Boot it up
Who needs The Feelers when there’s the Patea Maori Club getting the dubdotdash treatment?
Oh, the manatee
While we’re getting wiggyjiggy with it this Friday… here’s more.
Bottom up with the scorched nodes
In the arcana that is telecommunications regulation, the New Zealand Telecommunications Service Obligation or TSO deserves a very special mention. The TSO is supposed to provide all of New Zealand with affordable, universal telephone service and 9.6 to 14.4kbit/s data access, as well as service for hearing impaired. The above is nothing new and considered best practice in just about any developed country as it’s a tad hard to function fully in modern societies without proper access to telecommunications. Nobody, not governments, not the public and not even the telcos would argue against there being a universal service obligation. Unfortunately, the TSO as implemented in New Zealand is an obligation placed on Telecom to supply the service to allegedly commercially non-viable customers. For this, the telco industry compensates the incumbent to the tune of millions of dollars every year. This sort of set-up seems almost designed to line the pockets of lawyers hired by the telcos to argue the finer details of the regulation — not that they have any choice but to hire legal beagles to do so, with all those millions in the pot. The arguments and methodologies used to determine the TSO levies are pretty impenetrable and even the regulator has problems with them, if justice Helen Winkelman’s “error of law” judgement of April 1 is anything to go by. In simple terms it seems the Commission made a mistake by refusing to take into account the possibility of using wireless technologies to provide TSO service. Only copper cabling from the fixed “scorched nodes” or switching nodes in the phone network was to be used in the Commission’s model. For rural and remote areas, this would be a very expensive way to do it, if indeed it’s possible in many places. Vodafone argued that copper wasn’t the only way to provide TSO service. Wireless and mobile could do it too. Indeed, until 2008 Telecom serviced around 1,600 customers using Kordia’s Extend network that’s still up and running. That seems reasonable enough, doesn’t it, to take advantage of improved technology as it develops. The TSO will be a decade old when it dies next year in favour of a tweaked levy regime that doesn’t have Telecom as the automatic service supplier that is compensated. Except the TSO won’t die quite so soon, due to further legal challenges from telcos over retrospective levies. This means something like $700 million, plus an unknown but presumably large amount in legal fees and more, has gone into providing basic telecommunications services for us all. Unfortunately, talking to people and businesses in rural and remote areas, they don’t seem to have seen much of an improvement under the TSO and townies’ landline bills for “free local calling” go up most years. Was that the intention of the TSO then? — Vodafone wins TSO appeal — High Court deals Telecom a double whammy — The Telecommunications Service Obligations (TSO) deed for local residential telephone service
It should be our choice, not theirs
Next week is ACTA week in Wellington, with the penultimate round of the secretive talk-fest on how to tighten intellectual property legislation globally hitting the capital. Dr Michael Geist is in town for the PublicACTA meeting, as well as talks with officials. Geist has been on the ACTA case arguably more than anyone else, and Computerworld has an interview with him that you should read if you value the ability of New Zealand to make its own laws as it sees fit, without being dictated to by secretive organisations overseas. For most people, ACTA isn’t on the radar — the veil of secrecy has succeeded in keeping it out of the public focus. This needs to change before the treaty is signed. For a grounder on ACTA and what it could lead to, check out Geist’s slide show from an European Parliament hearing recently: — The truth about ACTA — Geist warns of ACTA sovereignty setback
Robert X Cringely Apple iPad hysteria strikes America
Can a device possibly be as 'life changing' as Apple's new Wonder Tablet? Only if you swallow all the media hype You'd think they'd discovered a cure for cancer or a way to get supermarket tabloids to talk about something other than Sandra Bullock. But no. That media frenzy is all about the Apple iPad, a single device that — judging simply by the feverish coverage — will change life as we know it. Apple says it moved some 300,000 iPads on its first day, or about one for every glowing review or hyperventilating preview on the web. Normally cranky journalists like AllThingsD's Walter Mossberg were gushing like school girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Per Mossberg (the non-puppet version): "I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop. It could even help, eventually, to propel the finger-driven, multitouch user interface ahead of the mouse-driven interface that has prevailed for decades." The puppet version of Mossberg gives us an even more enthusiastic take on the iPad. I think I prefer the felt-covered Walt — more cheerful, less like Billy Goat Gruff. Wired's Steve Levy called it "One small step for tablets, one giant leap for personal computers" and managed to work in comparisons to Lady Gaga, hula hoops, the Beatles, and birth control pills. (He was talking about the media excitement enveloping the iPad, not the thing itself — I think.) "Can a one-and-a-half-pound slab possibly live up to this massive hype? From my first bit of exposure, the answer is almost — and that's pretty great. ... There's something about the size and interface that engages you almost primally in reading, viewing video, web browsing, playing Scrabble and other activities. The iPad points to a Third Way — sitting in between the phone and the laptop — of interacting with information."
I see a series of seminars and groovy Esalen retreats titled "Apple iPad: The Third Way". If Levy is smart, he'll TM that sucker ASAP. Meanwhile, SF Weekly has photos of a Steve Jobs siting at the Palo Alto Apple Store. I'm not convinced it's really him; it might just be some clever Photoshop work. For one thing, no one's looking at Jobs or talking to him. And His feet are clearly on the ground; we all know that whenever Jobs leaves the Apple campus, He is borne aloft by angels. To the horror of Apple fanboys around the globe, PC World's Tim Moynihan and Steve Fox had the temerity to buy an iPad and abuse it, just for fun, on camera. They dropped it, dumped a Plenta of Starbucks coffee on it, washed it in a sink, scratched it with keys, and performed the Homer Simpson donut-as-stylus test (it passed). Their conclusions: The iPad isn't nearly as sturdy as the iPhone; you'll want to buy a protective cover and avoid giving it a bath. Of course, the backlash has already begun. Early adopters are complaining about weak wi-fi reception and USB chargers that don't actually charge. The goofballs at eSarcasm lists eight apps the iPad still needs (though I'm not convinced a ghostly apparition of Jesus on your iPad screen qualifies as "necessary"). InfoWorld's Galen Gruman compares the iPad to four other iPad killers, three of them still composed entirely of vapour, and the fourth being the JooJoo tablet (which may actually be less than vapour). Amazingly, he's even more cynical about web tablets than I am. By all accounts, the iPad's opening weekend was a smashing success. But what about next weekend and the week after that? We know 300,00 people wanted an iPad bad enough to show up on Day One. The question is whether anyone else wants one. Per a survey by Piper Jaffray, roughly three-quarters of iPad buyers were already Apple acolytes. Saint Steven is clearly preaching to the converted. Still, you gotta admire Apple's ability to whip us all into a frenzy. They say jump, and the media asks whether it's OK to do it where they're standing or if they need to climb to the top of a building first. Now that the hype has subsided and people are using the dingus, we'll finally see how truly life changing it is. My hunch: less than you think. Have you bought your iPad yet? Are you going to? Why or why not? Weigh in below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org