“Do you need up to $1,300 today?” I was recently asked. Except for perhaps Mark Zuckerberg, who doesn’t?
Unfortunately this question wasn’t asked by a friend; rather, it came to me in a spam text on my cellphone.
The offer was for a “payday loan,” a type of high-interest cash advance that many states have banned. And that wasn’t the only thing about the message that was questionable from a legal perspective.
Spam text messages, like spam emails, are illegal to send to consumers who haven’t actually asked for them. Under the federal Can-Spam Act, companies must follow certain guidelines when sending bulk commercial electronic messages, whether they’re emails or texts.
In January, CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association, wrote to the Federal Communications Commission complaining about a recent onslaught of political spam texts, from both major parties. And following the links in some spam texts can ensnare you in scam subscriptions that show up on your phone bill, or even infect your phone with malicious software.
Spam text messages are easy for businesses and charlatans to generate. They’re not tapped out by individuals using mobile phones, but often come from computers, using programs that send out texts to every conceivable telephone number, automatically.
Easy instructions for the major carriers at the link.
The Justice Department is blocking AT&T’s $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA, saying the acquisition of the No. 4 wireless carrier in the country by No. 2 AT&T would reduce competition and raise prices. That’s according to a person familiar with the matter.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement wasn’t announced yet.
The deal has faced tough opposition from consumer groups and No. 3 carrier Sprint since it was announced in March.
AT&T could challenge the Justice Department’s action in court.
More at Bloomberg, Antitrust complaint filed
More at the Justice Department
Cloud vs Physical: Moore’s law says that physical will win in the end.
“We’re not fighting the cloud, we’re just finding a way to meet in the middle and integrate.”
That’s the attitude of Brian Mastenbrook, CTO of Wearable Inc. based out of the Chicago suburbs. His company offers a product called AirStash, a sort of pocketable network-attached storage (NAS) system that takes an SD card and then broadcasts its contents over WiFi for use with any platform. It’s targeted particularly at iOS devices.
The AirStash itself is about two-thirds the size of an iPhone (or slightly smaller than a MiFi), but its real strengths are its software offerings. Wearable has written its own operating system for the device, along with compatible iOS apps and Web apps for non-iOS platforms.
The company has just announced an SDK so that other iOS developers can integrate AirStash support into their apps. Mastenbrook made his first trek out to WWDC in San Francisco this year in order to spread the word about the new offering, and we sat down to chat with him about AirStash, where it’s going, and how Apple’s latest announcements might affect the product.
During the Clinton years, the agency imposed limits on how much spectrum any one company could hold. But those were eliminated by the Bush administration—and the issue has remained a partisan sore spot ever since.
(Full disclosure: Until last summer, I was chief counsel and senior policy adviser to the current chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski, and before that, I was an adviser to Commissioner Michael J. Copps.)
Democrats have typically argued that no one company should control more than one-third of existing mobile spectrum, to ensure the existence of at least three competitors.
Republicans maintain that spectrum ought to be allocated through open markets—if a company has succeeded in attracting customers and cash flow, it deserves access to the spectrum necessary to serve them.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, because (1) wireless is the growth engine of all of tech and telecom right now and (2) wireless carriers are rolling out next-generation 4G technologies, which will offer speeds several times faster than what are available today.
Last post we talked about home medical sensors, and how they could easily become available for use with apps tied to a PC, IPOD, or other computing device in your home. I mentioned disposable pulse oximetry leads, thermometers, and BP cuffs, but those are not the only sensors that have become inexpensive.
Sensors are becoming easier to embed on a single chip through nanotechnology and the outcome is smaller and cheaper sensors everywhere. My camera uses an imaging sensor that’s more capable than the first one that went up in Hubble — it costs less than a thousand dollars for the sensor, camera body and application and two lenses. You can now get webcams for your PC that are cheaper than fifty dollars yet they are much more capable than studio television cameras costing tens of thousands of dollars from a few decades ago.
