WiMax and the end of TV as we knew it


A TV aerial on the roof is something most of us have grown up with. For holiday homes, flats or when on holiday rabbits ears created loads of frustration when they detuned one station as they gave you access to another, but they did mean that you could easily have TV in temporary situations from the batch to the hospital ward. VHF and then UHF aerials are still on most roofs in site, but that is going to become a thing of the past.

The first step is that VHF TV which has been the most common frequency range around the world is going to be switched off as governments in many countries reallocate those frequencies to WiMAX. This will be happening next year in many parts of the US a week or so after the Super Bowl.

Downunder in New Zealand we continue to lag some of the new advances and the VHF frequencies will be available to the TV stations until 2015. It will be interesting to see whether they are still needed for that long given that Satellite TV in the form of Freeview and Sky are already used by 55% percent of the population.

How can they do that? Don’t we need free to air TV? We aren’t necessarily losing it. In New Zealand the free to air TV stations are moving to Freeview, which is pretty much satellite TV with less channels and the only cost is the set top box and the satellite dish. This overcomes most of the issues about poor reception and providing reception to remote areas. But of course it bodes the end of little portable TV’s, but then you can now watch Sky TV on your phone with 8 channels for $2.50 a week, so maybe it is just a change of medium.

So what’s so special about WiMax? Nothing really except that it provides much geater range (up to 50 km for fixed stations and 5-15 for mobile) than the traditional 802.11 wireless networks, can povide much greater speed and when networks are built you can use it in your car. This sounds crazy but it’s really just a follow on from the systems used in large warehouses and buildings first created by Symbol, which pioneered many of the features still used today including frequency shifting for security and handover from one access point to the next as people moved around a building complex. In fact it is not only coming head on in potential competition to mobile cellular but telecommunications networks such as Sprint and Nortel are racing to get frequencies ad become the preferred supplier of 4G networks.

According to Computerworld’s Juha Saarinen, Telco’s in New Zealand are ‘squatting’ on some of the frequencies to prevent 3rd parties to spoil their fun in the 3G networks as they roll out new technologies to increase the speed of the cellular mobile network which is much easier to control and to derive plenty of ARPU (telco’s main measure of success Average Revenue Per User). If WiMax offers higher uploandand download speeds and efficient handover when required, then many people in urban areas might be less interested in WCDMA?

What could they be afraid of? Free access, and they should be afraid. Nottingham Trent University is trialling a network which will give free access to everyone in the city. There are free WiFi hotspots all over Europe, 154 free sites just in the Netherlands. Then there are free Mesh Networks, but that’s yet another story.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

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The future of Personal Computing Part Two


This is a follow on from my blog last week about a day in my life of personal computing in 2013.

So I’ve had breakfast and I go to my PC to check email and messages. My wireless network at home now consists of a variety of devices and networks linked together. These include my Entertainment Server which links to various TV’s around the house, the Sky Dish, cable TV, media audio players and recorders, HD radio tuner as well as the Toshiba Fenininity Server which allows us to control and monitor the stove, dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, climate control, breadmaker and a host of other appliances not to mention the HVS climate control.

I also have the latest Kindle which lets all of us read our personalised news. It aggregates the top stories from mother Herald as well as other papers and magazines of interest so we all get the version we want. Scared the hell out of me the other day when I opened my wife’s logon by accident and all I saw was stories about TV and filmstars and their failed marriages and getting their 23rd adopted child out of Afghanistan which is the new Darfur. But then that is the beauty of it that we all get MeNews and not what someone else wants us to read.

I’m still into social networking in a big way, but have a number of portals that manage and aggregate each of my networks. I check my Music Portal which manages all the sites where I showcase my music. Now I can load my new songs, video’s, blogs and gig calendar onto one site and it updates the 127 sites I feature on in one hit, according to each sites unique specification.

So it’s time to go. I leave the house and activate the alarm which sends a signal to my iPhone to say the system is now armed and hop in the car. I drop the iPhone onto the little tray beside my seat and as I put the key into the ignition and my seat and steering wheel adjust itself to my preferred positions, my phone announces itself to the Wireless CANBUS so that it has access to the entertainment system.

