End User media

@BBCRadioLincs tech predictions for 2013 – @mrwilliam talks with Trefor Davies

Trefor DaviesFor the those of you who didn’t surface until after lunchtime on New Year’s day here are some links to my chat with William Wright on BBC Radio Lincolnshire yesterday.

In the first we talk about NGA/superfast broadband and 4G.

The second is about the snoopers charter and what’s happening in mobiles in 2013.

They are both around 15 minutes long but I’m told well worth listening to the whole lot 🙂

End User media

Predictions for 2013 & BBC Radio Lincolnshire appearance on New Year’s Day

Trefor DaviesI stopped doing predictions for the new year some time ago. Wet your finger and hold it up in the air. That said I always predict that Wales will win the rugby 6 Nations. Why would I bet on any other outcome?

This year though I am going to be live on BBC Radio Lincolnshire on New Year’s Day talking about technology that is going to impact us in 2013. Some of it is going to be Lincolnshire specific – where, for example, is the superfast broadband rollout in the county? when will we be getting 4G?

Most of it is going to be a general chat about techy stuff – Apple, Android, et al.

Tune if you fancy. They have asked me to arrive at 11am so I guess I’ll be on at around 11.15 ish. Link is here.

End User media

BBC Radio Lincolnshire New Year’s Day – tech trends for 2013

Trefor DaviesHi folks. Thought you might like to know I’m appearing on BBC Radio Lincolnshire just after 11am on New Year’s Day1. Chatting with William Wright about what to look out for technology wise in 2013 (bigger faster better ?!!).

Worth getting up for I’d say, ahem. Will be on air for 30 minutes or so. whaddaya think I should be talking about?

Assuming you have surfaced by then and eagerly want to tune in the link will be here.

1 for the avoidance of doubt that’s the first of January. For our American friends that’s 1/1/2013 as opposed to 1/1/2013 – note day/month reversal.

Business Regs surveillance & privacy

Draft Comms Data Bill Select Committee appearance for oral evidence #ccdp

portcullisYesterday I gave oral evidence to the Draft Communications Data Bill Joint Select Committee1. It’s the first time I have been asked to give evidence like this and something one has to take very seriously.

I was with three others: Caspar Bowden who is a colleague on the ICO Technology Reference Panel, Dr Gus Hosein of Privacy International and David Walker, a security consultant. The committee has been seeing groups according to their rough views on the draft Bill and readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear2 that this cohort was one that had concerns.

The afternoon’s evidence sessions were reported by the Beeb.

I’m sure that I will already have mentioned that the potential consequences of this Bill becoming Law are so great that it merits the most comprehensive discussion before hand. Today is the last day of evidence sessions with the Home secretary Theresa May being up before the committee.

I don’t have access to the inner thoughts of the committee but I did get a sense of the following:

  1. the fact that many communications use encrypted traffic and that this is likely to cause problems is recognised
  2. the issue of dealing with overseas providers is not likely to be an easy one
  3. the process of oversight of the RIPA system notices needs overhauling, especially if the Bill proceeds
I’m also hoping that the message got  through that nothing can ever be totally secure and that any data gathered under this Bill/Act would eventually make its way into the public domain with disastrous consequences.
I don’t have a handle of the timetable for the rest of this process (enlightenment anyone?) but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Bill move forward in some reduced form. In the meantime we have to keep up the pressure. More in the fullness of time, a week is a long time in politics etc etc etc.

1 bit of a mouthful/oral evidence/geddit?

2 some previous posts include this one

Engineer olympics

Which #Olympic events are going to attract most online interest? #London2012 #Locog

Usain Bolt - billions of fans want to see him win at the London 2012 OlympicsI’ve got tons to do but I’m on holiday after this week (yay) and the Olymic coverage is building up to near frenzy already (gawd knows what it will be like when it really gets going) so I’m doing Olympic posts.  For the avoidance of doubt that’s the London2012 summer Olympic games if any of the Locog police are reading.

You will remember the post I wrote ages ago about the BBC’s own forecasts for iPlayer traffic based on the which sport is happening at the time. Now of course that time is upon us. Today the ladies of  Team GB football are taking on the mighty All Blacks at the Millenium stadium. Actually I don’t know if they are mighty or whether they are even called the “All Blacks”. I mean New Zealand ladies.