Bundle the ability to package an application and a sensor on small chip with the ability to wirelessly network it and you can see where this is going for home networks and the potential to have your devices constantly talking to each other. One example of this is the “Eyefi” SDHC chip for cameras. Right now these cost under $50.00 and you can expect that price to drop further over the next five years.
Now, what about a refrigerator that can talk to your computer or your phone wirelessly? What if it could also read every RFID strip on every container in your kitchen to give you an inventory while you are looking up that recipe? Why doesn’t your thermostat, water heater, furnace, and oven talk to your home computer? What could you do if they did? How about a rooftop wireless weather station? Why shouldn’t your home computer be able to interrogate your car’s computer for tire pressure or stream tunes, maps, or directions into it’s memory?
Wouldn’t you like an infrared and motion sensor array around your home that could stop motion record what’s going on through inexpensive cameras when things are detected, further shouldn’t your home security array recognize your face, and voice, and retina? Shouldn’t your outdoor camera recognize you and your car and open your garage door when you drive up? Shouldn’t there be a Kinect type sensor array in every room so you can issue gestural commands anywhere?
The possibilities are nearly endless, and we are soon crossing the horizon where much of this becomes cheap and easy to do. It’s a matter now of setting some standards and making your personal computer into a home server (since your phone by now is becoming your personal computer) and turning your wireless router into a plug and play wireless communications hub. Yes, I know that home wireless routers are supposed to be that now, but they are too difficult and insecure for the average user. When my 70 year old dad can easily connect any wireless device, from phone, to IPOD, to camera then we will be there, machines will recognize you, your gestures, and will be able to chatter with each other about you.
Predicting a technology’s future is problematic due to competing technologies, converging technologies, trailing standards bodies, and occasionally poor legislation — and those are just the minor factors. The major factors are the multitude of gaps between new technologies, some unseen as of yet. Predicting how humans will creatively bridge these gaps and which methods will then become predominant can’t be done with reliability.
Primal Nerd RageThese holes and valleys in our technology are where many will profit in coming years since people are going demand they be bridged one way or another, sooner or later in this coming decade. If we talk about them a bit it could be sooner. If we talk about them a lot, then the economy could turn around very quickly for each of these verges or gaps is a goldmine for willing entrepreneurs. Nerds rage against these gaps — nerds get frustrated when they think things like “Why can’t I stream my latest Itunes songlist direct to my Car and phone for my next trip? Why must I either get an Ipod adapter, or burn a CD to get them to my car? Why can’t my phone play my Itunes songs period?” After stewing around the past decade lots of little things like this have been bubbling around and stirring rage in nerd town, and I can tell you right now that they’ve had it with limits…
Jonathan Zittrain worries that the future will close down a bit, moving from the generative fabric of the open PC to the closed proprietary devices and walled garden appliances such as Ipods and wireless phones. I think there is weight to what Jonathan says, since at minimum there’s desire from “Big Content” to keep things captive in their walled gardens. It’s important to look at potential futures across all of these gaps - and how open or closed things will be. Will they be a blend of closed and open? Which are most likely to succeed very long term? Those are subjects for the coming year here, and I’ll be examining all in future posts here since I’m changing this to a pure tech/science blog after having moved my political blogging over to Little Green Footballs pages.
Below are some of the questions leading to potentially bright or dim futures I’ll be covering this coming year just because it’s past time for new things in all of these areas:
Wireless in the home - there are all sorts of wireless gadgets and tech out there, but none of them really intermix and play well together. I can get proprietary devices that work over wireless G, N, or bluetooth, and I can get wireless home phones in the DECT 6.0 spectrum, I can get infra-red remotes for TV’s, Ipod docks, and picture frames, and I can get bluetooth keyboards, mice and headsets. There are wireless chips for my camera, and my printer does wireless networking. There isn’t an aggregated control interface or API manager for these devices however on home PC’s and wireless routers. Should there be a standard that braids all of these multiple modes into a single home wireless space that’s transparent to consumers? Should wireless hubs be plug and play, if so what’s best strategy to secure them?
