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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Source Doc: The Information Needs Of Communities

Social Media, Source Doc, Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Monday, June 13, 2011
5:08 pm

Federal Communications CommissionOn June 9th, the Federal Communications Commission issued  an interesting document, “The Information Needs of Communities – The Changing Media Landscape In A Broadband Age,” authored by Steven Waldman and The Working Group On Information Needs Of Communities.  (A two-page summary of the document is available here.)

The document introduction states:

In culmination of its work over the last year, the FCC Working Group on the Information Needs of Communities delivered a report on June 9, 2011 addressing the rapidly changing media landscape in a broadband age. In 2009, a bipartisan Knight Commission found that while the broadband age is enabling an information and communications renaissance, local communities in particular are being unevenly served with critical information about local issues.

Soon after the Knight Commission delivered its findings, the FCC initiated a staff-level working group to identify crosscurrent and trend, and make recommendations on how the information needs of communities can be met in a broadband world.

I enjoyed reading the statement by FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps that accompanied the document’s release; here are a few excerpts:

Let’s begin with a basic truth: the future of our country’s media is an issue that goes to the heart of our democracy. A well-informed electorate is the premise and prerequisite of functioning self-government. To make this compact work, it is imperative that the FCC play a vital role in helping to ensure that all Americans have access to diverse and competing news and information that provide the grist for democracy’s churning mill.

The Digital Age holds amazing promise for expanding the scope of our democratic discourse. The Staff Report recognizes this and the present Commission has focused tremendous energy on both broadband deployment and adoption. But let’s recognize up-front that building a new town-square paved with broadband bricks and stacked with good news and information is not going to happen on auto-pilot.

An open Internet is not the entire solution for robust Twenty-first century journalism. It’s tougher than that, and I, for one, don’t believe we’ll get there absent some positive public policy solutions. We have never had successful dissemination of news and information in this country without some encouraging public policy guidance, going back to the earliest days of the young republic when Washington, Madison and Jefferson saw to it that newspaper were financially able to reach readers all across the fledgling young republic.

These issues mean a lot to me because I believe they mean a lot to our country. I have been outspoken about them–and sometimes blunt, I know. I intend to keep speaking out on them in the months and, if needed, the years ahead. This nation faces  stark and threatening challenges to the leadership that brought us and the world successfully through so many dire threats in the century just past. Now we confront fundamental new uncertainties about the revival of our economy, where new jobs will come from, how we will prosper in a hyper-competitive global arena, how to support the kind of education that our kids and grandkids will need to thrive–indeed to survive–in this difficult time, how to open the doors of opportunity to every American, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives.We’ve got a lot to get on top of as a country and if we don’t have the facts, don’t have the information, and don’t have the news about what’s going on in the neighborhood and the town and the nation and world around us, our future will be vastly diminished. That’s why so much rides on the future of what we are talking about today.

I think these are valuable objectives, but it isn’t clear where this document will lead.  One author commented, “FCC Report on Media Offers Strong Diagnosis, Weak Prescriptions.”

I personally feel sensitive to this changing landscape.   I love the innovation of the USA Today and Wall Street Journal iPad apps, but I still enjoy reading the local paper-based newspaper over breakfast.  But my favorite local newspaper went out of business a couple of years ago, and the surviving newspaper is steadily shrinking in size.  This local newspaper’s online presence falls far short of the USA Today/WSJ readability model.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

To start with, I think I’ll transfer the whole 465-page report to my iPad and read it there.

PS.  I think the FCC has an ugly logo.  That’s all.

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Dilbert: Men vs. the Entertainment Value of a Smartphone

Humor, Social Media, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
10:47 am

Poor Dilbert. His social skills just don’t measure up to the smartphone!

Dilbert and Smartphones

On a more serious note, is this so far removed from reality? Is the entertainment value of smartphones and related apps getting in the way of real human relationships?

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Internet of Things: WiFi Connected Light Bulbs

Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, May 21, 2011
7:49 pm

The concept of the Internet of Things is my  fascination de jour.  Today, I was pleased to read an intriguing Fast Company article entitled, “Wi-Fi-Connected Lightbulbs, Coming To Smart Homes In 2012.”   It appears that WiFi enabled home lighting is closer that I thought, from Netherlands-based company NXP:

Why on Earth would you want a lightbulb with an IP address? It’s not obvious until you realize we’re not talking regular incandescent bulbs here. The tech will go into advanced compact fluorescent units as well as LED light bulbs, both clean low-power replacements for Edison’s aging invention. These lights already incorporate a few chunks of silicon in their bases to help control them, and it’s this tiny circuit board that enables all sorts of new things–adding NXP’s tiny Wi-Fi system to the board is relatively easy and cheap. And then you can turn your lights on and off from a computer hooked up to your home’s wireless grid.

I’ve always thought it would be cool to control all the lights in my house from a single point.  The fact that next year I could do that without rewiring my house  – and do the controlling from my mobile phone or other Internet-connected device – is pretty cool!

