Sunday, September 7, 2008

RDFa goes to W3C Proposed Recommendation

Yesterday RDFa reached Proposed Recommendation status at the World Wide Web Consortium, the final stage before becoming a W3C Recommendation.

Using RDFa, one can make data in web pages rendered for humans also readable in a meaningful way by computers. This is important to Creative Commons, as we have always seen the promise of the Semantic Web to describe licenses and make works more findable and reusable, ironically it has always been difficult to bring the Semantic Web to the World Wide Web we’re all used to using and loving. RDFa is a crucial bridge to bring these worlds together.

Creative Commons, primarily through the efforts of Ben Adida, our W3C Representative (see a recent interview with him at the Yahoo! Search Blog), has been a major contributor to the development of RDFa since 2004. I strongly suspect the standard would have taken more than four years without CC’s contributions.

You can read an in-depth description of some of the early CC use cases for RDFa in a paper we released earlier this year, including machine-readable attribution and description of images and other resources included in web pages.

CC’s technology team, led by Nathan Yergler, is also a leading implementer of RDFa, which is now used throughout our open source projects, including our license chooser and license deeds.

Check out the RDFa wiki for tutorials, examples, and code.

Google Satellite Now Watching You From 423 Miles Up

The GeoEye satellite that Google will use to provide mapping imagery at 50-centimeter resolution successfully blasted into space today. So don't leave your underwear lying all over your lawn.

Andy Plesser of Beet.TV put together a cool video animation (below). Stephen Shankland of CNET has the story:

GeoEye-1 will orbit 423 miles above Earth, but it will be able to gather imagery with details the size of 41 centimeters... Google, though, is permitted to use data only with a resolution of 50cm because of the terms of GeoEye's license with the U.S. government.

Each day, the satellite will be able to gather a high-resolution "pan-sharpened" format surface area equal to that of about New Mexico, the company said.

"The GeoEye-1 satellite has the highest ground resolution color imagery available in the commercial marketplace and will produce high-quality imagery with a very accurate geolocation," said Google spokeswoman Kate Hurowitz, adding that most commercial satellite imagery has a resolution of 60cm. "It is our goal to display high-resolution imagery for as much of the world as possible, and GeoEye-1 will help further that goal."

35 percent of biggest companies own

A study of Fortune 500 and other companies found that one in three have bought the name, say, But corporate attitudes toward hate sites vary widely between, say, Dell and Xerox:

FairWinds based its analysis on 1,058 domain names for companies on the Global 500 and Fortune 500 lists. Of the companies surveyed, 35% own the domain name for their brand followed by the word "sucks." They include Wal-Mart Stores, Coca-Cola, Toys"R"Us, Target and Whole Foods Market, according to FairWinds. Some 45% of these domains have yet to be registered by anyone. The study found that the majority of companies that do own these domain names publish no content on them.

Some have been much more aggressive than others. Xerox, for example, has bought or registered about 20 unflattering domain names, including, and But other companies, such as Dell, have taken a more hands-off approach., and are for sale, but the computer maker says it has no interest in buying them.

Why Is the Internet So Infuriatingly Slow?

Everyone hates their Internet service provider. And with good cause: In the age of ubiquitous Internet access, Web service in America is still often frustratingly slow. Tired of being the villain, telecom companies have assigned blame for this problem to a new bad guy. He's called the "bandwidth hog," and it's his fault that streaming video on your computer looks more like a slide show than a movie. The major ISPs all tell a similar story: A mere 5 percent of their customers are using around 50 percent of the bandwidth—sometimes more during peak hours. While these "power users" are sharing three-gig movies and playing online games, poor granny is twiddling her thumbs waiting for to load.

The ISPs are certainly correct that there's a problem: The current network in the United States struggles to accommodate everyone, and the barbarians at the gate—voice-over-IP telephony, live video streams, high-def movies—threaten to drown the grid. (This Deloitte report has a good treatment of that eventuality.) It's less clear that the telecom companies, fixated as they are on the bandwidth hogs, are doing a good job of managing the problem and planning for the future. The ISPs have put forward two big ideas, in recent months, about how to fix our bandwidth crisis. We can arrange these plans into two categories: horrible now and horrible later.