The verge here is between devices and I/O — each device is creating their own I/O button pad, keyboard, display, etc. atm, but with wireless networking and the concept of flexible pixel, printer, game, and audio space wouldn’t it be better if that weather station or remote camera could interface wirelessly with your flat panel in any room? Why can’t your keyboard and mouse downstairs direct your doorway cam upstairs, or your laptop, or your bedroom TV?
What about video cams? Sensor chips for them have dramatically dropped in price while increasing in capability - you can get video cams, panels, projectors, and software enough to outdo any television studio from ten years ago for under 20K — what changes will that drive? Telepresence, video conferencing? Will there be a green room booth with a changeable backdrop for phone calls in some offices or homes, or will most walls be fully dedicated to pixelspace in 20 years? Will custom designers create your perfect avatar based on your enhanced body and face so you can answer the video phone while you are unshaven or having a bad hair day with a near perfect appearance and mimicry of your actual features while you talk?
Streaming media vs Proprietary channels vs on Demand - is it past time to tear down cable tiers and broadcast times for shows?
Physical media: How much longer will the DVD in whatever form live? Will it be SDRAM chips that replace them, or will it be purely streams?
Sensors: when will there be universal API and xHTML style outputs for all of them - from weather devices to cameras to motion sensors to thermostats?
What’s the future of I/O channels and human computer command systems? The obvious thing driving the question is Kinect, but what other verges need better crossing for command and control systems within your office, home, car, town, or city? Will there be facial recognition systems that replace the need for password security? Will voice recognition and gestures replace mouse and keyboard? Will every room have it’s own gesture and facial recognition sensors, wifi I/O and infra red command blaster? Where are our WALDOs?
Home PC / Home Server / Home OS — with all of this happening, shouldn’t your “personal computer” or “PC” really be an HC? Should it be a personal computer, or should it be a home computer/server/controller? Further, will HC’s or Home Computers need some pseudo AI like that featured in the Ray Bradbury story “There Will Come Soft Rains”? Are you nerd enough that you cried when that house died?
One last thing while we are speculating wildly : where the heck is my flying car?
Let’s face it — us nerds are getting frustrated with the gaps, and there’s nothing better for making new things happen in the second decade of this new millennium than primal nerd rage against the machine.
*Primal Nerd Rage graphic Copyright Bethesda Software
Want to know how bad the government wants to get more spectrum licenses to the wireless industry? Now they’re going after the frequencies used to guide weather balloons.
“Last spring we identified some bands for analysis based on two criteria,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce Larry Strickling told an audience of communications lawyers on Thursday. First—“could the band be used for wireless broadband without having to relocate the existing Federal users and second, could the band be made available to the commercial sector within five years.”
At HTC’s London event on Wednesday, they company showed off two things. As expected, there were a couple of handsets: the Desire HD and Desire Z. But what HTC opened with was not handsets, but a new website—htcsense.com—and its accompanying phone front-end.
The phones were nice enough. The Desire HD is a GSM/UMTS/HSPA equivalent to the EVO 4G available in the US exclusively on Sprint; the Desire Z is slightly lower-specced than the HD, but will likely gain wide appeal as it has a hardware keyboard.
But on Wednesday M2Z informed the press that the FCC has told the company and its backers that the Commission is dropping the concept, and that is so:
“We gave careful and thorough consideration to the proposal, but ultimately determined that this was not the best policy outcome,” Ruth Milkman, chief of the FCC’s Wireless Bureau told us. “We remain vigilant in our efforts to facilitate the universal deployment and adoption of broadband, especially through the much-needed reform to the Universal Service Fund.”
Needless to say, the news came as a disappointment to John Muleta, CEO of M2Z.