More on Ginger …
So this is a late post … and everyone has read or seen “Ginger” by now. Or most everyone. I wanted to post some links, and also make a few comments.

The most amazing thing about the Segway HT is that we are now seeing some of the potential that Ray Kurzweil alludes to. The Segway is an amazing device that can actually “balance” … and it can do so with a human rider! How can it do this? The same way that a human does! What we are seeing is when technology begins to reproduce or exceed the some of the same capabilities of a human being. The Segway HT is able to detect motion and “balance” (much like the inner ear), it is able to compute corrections (much like the brain and nervous system), and it is able to move itself (much like the muscles in our legs) to stay balanced.

I want one of these really bad … not only to experience, but to own one of the first pieces of a whole new realm of possibility!,8599,186660,00.html

Mesh Networks … the next step in wireless?
Over the last several years doing my research into wearable computers (and thinking about how to do peer to peer wireless with my friends while we are rollerblading!) I began to look into packet relay using low-power radios. I was then at one of the George Gilder Telecosm conferences where a presenter from MIT talked about his research into these types of networks.

The presenter (I can’t find his name now) talked about how huges areas could be covered with low power radios, and that they would relay/route for each other to allow for massive distributed networks to be created. I was intrigued. I started to look for radios that would meet the criteria that I had … decent distance with mid-speed bandwith. I am still looking for affordable radios to do this, but believe that I found some at Comdex that will fit the bill … more on this later.

The next steps were to think about routing in a completely distributed “mesh” network. If a group of people (firefighters, search and rescue, my friends and I on blades …) are scattered across a physical area, then how do you do the routing? If everyone relays all packets, then you run into the issues of too much noise and unnecessary packet repeating. How do you route then?

The answer hit me (of course while in the shower!) several months back while pondering this … GPS! With GPS I can actually create a routing protocol that is completely dependent on physical location … not network connections. If each person not only has a radio, but a working GPS, then I can address someone by their location. I have a location, and my friend has a location. I send a packet with my source location, and their destination location. Anyone that “hears” my packet can then determine if they are “in between” the two locations, and if it makes sense for them to relay the packet to assist.

When this hit me, I knew that I have this figured out. I am now on my quest for radios, and as I get my two new Xybernaut wearable computers, I am going to begin to work on this. In the mean time, one of my consulting clients is doing some work in this area to address some last-mile wireless issues … and this article is showing that the understanding of “mesh network” potential is growing!

Comdex … slow, but a valuable trip …
I just returned from Comdex, and there were some real valuable finds … in a wide range of areas. I’ll be writing about a number of the companies and solutions in future stories, and as I get to evaluate the products. There were also a number of trends that were noticeable … the prescence of numerous tablet computers, wearable computers, heads up displays, 802.11b, Bluetooth, 802.11a, and solid state disk drives.

Tablets and wearables …
It seemed that there were a large number of WinCE tablet computers at Comdex this year. I am not impressed with these machines … although they appear to provide some level of features and functions. WinCE is still a limited OS, and the application support just isn’t there. Although the current price point is very good, most of the vendors were even pushing their solutions as a Windows “thin-client” solution … remotely display applications that were running on another machine. This just doesn’t make sense to me.
Peppered throughout the various WinCE solutions, were a few unique solutions that caught my attention … of course Xybernaut, along with PaceBlade, and a few others. These are full blown PCs, running full operatings systems. The PaceBlade was actually impressive as a tablet PC. I’m thinking that I will have to get one to try!

Wireless … why Bluetooth is lame …
I really wanted to check out the situation with Bluetooth wireless … and I found that it is in a miserable state! The products are coming available … most are already falling into commodity pricing due to Pacific Rim manufacturers. The software however sucks … big time! Most every vendor had their own little applications that would display Bluetooth devices and services, and allow for you to interact with these … but all in their own unique ways. The worst part of this is that I could not find a vendor who was willing to give away a developer kit that would allow the creation of new and innovative applications! When I found a vendor who seemed to think it was a good idea, they immediately indicated that they could put one together for me for thousands of dollars … yeah, right! Why would I pay for a dev kit to sell more hardware for a company? They could be paying me to assist them! How do they expect the “killer app” to be created for Bluetooth, when no one is releasing the foundation for new applications to developers? Bluetooth is doomed, IMHO, unless the vendors do something soon.
I’m meeting with a friend who works on the Bluetooth standards commitee on Monday … I am going to have a long talk with her and see what can be done …

