Home Security Solutions Focus on Recycling, Efficiency (Actually, Old iPhones and Compression)

A situation in which remote monitoring with push notification could have a saved a lot of heartache. Or lunch. (Tom and Jerry are trademarks and copyrights of Turner Entertainment Co.)

I knew I was “old school” when I contacted a local school and asked if they could use a couple of old film cameras (a Pentax P30 and Canon Rebel). “Sure,” came the response, “We have a shelf on which we keep antique and vintage cameras and we could place your donation there.”

I get it. Technology is outpacing me. I scratched my head recently when I advised my daughter to take my old Blackberry on a school outing instead of her camera; the camera is valuable – the Blackberry, not so much.

I’m not the only one using old phones as cameras. Developer Manything offers an app that turns your old iPhone (or iPod, or iPad) into a remote wireless camera – perfect for home security or setting up creepy practical jokes. Download the app on the recording device, and then log-in using either Facebook or an email account to receive push notifications and remote monitoring capabilities on a second iOS device.

Those without a spare Apple product can turn to Blink. Or, at least hopefully will be able to turn to Blink. Read more

Is An Affordable Tesla Around the Corner?

I’m somewhat fascinated with Tesla Motors. When it comes to electric-powered cars I often utter the time-honored complaint, “we can land a man on the moon but we can’t make a battery-powered car?” It seems to me that this should be possible by now. They also look cool, and while Tesla is an American company, I feel a bit odd wanting one of these cars; I was born in Detroit, after all.

Tesla has been selling electric vehicles that run on lithium-ion batteries since 2003. The current Model S starts at about $70,000. That’s a lot of money for a car with a limited range that has to be plugged in to be charged every 300 miles or so.

Recently, Tesla announced that they are working on the Model 3, which they hope to sell for about $35,000, starting in 2017. Still not cheap, but not a ton more than the Subaru Outback I bought last year. If they can get the price down to $35,000 by 2017, maybe a $25,000 model (my kind of price range) is not too far behind.

One big hurdle right now, in terms of bringing down the cost of a Tesla, is the production costs on the lithium-ion batteries. They can drive down the cost of the batteries by producing a large volume, and Tesla is working right now on finding a location for and building a “Gigafactory” that will increase the production of batteries for cars, solar panels and other devices.

Amazon Launches ‘All You Can Read’ Service

Think of it as Netflix for intellectuals: Amazon last week introduced Kindle Unlimited, a $9.95 per month service that allows users unlimited access to more than 600,000 books on Kindle devices, as well as via free Kindle reading apps for iOS, Android and more.

In addition to print titles, the service will offer more than 2,000 audio books via Audible with Whispersync for Voice, which allows users to switch between reading and listening.

Amazon is offering prospective users a free 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited. The service is not limited to Amazon Prime customers, but rather to anyone with a Kindle device or app. Like Netflix, there will not be any due dates on materials accessed through the service.

Pew Research estimated that as of January 2014, some 50% of all Americans owned either a tablet or an e-book reader, or both.

“In addition to offering over 600,000 eBooks, Kindle Unlimited is also by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and eBooks together,” said Russ Grandinetti, Kindle senior vice president. “With thousands of Whispersync for Voice-enabled audiobooks to choose from, you can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy.”

Angels on the Heads of Pins and Splitting Hairs: The Winding Roads to Common-Sense Results on Net Neutrality, and How to Find a More Direct Path

There is perhaps no communications policy issue that generates more inflamed rhetoric and tortured logic than net neutrality. Everyone is for an “open Internet,” but that’s because each stakeholder seems to have his or her own definition and desired outcome. The “open Internet” is the Rorschach test of communications policy – you see in it what you want.

A significant part of the problem is that the very underpinnings of communications law are tied up in unnecessarily tortured knots. There may be no federal agency more uncertain about its ability to utilize its core statutory mandate than the FCC; various parties have thrown enough regulatory grime up against the wall in the past decade that some of it has stuck and rendered some of the most basic principles of communications law nearly unenforceable. For example, a decade-long refusal to classify VoIP as just another voice service and intervening decisions to treat certain kinds of network transmission as something other than what they are—conveyance of data between points A and Z—has unfortunately rendered regulators all but passive watchers in some of the most important debates. In turn, unregulated entities refuse to complete calls, seek access to universal service dollars with limited accountability, and impose charges that—while not called “access charges”—are really nothing more than access charges imposed without any oversight or transparency.

