be in higher frequencies too

It seems that in Paris (despite complete public transport strikes) the members of the Digital Radio Mondiale consortium voted today to begin the
process of extending the DRM on-air system into the broadcasting bands up to 120 MHz. This means that it is no longer the cases that DRM will replace AM, and DAB the analogue FM portion. For some countries, where DAB is not the best option, the DRM system may be the system of choice. Looks like the two forums, World DAB and DRM wil work together on relevant solutiuons...which could well be mix and match. But this is a crucial year for DRM....we need receivers as well as a standard - and it also has to be part of the technology in mobile phones.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Long Tail Spin

 Posted by Hello

Colby Stuart suggested I read the blog by Wired editor, Chris Anderson. He wrote The Long Tail, an excellent article which first appeared in Wired in October 2004 and will become a book, published by Hyperion, in early 2006.(the Wikipedia entry on the Long Tail does an excellent job of expanding on this)

Chris argues that all media is getting Long Tailed at breathtaking speed these days. Music, TV, film, news and even advertising are being transformed by an explosion of variety and availability as the traditional bottlenecks of distribution fall. This month in Wired they focused on radio, where the combination of satellite, streaming, digital broadcast, radio TiVo, and podcasting is doing the same.

The features in the package--Wonkette on Howard Stern in space, Annalee Newitz on i-podder Adam Curry, and Charles Mann on How Sex Pistol Steve Jones is reinventing indie radio--inside Clear Channel are online, but the cool sidebars on sat radio, HD, radio TiVo, and how to podcast are not, so pick up a copy and check em out.

To whet your appetite, here's a list of ten reasons why traditional radio is hosed.

Friday, March 04, 2005

BBC World Service Should Axe Certain Foreign Language Radio Service in favour of new ventures

BBC Prague - how much longer? Posted by Hello

The new UK Green Paper on broadcasting is not just about the domestic services. There are some important points in it about the current mission of BBC World Service radio. Whilst there is no doubt that BBC WS is doing pioneering work in English to put British views and values on the global map, many of the other language services are lost in a time warp. They were started during the second world war and seem to have found ways of surviving ever since. A few years back, BBC WS thankfully cut the Radio 648 service to Europe, which was a tri-lingual rag bag in English, German and French....in fact it was the same stuff in all three languages, but it sounded impressive to people who were monolingual. The improved European coverage in English remains a vast improvement....in fact it is worthy of airing on Radio 4.

But the Green Paper hints that there is little justification for many of the language services the BBC STILL runs to Eastern Europe and which are hogging many of the FM frequencies. Take Prague, for instance, where BBC Prague is putting together 5 hours of Czech language material in Prague. Is this really needed now that the Czech Republic is a part of the EU? If so, will Czech radio ever be given equal access to the UK airwaves on FM or perhaps DAB....no way of course. So what might look like a good idea on paper, is starting to look like Empire building in the wrong direction. And BBC World Service still hasn't found the cash for a desperately needed Arabic language TV service.

Time for the BBC to celebrate 60 years of broadcasting to many parts of Eastern Europe and retire. There are other areas where it could have far more of an impact.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

World's First Podcast Consultant

I am going to step forward to the plate on this one. Cheeky? Yes. But someone has to.

Much of what we're seeing, content wise, in podcasting reminds me of the documentaries I made about pirate radio in the 1980's. Only a few broadcasters on land-based pirates stood out because they made new, energetic programmes (Laser 558 made UK radio sound a lot smoother than from BBC Radio 1).

So now I am adding podcasting consultancy to the list of things I do. I am happy to help those podcasters who want to sound professional, with a proper critique on the style needed for a better, more engaging podcast. We could start by putting a limit on the length of the shows. 20 minutes is great, 40 minutes is super specialist....an hour means you don't respect the listener or you are hoping to reach people with nothing to do in their own lives.

In short, podcasting has already matured enough to need some shaping. For when the hype dies down, only the engaging will survive - and make money. And, I am pleased to say, I already have clients. May be I should call it Podcast Insultant? - in the nicest possible way

Beat the FCC Flag

The Electronic Frontier Foundation just published its “HD PVR Cookbook” online to educate consumers on how to build their own HD personal video recorder that’s impervious to the FCC’s broadcast flag technology mandate.

The step-by-step guide is intended to prevent rules which go into effect July 1 2005 from interfering with “making perfectly legitimate personal copies of broadcasts,” according to an EFF press statement.

The group is encouraging consumers to hold “Build-ins” where people can gather to build their own broadcast-flag resistant PVRs.

This is another example of broadcast media shooting itself in the foot. With the dropping numbers of people watching TV, they need all the help they can get in keeping viewer numbers up.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Snowing hard outside. Time for a snowball fight with my youngest daughter Vivian! She won...I'm drenched. Back to work :-) Posted by Hello

A Great In Business

Peter Jay

Peter Day is a brilliant broadcaster and his show In Business on Radio 4 is a must listen (live or download). The page is difficult to find from the main Radio 4 site, so click on this link

Really enjoyed Peter's interview with Joe Kraus in the last in the present series of In Business. Joe was only 24 when he turned himself into a paper millionaire as one of the founders of an Internet search engine called Excite, in Silicon Valley, California. Within four years the business, grown to a corporation worth more than $6billion, had crashed and burnt as the dot com bubble burst. In this programme he tells Peter Day what he's learnt about the experience, the rise of that other search engine called Google, and his new business, helping companies create so-called "Wiki" sites that anyone can edit. It's a new company called JotSpot in Palo Alto, California. I am one of their beta testers. Their wiki is a lot friendlier than the one running Wikipedia, but their business model is to host the content in Palo Alto. I'm waiting for a stand-alone version though....want to keep control over valuable content