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Internet of Things: Arduino and SunSPOTs

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, May 19, 2011
2:44 pm

Craig Burton offered an intriguing comment on my recent blog post about the Live Web and Interent of Things.  He referred me to two projects that used the Arduino open source electronics prototyping platform, Garduino, a computer that runs your garden and Yobot, the Arduino-based Yogurt Maker!

As pointed out by Craig in his comment, we could add WiFi or Ethernet connections to these projects and they would become part of the Internet of Things, connected in a loosely coupled way.




The Arduino platform could be used to prototype all sorts of interesting “Internet of Things” applications.

This reminded me that way back in 2008, I blogged about efforts by my Sun Microsystem colleagues Louis Pfortmiller and Guanghwa Ho to integrate small devices into the Sun Project Destination architecture for highly-personalized online services.  Their efforts involved the use of “SunSPOT” wireless sensor/actuator devices that were programmed in Java.  We discussed all sorts of intriguing uses for this technology It turns out that this project apparently still exists in Oracle Labs:

This almost makes me want to resurrect my old electronics hobby and dive into adding things to the Internet.


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Craig Burton on the Live Web and Internet of Things

Identity, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, May 14, 2011
8:46 am

Craig BurtonCraig Burton, who recently joined Kuppinger Cole, authored an insightful article, “Bringing the Web to Life at Last,” addressing two compelling topics: “The Live Web” and the “Internet of Things“.  His final statement provides an apt summary:

We don’t need a Facebook of Things. We need an Internet of Things. We need the Live Web.

Craig outlines the basis concepts of the Live Web:

The term Live Web was first coined by Doc Searls and his son Allen Searls to describe a Web where timeliness and context matter as much as relevance. It blossoms with the following three assumptions:

  • All things are connected to the Internet.
  • All things are recorded and tagged.
  • All things can be recalled and accessed in context.

The Live Web is made up of three core principles that give rise to generating context:

  • First principle: Ubiquitous programmable data access. (APIs)
  • Second principle: Ubiquitous event-based endpoints.
  • Third principle: Ubiquitous event-based evaluation and execution machines.

Note that the three principles match the three assumptions.

Craig explains how, even if all devices are connected to the Internet (the Internet of Things), the current web paradigm, as wonderful as it is, would not work well, because the current web operates as a tightly-coupled manner, like Facebook:

The problem with the idea of a big “Facebook of Things” kind of site is the tight coupling that it implies a person would have to take charge of all the devices. You would have to “friend” each one. And remember, these are devices, so not only do you have to connect and “friend” them but you will be doing the work of managing them.

This just isn’t going to happen. Ever.

However, applying Live Web principles and loosely coupling the device will enable the Internet of Things to work:

Each device can interpret that message however it sees fit or ignore it altogether. This significantly reduces the complexity of the overall system because individual devices are loosely coupled.

It will be fun to see the progressive realization of these concepts: all devices connected to the Internet and coupled in a loose sort of way that makes possible all kinds of interesting applications.  I just  wonder how long will it be before I can sit here at my desk and command my Live Web connected kitchen to cook me up a nice omelette for breakfast?



A “New” Commodore 64?

Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, May 5, 2011
11:10 am

How many of  you old geeks remember the Commodore 64, an 8 bit home computer released in January 1982? It has a whopping 64kb (that is K, not G) of RAM and cost only $595.

According to PC World, you will soon be able to get a brand new model, appropriately updated for our times:

It’s got a Dual Core 525 Atom processor, an Nvidia Ion2 graphics chipset, 2GB of RAM (upgradeable to 4GB), a 160GB hard drive, and built-in Wi-Fi. On the left side of the keyboard there’s a slot or tray-load DVD (upgradeable to Blu-ray), and on the right side there’s a multi-format card reader, along with a USB 2.0 port. The rear features four additional USB 2.0 ports; mouse and keyboard PS/2 ports; DVI, VGA, and HDMI ports; Ethernet; and support for 6-channel HD audio. It runs Linux, but you can install Windows if you like.

So, if you yearn for the nostalgic, but crave the modern, this just might be for you!

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Arizona Broadband Map: I live in a DSL-free Zone!

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 22, 2011
2:39 pm

Several years ago, I was a regular participant in the Arizona Telecommunications and Information Council (ATIC), and still receive interesting information from that group from time to time.  This week, I received a link to the “Arizona Broadband Map“. This map was produced as a result of a federal grant to the Arizona Government Information Technology Agency (GITA):

The U. S. Congress has appropriated $7.2 billion to develop broadband in the U. S. for unserved and underserved areas.

This funding includes grants for broadband infrastructure, computer centers, sustainable projects that promote broadband use; and grants to the states for broadband planning and for mapping broadband in their respective states to use in the creation a national broadband map.

The broadband mapping project will collect and verify the availability, speed and location of broadband across Arizona. This information will be publicly available; updated on a semi-annual basis through 2011. Citizens, local governments, and related research organizations will enjoy a direct benefit from access to this new and additional information.