Plan One: Feed the meter. Category: Horrible now. In January, Time Warner announced it was rolling out an experimental plan in Beaumont, Texas, that charged users by the gigabyte. Thirty dollars would get you 5 gigabytes a month, while a $55 plan would get you 40. Each extra gigabyte over the limit costs a buck. In succeeding months, this data-capping idea has caught on. Comcast recently announced that it's drawing the line at 250 gigabytes per user per month. Once you've used that much bandwidth, you can get your account suspended.

A limit of 250 gigs a month is plenty enough for most of us, at least for now. Silicon Alley Insider has a nice rundown of what it would take to hit that limit, to the tune of two HD movies a day and a lot of gaming on the side. But that assumes your connection is speedy enough to stream high-quality video in the first place. It's a chicken-and-egg problem: People use less bandwidth when their connection is crawling from congestion.

A reasonable argument can be made that this is a sound way to clear up congestion. It is rather unfair that people who barely use the Web have to pay the same or similar rates as people who use BitTorrent all day. The "meterists"—and there are a few of them out there—think systems like Time Warner's are inherently fairer, as they end the practice of forcing light users to subsidize heavy users. The rosiest scenarios even suppose that a pay-as-you-go Internet could give telecoms the financial incentive to expand their networks.

The criticism is easy to condense: No one joyrides in a taxi. A plan like this, as its many opponents have noted, will cramp the freewheeling, inventive nature of the Internet. The Internet owes its success to two pillars of human activity: masturbation and procrastination. (Seriously: We have the porn companies to thank for pioneering all sorts of technologies, from VHS to secure credit-card transactions online.) Is the Internet really the Internet if people don't use it to waste time?

Widespread deployment of capped or metered plans would also cripple businesses that have invested in high-bandwidth products, like videoconferencing. And if people start pinching bytes, it could also pose problems for security—if you hear the meter ticking, you'll probably be less eager to install large operating-system updates and new virus-definition files.

Martin responds to Comcast lawsuit: we still want answers

By Matthew Lasar

Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin said today that he was "disappointed" by Comcast's decision to sue the FCC over its move to sanction the company for P2P throttling. But Martin said he's glad that the cable giant says it will still comply with the Commission's Order requiring the company to reveal its Internet management policies, because the agency has lots of questions.

"Given Comcast's past failure to disclose its network management practices to its customers, it is important Comcast respond to the many still-unanswered questions about its new management techniques," Martin warned in a statement released this afternoon. Most notably, what exactly does Comcast mean when it says it will have a "protocol agnostic" management system in place by the end of the year?

And as for the bandwidth limits that Comcast has now announced: "How will consumers know if they are close to a limit?" Martin asked. "If a consumer exceeds a limit, is his traffic slowed? Is it terminated? Is his service turned off?"

Anticipating Comcast's arguments that the FCC has no jurisdiction to sanction its behavior, Martin reminded the company that when the FCC approved it and Time-Warners' acquisition of Adelphia Communications in July of 2006, the FCC "put Comcast on notice" that it would act on complaints of degraded Internet content. "Comcast nonetheless chose to close on that deal," Martin noted.

The FCC still wants answers, Martin's statement concludes. "Perhaps more importantly, Comcast's subscribers deserve to know the answers."

Other critics of Comcast's traffic-management practices responded to the news with varying degrees of bravado and anxiety.

Gig Sohn of Public Knowledge said that PK expected Comcast to appeal the FCC's decision. "The company opposed it every step of the way, even as they failed to disclose their throttling of Internet traffic," Sohn stated. "We believe the Commission will prevail and the rights of Internet users will be protected."

The question, of course, is whether they will prevail in this particular court case. The Open Internet Coalition's (OIC) press release warns that Comcast's appeal may "roll back" the progress that the FCC made in its Order. The move also raises questions "whether the Commission's Broadband Policy Statement, guaranteeing consumers the right to access content and applications of their choice over the ‘Net, has the force of law." The OIC statement calls on Congress to provide leadership on the issue.