Solid state flash disk …
One last thing for this post … the solid state disks are looking good. There were several vendors who offered IDE solid state flash disks with up to 2GB of capacity. This is going to be very good for the mobile market, and also for more fault tolerence in server boot drives of Internet appliances. These things are lightweight, fast, and reliable. They can take 1MM writes per sector … so it’s a lot of data. You will want an OS that does read-after-write verifications though …

I’ll be writing more soon … but the trip was inspiring … there were a lot of the components that I have been looking for … so that I can continue to create the future …

Down at Comdex … creating the future …
I’m down in Las Vegas … spent the whole day, and will be here all day tomorrow as well. It’s been a fun day so far. The registration was light, there was security present at the doors, and the number of people on the floor was light.

I’m walking the floor with a good friend, John Pugh, who I haven’t seen in quite a while. I’s a blast to get a chance to brainstorm with him … spew ideas at him … and catch up on things.

It’s been a fun show, and as usual I spent my time looking through all of the little booths that are here representing the various Pacific Rim countries – Korea, Thailand, Tiawan, etc. I have to say that the Korea booths were filled with some cool stuff … a lot of wireless, new funky computer cases, and some other cool products. I barely made it half way through the Tiawan section, and so we are going to pick up there tomorrow morning.

I spent some time at the Xybernaut booth … I’ll be working closely with them as we move forward with HumanXtensions. Here at the show, most of the folks are oriented towards WinCE, Palm, and the new PocketPC 2002 … but Xybernaut and few others are seeing the future … full blown PCs with full power operating systems.

I found a large number of interesting technologies and products … I found the LCD panels that I wanted for one application … and I’m searching for the others tomorrow. I found some cool peripherals, and several interesting security peripherals. There are large numbers of “Internet Appliances”, or appliance developer kits …

I’ll be writing all about this in the upcoming month or so … there is a lot going on in the market place!

The NoKeyboard solution for mobile and wearable computers …
Virtual typing … now I really like this solution! This company has developed a virtual keyboard solution that allows you to type by simply typing in air or on a desk. There are little sensors that connect to your fingers which detect finger motion … and the system analyzes the motion to determine what key you would have hit if there was a keyboard present!

It appears that they have pulled together some AI that also analyzes the users habits to improve the typing accuracy. I am going to go see these folks at Comdex … I leave tomorrow!

Virtual Keyboard press release …

NoCatAuth … moving in the right direction!
This is a very good article about a very cool project! This is the beginning of the infrastructure required for a good global wireless network. It is a authentication system for wireless users which provides a good web-based authentication scheme, along with bandwidth throttling and other features.

My team and I are about to install and experiment with a copy of this stuff for our upcoming 802.11 project …

Radio Noiz!
My Radio is again making NOIZ!

I ended up getting frustrated enough that I chose to debug through the problem. After adding some new stats to one of the tables, and then modifying my viewStories script … I was able to find a “bad” story that had no table values. It appears this was crashing Radio …

So now it’s fixed … and I’m back up and running!

Radio problems … Radio Silence!
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ………………….
I was right in the middle of clearing out all of my back-logged reading this morning … honing the 13,000+ articles (that accumulated during my marriage and honeymoon) down to ~9,000 when all of the sudden – BANG!

  • HTTP 500 – Internal server error

That’s it. That’s all that I can get back from my Radio home page now … no more news … no more reading … no more deleting. ;-(

I’ve now e-mailed the Radio mail list … but no reply all day …

I am truly bummed out … this is the first time that I have been let down by this incredible product … I am at a stand still.

The interesting part is that I can not find anywhere to go for support or assistance … there is only “Radio Silence” …

Adam is on to the solution that is going to work!
Adam is extremely on target with his idea here … it’s one that my team and I have been working on for several years now … and we are getting closer!

WiFi Peering

WiFi, the popular name for 802.11b wireless network technology is a registered trademark of 3Com. Just found that out today while holding their latest pc card with slick-looking pop-out antenna in my hands.

I’ve been a WiFi user for almost 2 years, having purchased an experimental set from a Dutch company in 1999 with a catchy name: No Wires Needed. They no longer exist (acquired by BigCo), but I do recall quite vividly how frustrated I got trying to explain to their COO the possibilities of this magic technology. I even bought their fancy directional hi-gain setup and wired 2 miles of the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam. If you come to town, stay at the Pulitzer Hotel, which has shitty service guaranteed, but our WiFi reachees the canal side rooms easily. No password needed.