I tell my integrated GPS navigation unit to take me to ‘the office’ select the podcast I want to listen to from those that are just audio as I don’t want to get pinged by the distraction laws and get on the road. As I near the top of Chartwell Drive, my podcast pauses (I used to hate missing stuff when the old system just muted the sound) and the nav tells me that there is a serious traffic incident on High Rd that it has picked up on TMC and would I like to route around it. I say yes, and it seemlessly takes me on down Diana drive and I arrive at work right on time.

As I wait at a set of lights I check the Buddy feature on my GPS and see an image of my wife’s car crawling along Bush Rd on her way to work. Her unit beeps to alert her that I have checked her location and she sends me a smart message back by tapping on the SMS keyboard on her nav unit which uses Bluetooth to send the message via her phone. Her car and system is a bit older than mine. 2009.

When I get to work my phone opens the carpark grill and after I have parked the car, it unlocks the door into the building and then into my office. I fire up my  Touchbook which has just been upgraded to Vista (“WE” like to be cautious about our computer network and go to the machine in the kitchen for a perfectly fluffy flat white.

As I have done forever, I start my day with email. My touchscreen notebook is now running Windows Vista Touch and although Microsoft has announced their new OS I will be using this one for another couple of years until our IT Department is comfortable that it is reasonably robust, especially given that it took 3 years to get most of the kinks out of Vista and for a while they went back to offering Windows XP again as an option in the 2nd half of 2009.

One thing that we have now universally adopted is Unified Communications. All my voicemail whether it comes from my landline, mobile or email is now waiting for me in my Inbox and with my iPhone or my notebook.

My days haven’t changed much. Probably the only major difference is that I do now use video on a lot of my phone calls so I can see the person I am talking to. This has saved me a lot of wasted travel time given the disaster that is Auckland’s roads today. They have started building the Auckland Harbour Tunnel, but it will be a couple more years before it opens for buses and T3 (cars with at least 3 peple in them) let alone ordinary traffic. So many meetings have been replaced by necessity with vidphone calls. Of course I can also do this on my iPhone 6, but unless I’m doing it over the Wireless LAN (and we still don’t have one in the office) the costs are prohibitive.

At lunch time I quite often walk to the Subway for some exercise and of course their food has the Heart Tick. On my way, I check out their menu on my iPhone and wonder if the food will look as good as the picture. I specify exactly what time I will get there. On the way back I get the phone to play me some Utterz messages from friends while I’m walking.

On the way home I drive past a bar and get a Speights Mates message saying there is a Happy Hour Running and sending me an eCoupon to get 2 for one in the next half hour and prompting me to hit the forward button to send the same coupon to any of my personal Speight’s Mates who are within a 2km vicinity to come and join me for an after work beer. I love location based marketing and decide it is only right to support people who have invested in this technology given that I helped to develop it. Isn’t that called the fruits of your labour? Yes. I know hops aren’t strictly fruit.

Before dinner, I go to my home studio and record a lead track on my Gibson LP Guitar onto my 8 track TASCAM for my latest song, nothing has changed there really, call me old fashioned. I still have my music on loads of web sites and while I’ve sold some songs, I haven’t scored a number one hit yet.

I bought the new Internet TV Aggregation Server last year and replaced my MySky. Now that I have cable for internet as well as TV, I can cherry pick and watch exactly what I want when I want and am no longer subject to the whims of SKy TV. Yes, I still subscribe to Sky Sports Channel because they have exclusive rights for many events that NZ teams compete in such as All Blacks Rugby and do support NZ sport better than anything else, especially the biased commentators, although I wuldn’t have a problem if Murray Mexted got some new material, but the rest is pretty much free. I don’t have to watch ads although many programs have very overt displays of product i the story.

I finally got an 80″ TV, the largest my wife would let me buy, and that wasn’t easy. Sometimes we have multple screens running so that we can watch different things at once and have adapted to that. We tried the VR glasses from the new Nintendo, but they are very antisocial. Awesome for 3D movies tough! Home entertainment is now awesome. No more channels full of reruns of programs we have already seen umpteen times, I never have to sit through another show of Friends again! Now I can see exactly what I want when I want, subject to agreement in the house of course and we all have to compromise sometimes,

Along with cable came free international calling to anywhere in the world for a modest flat fee, so I don’t use Skype much anymore. Finally a little music from iLike at the end of the day. I kept my CD’s and vinyl as souvenirs, but for a flat fee of $10 a month to our ISP, the house can access and download unlimited music from almost all record companies in MPEG 9 which is great quality at 960kbit/s.