While Free Press's Ben Scott also calls Comcast's actions "predictable," his comments concur that Capitol Hill has to address the problem. "The future of the Internet is too important to let Comcast tie it up in legal limbo," Scott said. "Congress should act now to pass net neutrality laws that clear up any uncertainty once and for all."

This case will now go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which has a long history of dealing with FCC controversies, in some instances siding with the Commission.

In June of 2006 the DC Circuit famously upheld the FCC on the constitutionality of its enforcement of the Communications Assistance Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which requires private ISPs to open their networks to the cops. In May of this year the DC Circuit yet again backed the FCC, this time rejecting Sprint's bid to delay a plan to reorganize the 800MHz spectrum band's public safety region.

Both times the court upheld the FCC's statutory right to enforce its rules, the big question that Comcast will doubtless raise when the matter comes to the bench.

Original here

Intel ready to announce six-core chip

Posted by Brooke Crothers

Intel is expected to announce the "Dunnington" processor later this month, the first six-core processor and last of its Penryn-class chips.

Intel on September 15 is expected to roll out the Intel Xeon 7400 series Dunnington processor targeted at the server market, the final member of the "Penryn" family of processors, according to sources at server vendors. Penryn will be followed by the Nehalem microarchitecture, due to appear initially as the Core i7 processor in the fourth quarter.

Server vendors announcing products will include Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell, according to Intel senior vice presiden Pat Gelsinger, speaking at the Intel Developer Forum last month. Other server makers such as IBM and Unisys are also expected to have systems.

The Xeon 7400 boasts significantly better performance due to its large 16MB cache memory and half a dozen cores.

Intel "Dunnington" Xeon 7400 is the first six-core processor

Intel "Dunnington" Xeon 7400 is the first 6-core processor

(Credit: Brooke Crothers)

Dunnington is also one of the first Intel chips to have a monolithic design (Nehalem will too). In other words, all six cores will be on one piece of silicon. To date, for any processor having more than two cores, Intel has put two separate pieces of silicon--referred to as die--inside of one chip package.

Intel has described the processor as follows: "Dunnington is the first IA (Intel Architecture) processor with six cores, is based on the 45nm high-k process technology, and has large shared caches."

Original here

On iTunes 8 and hunches; also iPhone 2.1 for Tuesday

On Friday, we posted a short roundup of what's expected in iTunes 8 thanks to the rumortastic stylings of Kevin Rose. The Pandora-like Genius feature, Genius Sidebar, Grid view, and more are all said to be included. Although the general web consensus was that it would probably land on next Tuesday's Apple Special Event, we were skeptical.

Well, that skepticism was unwarranted, it seems. A person close to the situation has informed us that, as of this morning, iTunes 8 is finally confirmed for September 9. This person conveyed that much of what Rose claims is in iTunes 8 is correct as well. So, our hunch was wrong. And we're glad, because it sounds pretty cool, too.

Another little birdie told us that it's widely expected within some Apple circles that iPhone 2.1 will be released on September 9. We were told that, aside from what we already know about iPhone 2.1 from leaked info on the web, there are other parts to 2.1 that were specifically removed from developer seeds in order to keep them secret from the world. This both excites and worries us, because if true, then there are features coming in the newest firmware that have not been widely tested outside of Apple. On the other hand, we're suckers for a surprise.

All we can say is that Tuesday can't come fast enough for the rumor mill.