Many of these ad-hoc ‘Hippie Networks’ of peace, love and sharing have been cropping up everywhere. Not very surprising, there’s a lot of activity in this area taking place in San Francisco, known for technology and kind, sharing people.

This afternoon I reviewed a presentation we are giving to a chain-retail outlet in The Netherlands next week, one of the nicest slides in the flowerpoint was a comparison of wireless technologies. Conclusion: WiFi is fast, affordable and available now.

The big questions are obvious; will we be able to create the parasitic grid by opening our ADSL and Cable Modems to anyone who needs access in hope we receive the same courtesy when we need connectivity? Or will we wind up with over 500 WiFi subscriptions; lets see, what was my password for the starbucks network.. I’m sure Microsoft would love to ‘manage’ all your WiFi passwords in Passport.

Ofcourse we all want to hippie network to succeed, it’s the ultimate dream of any revolutionary. To bash the BigCo’s who thought, just because they could borrow billions of dollars to purchase UMTS and other 3d generation mobile licenses, they were guaranteed their ‘fair share’ of the wireless market. It would be poetic justice.

I believe the WiFi Matrix can be built, but we must base it on an exchange of something. I give, therefore I can receive.
In the networking world this type of exchange is typically called ‘peering’. Peering is what happens at the Internet exchange points, like MAE East in the US, Ams-ix in Amsterdam, Linx in London. All ISP’s connect to one or more exchanges in order to offer service to their customers. Through one of these exchanges is how data is routed from one network to another, you are reading this document because it traversed the network from our DataBarn to the Amsterdam Internet Exchange to a network with a presence at the ams-ix that either directly or indirectly connects to your ISP. This handoff is done from one network to another at the exchanges based on so called ‘peering agreements’. These agreements basically say that two networks, based on ‘equality’ will hand off data traffic to each other without ‘settlement’. Settlement is a BigCo telecomms word for payment and is based on counting minutes (of call time).

Peering agreements are great, especially if you have lots of them with important networks, because it costs nothing to transfer data to a network you peer with, otherwise you will have to purchase connectivity to that network through a network that does have appropirate peering. This is typically called ‘transit’. Already I’m getting a bit out of my league on all this stuff, but the bottom line is that the bigger the network you have and data you want to hand off at the exchange(s) the more peering agreements you can get and thus the more you can sell your connection to the exchange. It’s just like selling drugs, you keep cutting the stuff up until you’ve sold your basic pipeline 1000 time over. Oh, and it’s even more profitable if you make up some bullshit variable cost scheme to your customers..based on ‘burstable bandwidth’ and ‘top 5 percentile’ calculations.

The Really BigCo’s stay really big by peering with each other and refusing to peer with any of the smaller guys. There are only 9 or 10 Really BigCo’s, and they have a total lock on the market and the exchanges. You don’t peer with the BigCos, you purchase from them.

What I like about peering (yeah, there’s good news too) is that there really isn’t any counting of packets..AT&T doesn’t say to Sprint, “hey, you sent me less traffic than I sent you last month, pay up”. Nor do the smaller guys. Once you’re peering agreement is in place, it’s pretty much like a friendship ring. You belong to a club.

This would be the basic concept for phase one of the WiFi Matrix: A centralized peering database. You have connectivity available on 802.11b, register to peer with others when you need to use their network. Although far from trivial, centralized authentication must be possible with some simple software you download to your base-station that ‘talks’ to the central peering database.

But that’s only the start of the real revolution. Imagine we can build this Matrix, a grid that actually starts to overlap. If I can see your WiFi network from my house and you can see mine, we can then exchange up to 11Mb/s of data traffic. Very interesting if I’m on a different network that the other node. Create enough WiFi Pering points and we may find that our Wireless technology is best utilized for the getting data to the Home cheaply and perhaps even faster.

I find this scenario much more appealing than the current view on WiFi, which conjures images of semi-andorids roaming the streets with laptops, datagloves and eye-piece monitors.

We could actually beat the BigCos at their own game. Peer to Peer would have real meaning, desktop applications could control the entire networking grid. With the speed of the forthcoming 802.11a (45Mb/s) It could even sell transit services to those guys who used to have a monopoly at the exchanges…… [Adam Curry: CurryDotCom]