Not a lot has changed in 5 years, but life is certtainly a little easier than it used to be.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Carbon Tax on petrol, yet another great idea?


get-in.jpgThe New Zealand Government has once again raised the prospect of a Carbon Tax on Petrol, rated as 7 cents in the litre. The concept I gues is based on a user pays scenario, so the more you drive, the more carbon you burn. Given that in most parts of New Zealand our public transport systems are pretty substandard, it looks like most of us will pay the price.

They have talked for a long time about measuring exhaust emissions and setting levels below which you can’t pass your Warrant of Fitness tests, but that still hasn’t come in. Of course that doesn’t generate significant revenue and the NZ Government has just announced a significant budget deficit, not that these 2 things are in any way related. I’ve also noticed that many of the ‘greenies’ drive diesel cars that blow black smoke and are often covered with soot, as are many of the buses I follow on the motorways. I suspect that the black soot on the bus I saw recently covering an advertisement on the back of a bus which said “we are drivers too” is a carbon waste product.

Currently, according to Caltex NZ, 41.6% of the price we pay for petrol in NZ is tax, so why not just round it up to an even 50%? The story was good though and I was impressed with Caltex’s excellent suggestions on how to use less fuel, some of them are very good. I suspect though that most people will continue their normal lifestyle. It’s like the old story of putting a frog in a pot of warm water and bringing it to boil slowly. We still love our big cars and we want to enjoy the great outdoors which is why many of us love in New Zealand.

The thing that amazes me is that we are still so slow with introducing alternative fuel engines. Toyota and Honda have done very well with Hybrid engines and they can’t seem to get enough to meet demand. Maybe the government should do something to encourage these vehicles and lower the import taxes on them. It’s yet another example of why the things that are good for you cost so much more. Give businesses in the cities an incetive to buy Smart Cars, but of course we have a problem with renewable energy as well, especially after a long dry summer. But wait, what about solar power? This is another tangent, but I read a couple of years ago about people in the USA getting major rebates for installing solar energy in their homes, plus the ability to sell their surplus power into the grid. We have certainly had more than enough sun this year, well actually I wouldn’t mind if it lasted all year round, but the point is we aren’t harnessing it and we aren’t offering people an incentive to help with the cost of making it happen.

So, we continue to encourage the use of fossil fuels (yes I know we are starting to include small amounts of biofuel into the mix, but all that will do at this stage is allow the oil to last a little longer. We know oil is a finite resource and once we have run out and the Middle East has caved in, what then? My prediction based on current consumption is that fuel will become incredibally scarce, travel and tourism will become incredibly expensive and this could have a disastrous effect on economies like ours.

So lets see what happens. Petrol prices go up because of oil scarcity, whether through resource depletion or through wars and terrorism. Oil prices also go up because of carbon taxes as oil companies have to buy carbon credits to meet their obligations. Taxes go up because they are based on a percentage of the price, whether through excise, GST, carbon, road user and others. The cost of living goes up because this impacts on everything we do, all goods and services involve transport. Domestic tourism and entertainment will suffer as people decide it costs to much to go anywhere. We all become a nation of obese couch potatoes because it’s cheaper to sit at home to watch sport or cable TV instead of going out and getting some exercise.

One day it will be too prohibitive to go anywhere except for special occassions and we will we end up living virtual lives, never leaving our homes at all.

Actually I wouldn’t mind the carbon tax if it was used on R & D for alteratives, for incentives for people to develop and commercialise alternative fuels and engines to run on them. The whole concept of carbon taxes seems to be punitive instead of constructive. What happened to Kiwi innovation? We’re still patting ourselves on the backs for inventing number 8 fencing wire, Hamilton jets and bungee jumping. Let’s pay people for coming up with new renewable energy resources instead of punishing people for using the only resources they have available to them, there’s a novel idea? There might even be international carbon credits in it.