This is just a test post from my new Blackberry toy. They say I’ll be addicted to it. But wasn’t I addicted to email already?

Neutral Networkity

An interesting debate has emerged in the United States regarding the concept of “network neutrality.” This is the idea that Internet networks should not discriminate based on content. The debate involves lots of rhetoric and a lack of clarity on the economics of the situation. A regular reader provoked me into thinking about this issue and there is nothing like to demand to generate supply. And so supply I shall.

Continue reading “Neutral Networkity”

Not even on Frontline

We have been re-watching Frontline on DVD these last few weeks [highly recommended by the way] but not even there could you have seen or imagined anything like this clip on youtube.

The best way to watch it is just to watch it first and then 30 or so seconds in take a look at the description. You will be stunned but not as stunned as the guy being interviewed.

The regional demand for ideas

Today, Google launched a beta version of Google Trends. You can put in a keyword and if it is popular enough, then you can see how its popularity changes over time, the impact of certain news events and the regional distribution of searches.

I can see already that we are going to enjoy this one. For instance, type “game theory” and it appears that most activity is coming from Bangalore, India. Note that by activity, it is the share of searches in a location devoted to the keyword. So it is not the absolute number of searches. Here are some other interesting ones:

  • “Download television”: Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane are all in the Top 5 (No.1 is Delhi)
  • “Auctions”: Sydney, Adelaide and Auckland are all in the top 5
  • “Survivor”: Sydney is in the top 5 but all the rest are Canadian
  • “Battlestar Galactica”: Perth and Brisbane are in the top 5
  • “Star Wars”: Australia is the top region
  • “Melbourne Business School”: Melbourne is number 1 but the next three are all in India before we get to Sydney.
  • “AGSM”: now this is interesting the two top cities (by a long long way) are both in Italy (Verona and Padova) followed by Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
  • “MBA”: all of the top searchers are from India (by a long way).

This has got to be a good instrument for some regression somewhere.

Finally! Sticky Measuring Tape

I am not in the habit of simply pointing out links but this one for sticky measuring tape is worthy of the widest dissemination.

Do they have one in centimetres?

Standing room only

We have it for buses, trains and ferries, why not airplanes? According to reports today, Airbus has been advocating the use of standing passengers to increase passenger numbers on planes. Hey, we all know that with the way seats have gone there isn’t much comfort there anyway and for airlines it saves the cost of carrying around all those heavy seats.

Here is the relevant bit:

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none has agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to seating experts who have seen a proposal.

Well that is one way to drive business class sales. It is also unclear whether there would be any real loss in safety. And for families, well my kids want to wander around the plane anyway. I am happy not to pay for a seat there.

Of course, the big move here is to take more account of the third dimension of space. On long-haul flights, the preferred way to be put is not seat, certainly not standing, by flat and horizontal. It always occurred to me (and given my lack of sleep on planes I have spend some time thinking about this) that by laying everyone down we could have everyone lying down in three rows vertically as well as horizontally. The idea would be a bit like those Japanese capsule hotels. So the move to consider standing seems to me to be a move in the right direction.

But another question occurred to me while reading today’s accounts: why do people sit on the space shuttle? After all, if there was ever a time that sitting didn’t matter and being strapped in standing was a good idea, isn’t it for Earth orbit space travel? If we are lifting payloads at $x’000 per kilogram, let’s save on those seats. Let’s face it, they are gravity-specific furnishings.

[Thanks to Scott Stern for pointing this news out].

But is it really a Mac?

News today that Apple will be providing what hackers have already been able to do: to run Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac.

While techies may like the challenge of getting computers to do new things, I think we really need to deal here with a more important existential issue: is an Apple-manufactured computer running Windows really a Mac?

To put this in context, some years ago I was a devoted Mac user at work. My last Mac had an Intel Pentium chip inside it that I could switch to and boot with the flick of a function key. The idea for me would be that I could have the best of both worlds.