I’ve never watched a ladies football match, at least not in its entirety. I did watch “Bend it like Beckham” which I thought was a very enjoyable movie but  I digress. The Beeb reckons that this first ladies match will be more popular than the men’s game tomorrow. Do they know something?

BBC estimates of iPlayer busy periods during London 2012 Olympics - click to enlargeThe Beeb has in fact identified six sessions it has labelled as having the highest iPlayer demand. These are the opening and closing ceremonies, the mens 100m and 200m finals (good old Usain – don’t let us down), Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton on the afternoon of Tuesday 7th August (yay cmon guys) and the afternoon of Saturday 11th which has the finals of the men’s footy, hockey and basketball (yawn).

As I write I’m scanning through the BBC’s schedule showing its demand forecast and I’ve just found something that casts the whole process into doubt. On a scale of 1 – 4 where 4 is the highest demand the women’s beach volleyball finals are only rated a 2. How credible is that?

That’s it for now. I normally adopt radio silence when I’m on holiday but this time I will be posting live from Olympic events using my trusty Samsung Galaxy S3 and WordPress for Android. I must get a speed tester app on the phone. Also I’ve not gone yet 🙂

Click the inset box to see which events the BBC thinks will be busy.

Business online safety Regs

EU cookie legislation – a look at some of the implementations

EU Cookie Directive 2009/136/ec of the European ParliamentUK Cookie legislation  (DIRECTIVE 2009/136/EC) became law on May 25th 2011. This is the one where websites are meant to give you the opportunity to opt out of visiting them if they are using cookies. Cookies can be very “invasive of privacy” though in varying degrees and some potentially not at all. The law, whilst being passed with good intentions has had some unintended consequences, notably affecting some cookie functionality that is useful and likely unintrusive.

I imagine that most of us with a website use Google Analytics. We all like to look at our traffic levels – well I do anyway. There has been some confusion as to exactly what is being required of website owners – rumours for example that sites only using Google Analytics cookies would not be made to comply as GA was “beneficial and not intrusive”.

You may or may not know that I am on the Information Commissioner’s Office Technology Reference Panel. This is an expert body of representatives from stakeholder groups in information and technology related industry sectors.

The ICO, which is the industry regulator, has given the UK a year to implement the cookie directive. This year is up at the end of this month and naturally there has been press comment and a flurry of businesses making adjustments to their websites in an attempt at compliance.

One year on exactly what will the ICO do re enforcing the law

Engineer olympics

iPlayer demand forecast scheduled by session at the Olympics

Just sat in one of our ongoing planning sessions to calculate our bandwidth BBC estimates of iPlayer busy periods during London 2012 Olympics - click to enlargeneeds during the London 2012 Olympics. It’s a complicated call and we will be telling all nearer the time.

One of the data sources we are using is the BBC’s own estimates of iPlayer traffic growth. The inset photo shows when the BBC is expecting heavy iPlayer traffic loads and is based on the sport/competitor mix for any given session.

The colour coding scheme doesn’t tell us how much traffic is expected for each event but the Beeb is planning for a peak of 1Terabit per second.

The capacity planning and quality management  for the Olympics is not totally straightforward because there are factors involved outside the control of any individual ISP. Load on the iPlayer servers is one and the traffic at individual exchanges is another. As an industry we are going to have to be nimble to make sure that our customers’ experience is a good one.

More as I get it…

charitable Cloud End User

promo interview with BBC for Thursday 5th Jan world record attempt #comment24

More world record stuff. Keep the sponsorship coming in by the way. It’s starting to build momentum.

Business mobile connectivity

I have seen the future… (mystic waily voice) #4G #digitalbritain #O2 #iPlayer

speed test using a 4G dongle from O2 shows 38Meg down 27Meg upAs I gaze into my crystal ball the mists are swirling, swirling.  Now they are disappearing. Ah, it is all clear.  I can see blue skies. I can see people dancing, holding aloft their smartphones and tablets. Waving. Everyone is happy. Where is this mythical land where the rivers flow with champagne/beer/cappucino (delete as appropriate)?iPlayer streaming Frozen Planet in HD to a laptop through an O2 4G dongle

It is here, where you and I live. In Blighty. Home.