The following image is a snapshot of the highest level of the interactive map for Arizona:

A really interesting bit of information appeared when I specified my home address and chose the DSL coverage map.  The pink shade in the following image shows areas with DSL broadband coverage.  The tan area shows my subdivision – an DSL-free island in a sea of coverage in Mesa, AZ.  

I knew that we couldn’t get DSL from Qwest.  I just didn’t know how localized the problem was, and still don’t know why it is this way. According to this map, my neighbors on the other side of the street can choose DSL, while I cannot.


It is nice to know that our home is part of the “underserved” broadband area targeted by this study.

Perhaps this is just a symptom of the Cox Communications monopolistic conspiracy! Or more probably, an oversight in Qwest planning.

Thanks, GITA, for providing this insight.


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Storm Clouds in the Amazon Cloud Create Cloudy Days for Many

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 22, 2011
12:33 pm

As failures in Amazon’s Cloud Services (reported by Data Center Knowledge) extend into a second day, multiple companies are feeling the pain:

Among the most prominent companies affected were Foursquare, Quora, Hootsuite, SCVNGR, Heroku, Reddit and Wildfire, though hundreds of other companies big and small were affected. Luckily, one of Amazon’s most prominent customers, Netflix, didn’t experience problems because it’s built for the loss of an entire data center, while companies relying on Amazon’s four other global data centers didn’t experience too many issues. (from Mashable)

I suppose the first lesson we learn is that if you bet your business on the cloud, your fortunes are tied to that cloud.  Consider Foursquare’s announcement:

Even though they pointed out that Amazon EC2 was to blame, it was Foursquare’s reputation that took the first hit.

The second lesson?  Don’t be deceived by lots of good news.  All the green checkmarks on Amazon’s history dashboard mean little if you are affected by the red outage symbols:

The third lesson?  Cloud computing is not a panacea.  With all its promises, we must also consider its vulnerabilities.  Technology does break down.  We must be prepared for that inevitability.  Disaster recovery and business continuity principles still apply.


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When Can I Pay for Stuff with my iPhone?

Identity, Information Security, Privacy, Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 15, 2011
10:47 am


I am anxious for the time when I can buy groceries or pay for a meal with my iPhone.  According to Juniper Research, that time may be be closer than you would think.

As reported by GigaOM, Juniper Research predicts that 1 in 5 Smartphones Will Have NFC by 2014.  NFC, or “Near Field Communication,” is a technology that allows a payment to be made by holding a device, such as a mobile phone, in close proximity to a NFC-capable point of sale terminal.

I think it would be great to use a mobile wallet on my iPhone, working in concert with an NFC chip embedded within my iPhone, to make a payment.

The GigaOM article states:

Juniper said the increasing momentum behind NFC, with a stream of vendor and carriers announcements in recent months, is helping boost the prospects of NFC. North America will lead the way, according to Juniper, with half of all NFC smartphones by 2014. France, in particular, is off to a quick start, with 1 million NFC devices expected this year.

Of course, there is more than just putting moble wallet apps and NFC chips on smartphones.

But the NFC ramp-up will still faces challenges. With so many players involved, from merchants, operators, manufacturers and web giants like Google, service complexity will be an issue. The industry also needs to work out business models around NFC while ensuring strong security for consumers unfamiliar with the concept of a mobile wallet, said Howard Wilcox, the author of the report.

Which smart phone vendor will be first to the races with a mainstream NFC-equipped device? Will the next iPhone be NFC-equipped?  I hope so, but I had also hoped for that in the iPhone 4.  Time will tell.  I’m just hoping for sooner, rather than later.

And, by the way, Identity Management and Information Security are crucial to an overall solution. Knowing who the user is and that user wants to do, and making sure their information is absolutely safe, are critical components of the mobile payments infrastructure that must be built. In that vein, its great to be in the industry that is making this all happen.



What is Your (American) Smartphone Preference?

Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, March 4, 2011
5:17 pm

In a recent article in PCMAG.com, an interesting graphic highlighted the market share of smartphone operating system preference.  Where are you located?  I’m firmly in the Apple iOS camp, grateful that I bought an iPhone a year and a half ago, rather than casting my lot with the Palm/HP WebOS.

I enjoyed the comments John Dvorak made today in his article “The US Smartphone Revolution”:

Overlooked in the commotion, though, is the transformative nature of the entire market. The whole world is looking at these changes. Wherever you go, the hip, trendy phone users around the globe will most often be seen with one of these North American smartphones. And to be honest the hippest of the hip will have an iPhone.

I find this particularly amusing, because I recall a constant barrage of anti-American accusations during the late 1990s, whereby we were told that the mobile phone world has passed us by. When I was doing Silicon Spin, a cable show for TechTV, guests would often arrive having just visited Japan, carrying some dingbat phone, such as the Docomo, and singing its praises. …

It’s expected that within just a few years the entire market will consist of varieties of smartphones, whose designs and operation were all invented in the U.S. and Canada.

It’s great time to be an American!  Yes, my Canadian friends, we include you!

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