However, it proved not to be. Switching between them was onerous and in the end it convinced me that most of the applications that I used for work were Windows-based. I left the Mac behind.

At home, however, this is all a different story. A Mac sits prominently in the kitchen area and is never used for word processing, power point or spreadsheets. It is all web surfing, movie editing, our stereo and of course blogging.

My point is that if it had Windows XP, it would be of less value for those things. It is the software that maketh the Mac.

Noise pollution in the air

In today’s Financial Times, Jagdish Bhagwati (Columbia University) advocates dealing with the threat of mobile phones on flights. He likens the harm — to one’s mental state at least — as equivalent to smoking (remember that). Bhagwati argues that planes should have special booths that callers would go to to prevent noise pollution.

Interestingly, in many long haul flights phone calls have been an open for a long-time. They just cost a fortune and people don’t use them. It seems to me also that what is a problem for non-callers is a problem for callers; it is hard to hear on flights. Mobiles used for non-voice communication would alleviate all of this and that seems like something worth encouraging.

In any event, if mobiles were available on flights what might one do. It is fun to speculate on this. For instance, consider the following. Provide each passenger with a certain right to make calls — say for no more than 15 minutes. To make a call, they give their coupon to a flight attendant and then go for it. This will limit the total amount of noise pollution.

Then you can make those coupons tradeable. If you want to make more calls you are allowed to purchase coupons from your row — up to two seats either side. Then if your neighbour doesn’t mind the noise you will be able to find a price to trade. If they do, then your right is gone and that is that. This might generate a little more efficiency than Bhagwati’s proposal. Of course, it could also make the plane into a trading pit.

Actually, we could also allow passengers to pre-purchase a coupon up to a certain amount. Then if you want to limit noise in your row, don’t purchase one. But if you want to see if you can make a little dough, do so.

Where is the Power?

The Economist this weeks reports on Gillette’s five bladed razor and demonstates that if you graph number of blades against time you get a hyperbolic curve. This is a steeper version of the Power Curve (famously applied to microchips).

The D-Generation famously speculated about a 16 bladed razor many years ago. From the Chaser:

The first blade distracts the hair, while the second and third blades sneak up behind it, cutting off any escape routes. The fourth and fifth blades attempt to coax the hair from its hiding place using modern modern counselling techniques while the sixth blade, posing as a passing motorist, acts as a decoy, allowing the seventh and eighth blades to swoop down and quickly overpower the hair. The ninth blade, disguised as a postman, administers a small dose of chloroform, allowing blades 10 through 13 to remove the hair and escort it away for further questioning. The 14th blade informs the hair of its rights. The 15th blade handles the paperwork and the 16th blade, well, it’s just along for the ride.

It was quite a sight to see if I recall.

If the hyperbolic path holds, we will see it, in actuality, around 2012. If course, what might actually occur is more like the S-curve where the blade-rate falls off at some ‘natural’ limit. The problem, as you can see, is no one can predict that limit.

PlayStation 3 to ship region free!

From Engadget comes news that the PlayStation 3 will ship region free. This is a very significant move as Sony has long been resisting such moves. It signals the game and DVD region coding may finally be coming to an end.

The interesting question is: why now? Region coding allows Sony to price discriminate. Of course, there are currently work arounds. For games, in Australia, it is legal to modify consoles to play games from any region. A few weeks back, a committee of the House of Representatives endorsed those opportunities even if they pose piracy risks (see my earlier post on this). Thus, Sony’s move would shut this down along with piracy risks associated with current practices.

But the other side of the coin is that, when it comes down to it, the price differentials that Sony might want are not that much different from the shipping and transaction costs associated with international purchases of games. Thus, Sony can utilise price discrimination to some degree anyway. This move will constrain them but perhaps they were already constrained.

Anyhow, the news today aside, it will be interesting to see how this all really pans out once PlayStation 3 is launched.

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