I have just come back from O2’s offices in Slough where I had a play with 4G on a laptop. The jpg in the header photo shows the download and upload performance. The speed varies but does go as high as 80 – 85Megs down.

The laptop I was using only needed 7Megs worth of bandwidth for its day to day activities – email, streaming HD etc so there is plenty of headroom when considering personal use. It is easy however to imagine this service being used as a replacement for fixed line bandwidth where a family would certainly use up all the bandwidth available. Also who knows what bandwidth hungry applications are round the corner. They will come.

The demo is impressive. The photo inset was taken from my Samsung Galaxy 2 so isn’t a screenshot and the quality could be better. It doesn’t matter. I watched Frozen Planet streaming in HD on iPlayer – no buffering, perfect quality.

O2 has recently announced 4G trials in an area of London between Kings Cross and the City. I am taking part. Watch this space for up to the minute information on 4G.

I have seen the future. The future is 4G.

Apps Engineer media olympics

2012 – Summer of Sports on Steroids – BBC estimates more than 2x Football World Cup traffic levels

growth in BBC iPlayer coverage of Olympics2012 or as the BBC puts it “Summer of Sports on Steroids” 1 is going to be another milestone year for the ISP industry with the UK playing host to the Olympic games and another record anticipated for internet traffic levels. On Wednesday at the ISPA conference we had Jane Weedon, Controller of Business Development at the BBC talking about their preparations for the games.

The coverage in 2012 is going to be comprehensive with pretty much 100% of the sport available to watch as it happens – up to 27 simultaneous channels at the peak towards the end of the second week. This will have grown from perhaps 15-20% of coverage at the Sydney games 35% in Athens and 65% in Beijing (click on the header photo for graphic illustration).

The peak traffic during the South Africa Football World Cup hit 450Gbps with everyone going online to watch the EnglandiPlayer traffic levels during Football World Cup v Slovenia match. For perspective this year so far iPlayer traffic has peaked atiplayer traffic levels in 2011 220Gbps.

So look out ISPs.

The forecasting of traffic levels for these games is in reality going to be very difficult. On the higher demand side the games are on home territory and will appeal to a wider demographic than the Football World Cup. To counter this device proliferation may lead to the streaming being distributed over a wider range of media – 3G mobiles and tablets, public WiFi zones, offices providing big TV screens and the fact that many folk may well take the two weeks of the games off on holiday.

Medals success for Team GB is also going to be an influencing factor.

The Beeb has gone into significant detail in estimating demand on a session by session basis and has come up with a forecast of  10 x the traffic levels for London as they saw in Beijing. That’s 1Terabits a second 2  at the peak in streams averaging 1Mbps.

That’s enough Olympic bits for the moment but there is so much interest in this subject looking ahead I’m going  to be looking out for more Olympic stories to share.

1 Steroids is perhaps an unfortunate word to use in this context

2  Nobody is going to hold them to this forecast but it certainly gives us all an indication of what to expect

Engineer media

The thirst for information – Colonel Gadaffi and semantic metadata

illustration of semantic metadata in use by BBC with articles regarding Colonel GadaffiSomeone told me in the office that “they had killed Gadaffi”. Unusual to not hear it first on Twitter but I wasn’t looking, I’m too busy.

Back at my desk I looked at the Telegraph website. Then I went to the Guardian, Sky News and as if I hadn’t seen enough of the same stuff, the BBC news website. We thirst for information these days.

The BBC website, like all of them, had the item as its main news.  Colonel Gadaffi “killed”: Latest updates. Below this were links to “Gadaffi’s Quixotic and brutal rule, The Muammar Gadaffi story and His Life in pictures.

It was only then that I realised I was looking at “semantic metadata” in action.

internet ipv6

The end of #IPv4 and the coming of #IPv6 – exclusive interview with The Young Journalist Academy

Over the past few days I have had a flurry of media interviews on the subject of the exhaustion of the IANA IPv4 address pool and the advent of IPv6. This is increasingly going to be a talking point during 2011. The biggest problem in linking to these interviews is that they are usually on the BBC and typically only accessible via iPlayer, and then only for a week after the event.

