FryUp: Another wondrous piece of string

Google could fund the fibre but who will fight the filter?

Chur bro, Welly Last Hitler is Angry clip, promise. — Hitler is angry about the Wellywood sign

Another wondrous piece of string

Yesterday’s Pacific Fibre bombshell is arguably the most exciting tech news in New Zealand for a long while. The initial design starts at 5.12Tbit/s, but if Pacific Fibre goes with more wavelengths or three fibre pairs, this could increase to 6.72 or even 7.68Tbit/s, with future upgrades taking the cable system to 19.2Tbit/s.

That’s the kind of fat pipe needed, surely, to keep our 1Gbit/s home connections buzzing without buffering?

Pacific Fibre focusing on low latency is interesting too — it’ll be interesting to see how much of selling point a 14ms faster round-trip for packets to the US matters to customers. One selling point that the Southern Cross has, namely the protected capacity from its ring-based architecture with automatic failover in case one segment breaks won’t be available with Pacific Fibre.

This may not matter much these days, as redundancy can be arranged at the Internet Protocol level nowadays. We’ll see how much that and the potential lack of SDH/SONET support will matter — one industry source (and yes, it’s a good one) said not having SDH support may upset network architects and designers who insist on said protocol for long-haul links. Ethernet is cool, but apparently doesn’t have quite the Operations, Administration and Management support that SDH does, plus gear for the latter costs a fortune and needs to be used once installed.

Techie stuff aside, the big question is where the $900 million will come from. Suggestions that Sam Morgan, a Pacific Fibre co-founder, may finance the operation out of his next bonus from Fairfax are likely exaggerated, so the company will be busy from now on raising money from other sources.

As Pacific Fibre will compete on price against established networks in a market that’s not exactly short on capacity, private investors looking for a quick return on their money could baulk at the idea.

Putting the cost in perspective, the 440 metre Victoria Park tunnel built in Auckland to provide more traffic capacity is estimated to chew through some $440 million — a million dollars a metre with no immediate return on investment.

The 13,000km Pacific Fibre link costs $69.23 a metre in comparison. Of course, this isn’t an apples to apples comparison but worth noting nevertheless. Maybe the creatively minded Lance Wiggs could come up with a micro-financing scheme that’d have small investors buy shares in the cable, measured by the metre? (Hmm. Must invoice Lance for that idea, actually.)

If the government wants to do the right thing here, and Pacific Fibre looks solid, it should put some money towards it. You may be ideologically opposed to government funding or even throwing money at the internet itself, but like it or not, that’s our future trade lane.

The government may be a reluctant investor, however, as it will be accused of interfering with the hallowed market forces by putting money into a new cable and sinking the fortunes of Southern Cross and its three telco owners. Besides, there’s not much money in the public kitty apparently.

Who else? Well, if Sergey Brin were to rummage around in his left jacket pocket, I’m sure he’d find at least $900 million amongst the lint that could be put to better use. If he hasn’t got the entire wherewithal, Larry could stump up the rest. Google is playing a defensive game on the internet against the telcos, and could conceivably think that’s money well-invested if it helps move YouTubes and provides easy access to the cloud.

Either way, here’s hoping the project comes off and fires up the New Zealand internet again. It really needs to be lit up, well and truly, after years of talk and no real action.

Morgan, Tindall, Drury in new ocean cable drive

Pacific Fibre cable a bold initiative that the government should support

Fear the filter

And now to a less than desirable development for the New Zealand internet, namely the Department of Internal Affairs' filter. From today, a number of ISPs will effectively censor your internet, without telling you or letting you choose if you want this to happen.

The filter is being introduced in the most devious way possible, by being called voluntary, having an “oversight committee”, and being used to filter out child pornography over http only so it looks fair enough and limited in scope.

Of course, the filter won’t be effective to stop the vile child abusers and neither will its scope be limited. There are already rumblings in government law circles that the filter could be used to block parts of say, overseas news sites that are deemed to breach New Zealand name suppression. So you’d get the bits of for instance nyt.com that the filter thinks is OK, and that’s it.

The argument for accepting the filter, useless and dangerous as it is in its current state, is also curious. If we don’t say yes to the filter, the government will attempt to manage the perceived moral panic crisis by introducing something even worse.

New Zealand's internet filter goes live

Three inspectors sign off on net filter blacklist

XKCD

Single ladies

Cartoon: www.xkcd.com

Robert X Cringely

Apple's iPad invasion: First stop, Hollywood

The geeks are taking over Tinseltown, and Steve Jobs' appearance at this year's Academy Awards heralds their arrival Steve Jobs appeared at the Oscars last night looking radiant in a strapless Giorgio Armani Prive organza evening gown with a side train accented by Swarovski crystals. Oh, sorry, that was Jennifer Lopez. My bad. (Though Jobs could very well have been in that gown too, along with Marc Anthony and half of The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. There was enough J. Lo to go around for everybody. If she were a commuter train, her engine would be arriving at its final destination before her caboose even left the station.) But I digress. Yes, Steve-o really was at the Academy Awards ceremony, looking dapper in a classic black tux, though I'd bet $50 he had a black turtleneck on underneath it. Marketing dude Wayne Sutton was apparently the first to spot Jobs entering the Kodak Theater, and his squeals of excitement echoed across Twitter, even in plain text. The point here, such as it is: Hollywood has officially been taken over by the geeks — and not just James Cameron and his army of blue-skinned cartoon cats. There have always been techies making movie magic. ET didn't really fly that bicycle. I'm talking about the business side of geekdom: the decision makers. That's what's changed. Jobs' understated appearance at Hollywood's biggest party was his way of announcing that the nerds are driving the bus, and all you pretty people need to step to the rear. He is, of course, the world's largest holder of Disney stock, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of his $5 billion net worth. That came as a result of selling Pixar to Disney four years ago, after 20 years of helping those talented folk change how films are made. So he may have just been there to help his old Pixar pals celebrate the success of "Up", which won two Oscars, including Best Animated Feature Film. But I think it was deeper and more symbolic than that. Not coincidentally — because there are no coincidences in Jobs World — the Oscar broadcast also saw the debut of the first iPad commercials [video], which brought forth its own Category 5 tweet storm. As those ads amply demonstrate, the iPad is a content-delivery device — possibly the first gadget to deliver every kind of content possible, from newspapers and books to movies and video games, to any location anywhere within reach of an internet connection. It won't be the last, by any means, but everything else is already in catch-up mode. So Steve's message to the gowned and tuxedoed assemblage boils down to this: You make the content (or at least some of it), I'll deliver it. And I'll create another $10 billion-a-year market in the process. There's always been tension between Hollywood and the consumer electronics industry. One side wants to control everything and dictate how people can consume its content; the other side wants universal standards and wide-open innovation. So far, the only geek macher who's been able to bend Hollywood's aging mandarins to his will has been the Man in the Black Turtleneck. No longer an outsider, he's now a player — bigger and badder than ever, and with a brand-new bionic liver. Who was the richest person in attendance? Who has the most influence and commands the biggest audience? Who's the least bound to Hollywood's old ways of doing business? The answer to those questions is the same. It is truly revenge of the nerds. That's something any geek can be proud of. What do you think — can an army of geeks change the entertainment industry? What should they do first? Post your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com

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