The current net neutrality debate gives us a real chance to wipe clean the regulatory grime and for the FCC to reassert its authority without overreaching. We have an opportunity to stop making policy by counting angels on the heads of pins (e.g., where does a call get converted to IP?) and splitting hairs (e.g., does the nature of a transmission facility change based upon the data that cross it?). Communications law may be tied in knots, but the knots aren’t Gordian. They can be untied, but the key is making sure that the ways to do so aren’t so contrived or complex in themselves that we make things worse. Read more

Senate Bill Proposes to Spare Manufacturers Hassle of Engraving FCC Logo on Devices; Apple Watch Anticipated to Debut at $300

fcc-logo-300x200Come on, you’ve seen it on everything from the back of your LCD monitor to your remote garage door opener – that funky, 1970′s standard FCC logo that looks like the letter “F” either grabbing or eating the letter “C.” How that ever replaced the classic bird atop transmission wires seal of the agency is beyond my current knowledge, but the rub of it is that current federal regulations require the equipment manufactures to physically label their products as FCC compliant. Hence that touch of the 70′s on every latest device (to be fair, however, the soft, rounded edges of the F-C-C have been cleaned and angled in recent years, leading to a leaner, crisper logo – the FCC on Adkins, I suppose).

But . . . a new Senate bill proposes that this labeling can be implemented electronically, on the screen of the device and visible at the discretion of the device designer. Introduced by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the “E-Label” would authorize the FCC logo to appear on a “splash” screen when the device powers on, or elsewhere in menus or settings screens. The impetus for the bill was the growing number of shrinking devices (yes, I have been waiting to use that phrase).


No respect: it’s not just the device world – even Rita’s Ices ignores Blackberry.

The news may be welcome to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), whose anticipated iWatch is anticipated to enter the market at $300. The release of the iWatch, the development of which has been watched (groan) with keen interest for the past several years, would be a breakout moment in the wear device industry. As noted in reports from last year’s CES, wearable health and diet monitoring devices designed for Apple and Android (sorry, Blackberry) were front and center on the trade floor in Las Vegas. A “ground up” device from Apple that would integrate seamlessly with existing devices and continue the firm’s design standards would likely be extraordinarily attractive to both prospective users who are actively interested in wearables as well as prospective users who, on balance, may simply be interested in anything Apple. Apple has not confirmed production, but trade media predict its debut within the year.

At the least, Apple may not need to find room to inscribe the ravenous “F.”

How to Text a Landline

The next time you are in Middleton, Wis., the police department wants you to text them if you have a problem. Anyone with a text message-enabled cellphone can type out nonemergency questions or complaints and send them to the same phone number that dispatchers at the station use to answer voice calls. The text is delivered to computers used by the dispatchers, who can then reply or direct assistance as needed. The Wisconsin State Journal covered the story.

How is it that residents can now send SMS messages to a phone number that is not connected to a cellphone?  Zipwhip Inc., a cloud-based text messaging service, directs text messages sent to users’ landline phone numbers to the users’ computers, tablets or smartphones

This might be a fun or convenient product for some consumers, but the technology really shines in business applications. Most companies still have landline telephone service, and their phone number might be part of their brand. Using Zipwhip combines a form of communication customers are familiar with – text messages – with phone numbers customers already use. In other words, customers can contact the businesses with text messages through a point of contact that they already associate with the business. Read more

A New World Record

Bell Labs, the research arm of Alcatel-Lucent, announced that it has set a new world broadband speed record over traditional copper telephone lines: 10 Gbps symmetrical.

Bell Labs achieved the 10 Gbps speed with a prototype technology known as XG-FAST, which utilizes an increased frequency range up to 500 MHz to obtain faster speeds than prior technologies but over shorter distances.

In tests, Bell Labs was able to achieve speeds of 1 Gbps over 70 meters on a single copper pair, and 10 Gbps over 30 meters by using two pairs of copper lines.

“Our constant aim is to push the limits of what is possible to ‘invent the future,’” said Bell Labs president Marcus Weldon. “Our demonstration of 10 Gbps over copper is a prime example: by pushing broadband technology to its limits, operators can determine how they could deliver gigabit services over their existing networks, ensuring the availability of ultra-broadband access as widely and as economically as possible.”

“Achieving 1 Gbps ‘symmetrical’ services…will enable operators to provide Internet connection speeds that are indistinguishable from fiber-to-the-home services, a major business benefit where it is not physically, economically or aesthetically viable to lay new fiber cables all the way into residences,” Bell Labs stated in a press release. “Instead, fiber can be brought to the curbside, wall or basement of a building and the existing copper network used for the final few meters.”

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