It would be nice to be able to link to something that should stay up for a more usable period of time. On this occasion I was pleased to spend some of Saturday morning (pre golf 🙂 ) talking to some budding young journalists in my hometown of Lincoln. They (Jonathan and Robert from Year 8, Carre’s Grammar School, Sleaford) have written a story and posted it on “The Young Journalist Academy” website.

The podcast is here.

broadband Business

Pigeon vs broadband trailer on the BBC

Audio of a trailer intereview I did with the BBC last night talking about the rerun of the South African broadband versus pigeon race but in the UK this Thursday.

Update 17.20 15th Sept

There is a fair bit of media interest in this event with live radio interviews for BC Humberside and BBC Lincolnshire for tomorrow’s breakfast shows, mid morning and drivetime on BBC Lincolnshire as well as extensive  TV coverage on Look North. The BBC main news website is also covering the event.

Look out for the  rory&tref  hashtag on twitter during the day.  Rory and Tref are the two pigeons that will be carrying the microSD cards (Rory Stewart is the MP for Penrith).  Check out the Cumbrian Rural Broadband event he is organising here.

On a side note we will know the exact time of arrival of the pigeons back in the loft because they will be RF ID tagged. I am expecting a convincing  avian victory.

Engineer internet

Bandwidth explosions

We are currently seeing an explosive growth in the distribution and delivery of digital video content across both fixed and mobile networks. Four years ago 100 million videos were watched on YouTube every day. It is two billion today. The BBC’s iPlayer launched in December 2007. It now delivers over 120 million requests every day which adds up to 7 petabytes of data a month.

As a result of this, the volume of data carried by mobile operators has risen twentyfold over the last two years (thanks iPhone), and is forecast to grow almost as much again in the next two years. The figures for fixed operators are less dramatic but still very significant.

Business internet ofcom piracy

Bono sums don’t add up.

The BBC reports today that singer Bono is claiming that the revenues lost by the music industry due to illegal downloading mirrors the growth in profits of the Internet industry.

This didn’t sound quite right to me but I doubt that anyone has any real data. It did prompt me to see if I could have a stab at sizing both industries myself from my limited sources of information.

Firstly in last year’s Ofcom communications market report the total number of ADSL tails is quoted as being 17.3 million connections at an average cost of £10.71 a month.  This works out at just over £2.2Bn revenues in 2008.  I realise that there will be other revenues that add to the total ISP take but ADSL will be the biggest portion of the whole. Also I have no doubt that the music industry would quote the total communications market size as the number to compare.

Now look at the available data on the music industry in the UK posted recently in the Times which suggests that turnover in 2008 was, wait for it, just over £2.2Bn.

Whatever the right numbers it clearly suggests that Bono’s claim is just the hype that most people will hopefully see through, or at least MPS about to decide on the Digital Economy Bill.  We are at an important juncture in process of the DEB and it is important that the ISP industry gets its own message across as clearly and successfully as the music industry seems to be doing.  I haven’t been monitoring the relative amounts of press coverage each side has been getting.

ofcom1Finally the chart, taken from last year’s Ofcom market report shows how the media and telecoms industries have been performing relative to the stock market. It suggests to me that the media industry, again assuming the metric is the right one, is not doing so badly, relatively speaking.

I’m quite happy to be corrected with any of the numbers here but we do need to try and get a correct persective on the whole situation.

Business internet ofcom piracy

Bono sums don't add up.

The BBC reports today that singer Bono is claiming that the revenues lost by the music industry due to illegal downloading mirrors the growth in profits of the Internet industry.

This didn’t sound quite right to me but I doubt that anyone has any real data. It did prompt me to see if I could have a stab at sizing both industries myself from my limited sources of information.

Firstly in last year’s Ofcom communications market report the total number of ADSL tails is quoted as being 17.3 million connections at an average cost of £10.71 a month.  This works out at just over £2.2Bn revenues in 2008.  I realise that there will be other revenues that add to the total ISP take but ADSL will be the biggest portion of the whole. Also I have no doubt that the music industry would quote the total communications market size as the number to compare.

Now look at the available data on the music industry in the UK posted recently in the Times which suggests that turnover in 2008 was, wait for it, just over £2.2Bn.