AT&T won't sell me an iPhone at any price

After months of cajoling, I finally convinced my wife to buy an iPhone. She went to the local AT&T store today, and was actually turned down. She is, apparently, "upgrade ineligible." She asked if there was any price at which should could buy it, and they said no.
(NOTE: This story has been updated with new information. It turns out that the AT&T store management was confused about AT&T policy, and gave us false information about upgrading. Details at the end of the post.)
Our whole family is on AT&T, and my wife and I both use BlackBerry devices. We pay AT&T well over $4,000 per year for wireless service alone.
I've been trying to get my wife to get rid of her BlackBerry and buy an iPhone 3G so I could use her phone to review App Store software and test various services for my ongoig reporting on the cell phone universe.
Because we're the wrong kind of customer (based on a complicated set of criteria that includes how long we've had our plans and how much we pay), the local AT&T store in Santa Barbara, Calif., flat out rejected us for an iPhone.
My wife asked if there was *any* price she could pay, and the sales person checked with the manager, came back and said no. He told us that we would be turned down at other AT&T stores and at the Apple stores as well.
I had read about Apple's "upgrade ineligible" customer rules on various iPhone enthusiast blogs back in June. But this was reported as being ineligible for the upgrade price, not the phone itself. According to these blog reports, "upgrade ineligible" customers simply get a different price: $399 and $499 for 8GB and 16GB phones instead of $199 and $299. We were willing to pay this. But they said no.
What we found out today is that "upgrade ineligible" means "blacklisted at any price."
The store sales person informed us that we would be eligible for an upgrade in five months (the end of my wife's existing two-year contract), and that we might qualify for an early upgrade on October 7. But -- get this! -- they're not sure whether they'll let us buy an iPhone at that point or require that we upgrade to another brand
I'm inclined to believe that the Santa Barbara AT&T staff is simply misinformed. I've been calling the store, other stores and the national AT&T customer service numbers for the past hour, and nobody is answering the phone.
Stay tuned for updates, which I'll post on this blog entry as I find out more.
In the meantime, has this happened to anyone else out there?
UPDATE #1: I still haven't been able to get anyone at AT&T to answer the phone, but I did discover an "check upgrade eligibility link" for current AT&T customers. By clicking on the link, however, I was taken to a long list of phones I am eligible to upgrade to -- the iPhone isn't on the list.
UPDATE #2: According to a post, here are the elegibility requirements for existing AT&T customers to qualify for upgrading to an iPhone at the discounted prices of $199 and $299. (I still haven't found anything about not being able to buy the phone at all.)
UPDATE #3: I finally got through to AT&T's national customer service number, then waited on hold for about 20 minutes while they tried to get through to the local store. It turns out that store management in Santa Barbara was confused about the policy, and that my wife is in fact eligible to purchase iPhones at the normal prices, plus a $200 penalty for being an existing, loyal AT&T customer.
Final thoughts:
This whole episode has eroded my confidence in AT&T and Apple. Here's what they got wrong:
  • AT&T store management failed to learn basic details about their own upgrade policy, and told a customer (and probably many others) that she was ineligible for an iPhone upgrade at any price; that other stores would tell her the same thing; and that it was uncertain whether she would be eligible to upgrade to an iPhone even when the account became eligible for upgrades in general.
  • It's foolish to nickle-and-dime a $4,000-per-year customer, especially when that customer is trying to upgrade to a much more expensive data plan.
  • It took me two hours to get anyone from AT&T on the phone.
  • When I did call, they made me give my phone number three times.
  • Because my wife's BlackBerry is malfunctioning, she's eligible to upgrade to absolutely any phone immediately -- except the iPhone. Why the iPhone exceptionalism? Why doesn't Apple make sure their product isn't taken off the table when an AT&T customer wants to make a conversion?
  • Apple and/or AT&T act like everyone is a rabid fanboy. But many people, like my wife, are current Windows and BlackBerry users who are merely toying with the idea of becoming Apple customers. When these fence-sitters finally muster up the interest to go give an Apple product a try, and are met with resistance, incompetence and something that feels like Apple snobbery, much more is being lost than a single iPhone purchase. My wife needs a new laptop, too, and might have loved the iPhone and made a total, lifelong conversion to iPhone, and Macs, too. Now she's got a broken phone and needs to upgrade and will probably just get another BlackBerry because she harbors ill will toward Apple. We're also now thinking about switching carriers. We'll have to file this one in the "FAIL" category.