Whatever the right numbers it clearly suggests that Bono’s claim is just the hype that most people will hopefully see through, or at least MPS about to decide on the Digital Economy Bill.  We are at an important juncture in process of the DEB and it is important that the ISP industry gets its own message across as clearly and successfully as the music industry seems to be doing.  I haven’t been monitoring the relative amounts of press coverage each side has been getting.

ofcom1Finally the chart, taken from last year’s Ofcom market report shows how the media and telecoms industries have been performing relative to the stock market. It suggests to me that the media industry, again assuming the metric is the right one, is not doing so badly, relatively speaking.

I’m quite happy to be corrected with any of the numbers here but we do need to try and get a correct persective on the whole situation.

Business internet media video

BBC piles the pressure on ISPs with internet TV

Channel 4 and Talk Talk have joined Project  Canvas, the BBC’s set top box standardisation effort that already includes the BBC, ITV, BT, Five.

The end goal is to connect the internet to your TV and allow programmes to be streamed over your broadband connection.  The BBC press announcement doesn’t go into schedules but it does talk about offering services that include:

Linear TV (eg Freeview, Freesat) with HD and storage (pause, rewind, record)
Video-on-demand services (eg BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 40D)
Other internet-based content or services (eg Flickr, Amazon, NHS Direct)

My only point in regurgitating this BBC news is that the time is not so very far away when consumers will have to start factoring the cost of all this downloading.  What is perceived to be a free TV programme is effectively going to become Pay As You Go and the cost of an hour’s watching will be something known to all. I can see kids being given an allocation by their parents just in the same way that they have pre paid mobile phones.

As a footnote my kids have been trying to persuade me to buy them a new 42″ flatscreen LCD TV for the “den”.  I’ve beaten off the assault by saying that we don’t actually have a source of HD video other than their own laptops and PCs.  Even this line of defence looks as if it will only be shortlived.

More TV related stuff:

Sony 4K Ultra HD TV

TV detector vans – the truth

Boring TV & better things to do.

End User internet

Last night of the proms iPlayer versus freeview

Just a quick sound byte.  Watching Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on both iPlayer and Freeview.  Sound comes through about half  second faster on iPlayer.  Take note all ye on line betting syndicates:-)

broadband Business internet online safety piracy Regs

UK Government Efforts ISP Regulation Gets Opposition from Unexpected Sources

There has been a lot in the press recently regarding Government plans to regulate the ISP industry. ISPs have been vociferous where they consider that this regulation is unnecessary and adds cost burdens that will have to be borne by consumers.

Quite pleasingly other industries which the Government is likely to think would be the beneficiaries of the legislation have also come out against it.

For example the high profile “three strikes” approach to Music Piracy whereby persistent file-sharers have their broadband cut off is attracting a lot of opposition from the music industry itself. The BBC reports:

Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, a member of the Featured Artists’ Coalition (FAC), said: “It’s going to start a war which they’ll never win.”

Feargal Sharkey’s UK Music allegedly has a war chest of up to £20 million a year to lobby Government on the subject of ISP regulation. This FAC stance seems to be clear disagreement within that industry.

The leak in the Independent this week that the Queen’s Speech currently is planned to propose mandatory blocking of consumer broadband connections for child abuse images has also created a bit of a stir.

The vast majority of consumer broadband connections already have such screening and it seems that the Government is trying to make political capital out of a subject which everyone will of course support in principle.

The issue is how much effort and money will it take to cover the last few consumers not already “protected” particularly as it is smaller ISPs who are most likely to be affected. This is particularly relevant considering that all we are not talking about stopping hard core child abusers who already know how to get around the blocking.

The Register has come out with an interview on this subject with Jim Gamble, Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), and effectively the UK’s leading investigator of online child abuse who has come out against legislation in this area.

There is potentially a lot more regulation in the pipeline. Somewhere in a Government office near you someone is plotting to gain more control ever our every day lives. It is at least nice to see that there are people out there with some common sense who are willing to stick their hands up and say “this is not right”.

broadband Business internet

BBC Claims BT is Throttling iPlayer

The BBC has an article online regarding the fact that BT is broadband throttling the iPlayer traffic of customers taking “Option1”.  Option1 appears to be BT’s cheapest broadband package at 8Mbps with a 10GB download limit.

I’m afraid that it is a fact of life that ISPs cannot afford to keep providing the services they do at the prices they do without some element of constraint over what consumers can download.

BT’s website does have a long list of caveats for its broadband service. They are quite open about the fact that they “network traffic manage” P2P and video streaming between their peak hours of 5pm and midnight although you might argue that the fair usage policy has become quite a complex one for people to understand.  Also whilst openly promoting the fact that users can watch online TV they fail to mention that only the lowest quality iPlayer setting is accommodated at these peak times.

The problem is about to get worse as higher speed 21CN connections become more prevalent and trials about to begin on 40Mbps services using Fibre To The Cabinet. Customers will expect to be able to get high quality video streaming  with these services.  Indeed video and likely HD video, will be one of the drivers for uptake of faster broadband.

Note whilst checking out the BT website I observed that the company sells its 10GB download limit as the equivalent of 2,500 music file downloads, 14 videos or 25 hours of streaming iPlayer a month.

This riles the music industry no end.  Does anyone believe that consumers download 2,500 “paid for” music files?  Is BT inadvertently helping to promote illegal P2P filesharing here?

Business internet

Copycats? Digital consumers in the online age.

I woke up Friday morning to a BBC news report claiming that a report had found that there were 7 million people in the UK indulging in illegal file sharing. This was based on a report by the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property and one which I have been looking forward to reading.

The report does in fact make very interesting reading though even the executive summary is fourteen pages long so I’m not going to replicate it all here. This then is the executive summary of the executive summary with bits left out.

Between 44% (USA) and 79% (Eastern Europe) of internet traffic is taken up with illegal file sharing. As a B2B ISP Timico does not see this level of P2P though I can understand why consumer ISPs invest heavily in packet shaping technology.

Up to 7 million people are illegalling downloading music and movies.  With only 2.3 million full time students this must mean that non students are also doing it.

A large number of people assume that they can get such material for free and that they won’t get caught.  This is changing basic assumptions about the idea of ownership,  sharing and copying content and that new business models are needed.

The report also does suggest that industry, ISPs included, need to play their part but recognises the difficult situation that ISPs are in.  If consumers get clamped down on will this change the way they behave generally in using the internet?

All this is good reading in the run up to the publication of the Digital Britain Report in a couple of weeks time. Although I hope I am wrong I increasingly get the feeling that Digital Britain is not really going to come up with any kind of solution to this problem.

Both the exec summary and the full version of the SABIP report can be found here.

Business media

Rural broadband on the BBC news this morning

The BBC has picked up a rural broadband news item this morning with another community rolling out fibre, this time with a 20Mbps broadband service, presumably with a bigger backhaul than the 2Mbps that serves Wennington and Wray (see posts from 2 weeks ago).

I suspect the media is building up for more coverage when the Digital Britain Report is released in mid June.  There seems to be some disagreement in Cumbria as to the efficacy of the investment already made in the area. Whether individual communities already get coverage or not is somewhat a moot point really.

I think the issue that is quickly going to overtake us is the adequacy of the  “up to 2Mbps” speed being bandied around as a target by Government as a Universal Service Obligation.  Many city dwellers already have access to 40 or 50Mbps and with BT’s Fibre To The Cabinet trials about to start this figure will become very much the standard to aim for, unless you live in a rural community that is.

Whilst BT CEO Ian Livingstone maintains that 2Mbps is good enough for most people’s uses, experience in the Far East, where high speed internet access isn the norm, have shown that people’s online behaviour does change as faster speeds become available. They are more likely, for example, to watch High Definition video online.

This is all going to add pressure to ISPs’ networks but I do believe that the UK is being shortsighted in not considering a ubiquitous Next Generation Access fibre network from the off.

End User social networking

twitter in action in Lincolnshire with possible prison riot

Last night I felt I was part of a real life drama.  I live over the fields from Lincoln prison.  In Lincoln they put the prison in the best part of town to make it quicker to lock up the burglars when they catch them 🙂

As I was hitting the hay I could hear a lot of loud noises coming from the direction of the prison together with dogs barking.  I sent out a tweet to this effect and was immediately contacted by a couple of BBC journalists asking for more info.  There have been other prison riots in the UK this week so the tweet was topical.

Independent verifiaction suggested that there was no activity outside the gaol.  After about 10 – 15 minutes I checked again and it grown quiet again.  Presumably the noisy prisoners had been locked back up again.

I guess the point of this post is the observation that twitter is really a newsfeed rather than a social networking tool. You also have to be watching it all the time to catch randomly generated news, as my two BBC contacts must have been. 

It is also usable as a marketing tool and interestingly as such it offers a highly targeted approach.  Twitter users have to be searching for specific news items.  I follow too many people to be able to sensibly catch all their tweets so I would have to be looking for, say, “Lincoln prison riot” to read any news about this. 

The same the applies for product marketing.  If I wanted to push Timico’s MPLS capability on twitter the chances are that people reading that tweet would be specifically looking for information on MPLS.

Business internet

Tiscali heavily criticised on BBC

Tiscali featured on the BBC’s Watchdog consumer programme tonight.  A number of unhappy people were heard venting their fury about the company’s service levels.  I suspect that if they focussed more on their most important asset, their customers, they wouldn’t also be in the news because of their financial woes.  It takes a huge amount of effort to win new customers.  Businesses neglect them at their peril.

This is one reason why businesses in particular need to make sure they have a business oriented, responsive,  service provider.  Tiscali is aimed at a low cost market.  At the end of the day you get what you pay for (or not as was the case on Watchdog!)

End User video

Video killed the radio star

I think I might have mentioned my appearances on BBC radio 🙂 . Well now I’m producing a video. Actually the video is being made by some final year students from Lincoln University media department and it is part of a series of shorts that the students are producing for Timico.

We are quite lucky to have a top level media facility such as Lincoln University on our doorstep. Their studios are the envy of the BBC- I kid you not.

To date any video I or anyone else at Timico has produced has been pretty much an experimental amateur affair. Now we are doing it properly. Each video has a production team of 4 people. I just need to get a Director’s chair with my name on it and turn up at the right time for makeup.  Of course I’m sure I’ll have a script to learn as well!

Timico is a sponsor of Lincoln University and I am not only looking forward to seeing the videos but presenting a prize at the end of the year. I’ll also show the vids when they are finished sometime in the spring.

Business ofcom security voip

Skype Security Italian Style

The BBC today has reported that Italian crooks are using Skype to avoid detection by police who use traditional wiretapping to monitor phone calls. The Skype signaling and  media path is encrypted which makes it very difficult to tap into. Also because, as a Peer to Peer protocol Skype doesn’t use any centralised servers that might be able to be monitored it adds to the difficulty for law enforcement agencies.

The whole problem is then compounded by the fact that because VoIP/Skype is a very nomadic service, ie you can use it from any internet connection anywhere, it becomes difficult to track the location of a caller.

This is a problem being looked at by Ofcom as part of the process of caller location identification for the emergency services. Currently if someone makes a 999 call from an unknown address, it is difficult to pin down where that call is being made from, at least in a timely manner.

There was a high profile Canadian case where someone dialled for an ambulance and it went to a location three thousand miles from where the call was actually being made from because the address held by the operator was not the address from which the call was being made. 

When a VoIP call is made the details of the call logged by the Internet Telephony Service Provider include the IP address of the originating party. If you are an Internet Service Provider (note the distinction between ITSP and ISP – an ITSP often does not provide the underlying broadband service) you can correlate this IP address with a physical address (ie house number and street).

The problem is that this is a manual process and would likely take hours at best and potentially a couple of days. This is a process that could be automated but it is something that would probalby cost billons to implement universally in the UK.

I’m sure there will be more to say on this subject in 2009. As a final note it is often said that the security forces, aka GCHQ and CIA et al have not cracked the Skype encryption technology. I find this difficult to believe.

End User internet media olympics

BBC iplayer

I caught up with some reading on the BBC  iplayer last night and lifted some interesting facts.  iplayer now has over a million users a day with 1.7 million download requests. The BBC is expecting it’s 300 millionth “play request” anytime now.

During the Olympics usage rose by 40% which is is reflected in the increase in internet usage I reported back in the summer.

What I found amusing was the fact that people only watch a programme for 22 minutes on average which the BBC finds to be a good statistic. Only 35% of viewers watch a 30 minute programme in its entirety. To me this is an indictment of the quality of what is provided for punters to watch and reinforces why I don’t watch TV (Dads Army, rugby internationals and other free to air sports excepted).

For the geeks amongst you the BBC runs the service on 200 servers, has 92% peering which hugely reduces their cost of delivery (though not ours) and peaks at 100TB a day of streaming traffic.

There’s lots more to read in the EBU Technical Review which quotes a number of sources : 2008-q4_iplayer

Business internet security

Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre In the BBC News

Woke up this morning to another interview on the BBC News that concerns the ISP industry (is there a song there?). This time Jim Gamble, CEO of CEOP was speaking with BBC journalist Angus Crawford regarding the fact that CEOP often gets charged by ISPs when requests for information are made concerning child protection.

Gamble is suggesting that not charging should be the norm and that ISPs should see it as part of their social responsibility. Bit of an emotive subject this one.  I have more than the average number of kids and of course I am interested in protecting them from sick, deranged individuals that roam the wild wild web. I am also a businessman and we have to keep a bit of perspective in play.

Firstly the ISP industry is legally entitled to recover costs under the  Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Secondly typically when ISPs “cover their costs” all they are doing is recovering a contribution towards their costs rather than the total cost (see penultimate paragraph).  Thirdly the industry gets many thousands of these requests each year.

If there wasn’t a mechanism there to keep these requests down the those actually required, ie by charging for them, the concern is that the floodgates would open and the costs would skyrocket. These costs have to be borne by customers. 

The numbers quoted by CEOP are as follows: 

How much has CEOP paid to Communications Service Providers in each relevant accounting period since setting up in 2006?             

Financial year breakdown:
Financial year 2006/2007                             =       £   37,184.32
Financial year 2007/2008                             =       £   69,717.46
Financial year 2008/2009 (to Dec 08)            =       £   64,604.21

Total                                                        =      £ 171,505.99

How many such requests has CEOPS had for access to information since 2006?   

Financial year breakdown:
Financial Year 2006/2007 Total applications =   1,200
Financial Year 2007/2008 Total applications =   3,600
Financial Year 2008/2009 Total applications =   4,600

Total                                                    =   9,400 

The CEOPs argument is that this money would be better spent on a couple more staff. In fact the charges, if you use the above numbers, work out at around £14 per request which in my mind is exceedingly good value. It certainly doesn’t cover the actual cost of the support.

The ISP industry covers so many areas of interest that it seems to have been in the news a lot recently. Intellectually it is a very interesting space to be and for ISPs brings with it particular challenges: consumers that want to pay very little but demand more for their money and stakeholders fighting their own corners left right and centre contribututing to further pressures on costs. In the B2B space the dynamics are slightly different but nobody can say this is a boring game.

Business internet live on the BBC

For anyone interested in listening in I am appearing on BBC Radio Lincolnshire at 18.30 hours today (Greenwich Mean Time). I am talking about the Data Retention Act which hit the BBC headlines on Friday and which has now been the subject of a couple of posts here and here.

This is not my first appearance on Radio Lincolnshire. However the last one was so long ago I think it was before CDs were invented and I was still playing with the Sinclair Spectrum Computer.

You can catch it on the internet on the BBC’s website at  I’m on “Drive Time with William Wright”. I’d be interested in any constructive feedback.

Business internet security

Data Retention Act On The BBC News

I woke up this morning to an article on BBC Radio 4 concerning the forthcoming Data Retention Act (see previous post on this). The article was then carried several times on BBC Radio Lincolnshire, my local station – I’m sure it would have been repeated in all the regions.

The BBC’s slant concerned human rights and seemed to have been triggered by Human rights organisation “Liberty”. What has been happening since my post on the subject is that the tone of the Government’s conversation has moved on towards looking for a centralised database containing records of many different types of communications and not just email and telephony. This might include SMS, IM etc.

Nothing is set in stone here but I have concerns on two fronts. Firstly the technical cost and impracticality of implementing such a database would be huge and criminals would always be able to find ways around appearing on the records. Secondly is very much the human rights angle. 2008 saw a number of high profile examples of the loss personal data of millions of people because of stolen laptops and lost memory sticks.

I want to help the authorities catch criminals and haven’t really been too concerned in the past about their keeping my own personal records on file because I am a good boy. However in the light of last year’s data losses and because it is fundamentally not possible to totally trust the government (which is one of the reasons that democracies have elections) I have changed my tune.

If you want to read the BBC article online you can find it here.