700 Mhz spectrum: call for an open wireless network

The announcement by the US FCC chairman, Kevin Martin, to call for an open broadband network represents an opportunity within the US and abroad to show support for a policy that benefits all.

Inevitably there are several interests, and well represented in Washington, lobbying for preserving a fragmented, exclusionary, proprietary and closed model as the subject spectrum is reallocated from frequencies currently used by analogue television channels 52-to-69.

It is refreshing to read a call by the FCC advocating a policy contrary to the existing closed model and challenge industry towards offering an open, competitive and universal one.

The existing closed model sees a franchise to the benefit of few selected companies, characterized by a fragmented, exclusionary and proprietary services where units, such as cell-phones, and applications work only within each offering,
country-club like.

In contrast, an open model sees it as a needed common, competitive service to benefit the community for a function that is not a luxury. It is a needed service in todays interconnected world with the added property that devices, phone-sets and applications should plug-and-play as required across competing offerings.

By having industry, interest-groups and ordinary citizens support an open access where any device, any application and any network provider offers phone, gateway to the Internet among other functions, via this spectrum, will ensure competition and universal availability of a common service grandchild of the lessons and experience of the Internet.

It is timely to have the support of Google for the service in the form of 4.6 billion dollars bid and challenge the industry to comply with the characteristics of an open model. From Google's blog re subject, we have the following:

In the U.S., wireless spectrum for mobile phones and data is controlled by a small group of companies, leaving consumers with very few service providers from which to choose. With that in mind, last week, as the federal government prepares for what is arguably its most significant auction of wireless spectrum in history, we urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules to make sure that regardless of who wins the spectrum at auction, consumers' interests are the top priority. Specifically, we encouraged the FCC to require the adoption of four types of "open" platforms as part of the auction:
  1. Open applications: consumers should be able to download and utilize any software applications, content, or services they desire;
  2. Open devices: consumers should be able to utilize their handheld communications device with whatever wireless network they prefer;
  3. Open services: third parties (resellers) should be able to acquire wireless services from a 700 MHz licensee on a wholesale basis, based on reasonably nondiscriminatory commercial terms;
  4. Open networks: third parties (like Internet service providers) should be able to interconnect at any technically feasible point in a 700 MHz licensee's wireless network.
It will be equally interesting to have IBM, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, et al to support the call for an open common service by the US FCC.

What will be even more important is that this call be an international one from Brazil, to Venezuela, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, India, China, Australia, Canada, etc, to join in a call supported by respective Governments, industry and citizen groups and request a service available everywhere common and universal as the Internet and GPS.

The availability of such a common connectivity spectrum will be of most benefit to inner-cities, displaced, rural and and remote communities. Content can be targeted to these communities to bring education and certification, health services, and monitoring and employment opportunities for police, forests, water quality and levels, roads, weather and environmental sensors, should be of special interest to countries with vast remote areas such as Canada, Russia, China, Brazil.

For Canada this service should be of special interest to the Federal Government to bring participation and presence to the north along with services to over 600 remote and native communities across the country. Contact Industry Canada and the CRTC and your local Provincial and Federal government representatives to solicit their view and support for an open common service as proposed in the US by the FCC - see related FCC upper 700 Mhz Band auction page here.

  • AT&T endorses FCC's call for an open wireless service.
  • Google bets on mobile market: CNet.
  • FCC approves some open wireless requirements: CNet.
  • FCC approves revised 700 MHz band plan and service rules: FCC.
  • Band plan chart: FCC.
  • Kevin Martin's statement: FCC.
  • Why it matters; good comments re subject.
  • The battle of models, open versus closed, is best exemplified by the running discord between Google and Verizon; have a look here and here.


iGoogle: a custom selection of Gadgets

Browser Bookmarks become indispensable Web-references; they are more than just nice-to-have information and knowledge pointers.

However, when using different Browsers on same or different computers, likely using different Operating Systems, the aggregate working set of Bookmarks is unavailable and eventually fragmented, unused and lost.

I found iGoogle a useful tool to define, catalogue and quickly access Bookmarks from any Browser and from any computer at home, at project offices, at client locations and while on the road.

iGoogle offers a way to configure your classical Google search page by using defined small utility panels, dubbed Gadgets, permitting custom configuration of your default Google search page by selecting a set of predefined Gadgets.

One feature I like is the ability to switch instantly between the classical Google search page and iGoogle, back and forth, via a link located on the top right corner labelled 'Classic Home' and 'iGoogle'. There are times when I prefer the simple unadorned but useful classic search page and switch as needed to the portal view, custom view, of iGoogle.

You can configure several Gadgets in your iGoogle page. The ones I use include:

  • Bookmarks
  • Calendar
  • Time and Date
  • Wheather
  • Gmail
  • Wikipedia
  • News
There are Gadgets for every interest, age and taste. There are jokes and cartoons of the day, games, stock portfolio, finance, sports, etc.

Gadgets work also on the Desktop. I do not use these since what I am looking for is a set of tools that I can access from anywhere independent of Operating System and Browser combination.

Beyond configuring Gadgets for personal use under iGoogle, Gadgets can be developed for use on web applications and pages for custom use or published for general availability.

I had a quick look at the API, xml-based, and I found it simple and a couple of applications came to mind which I'll explore shortly.

  • Google. Information in general for Google Gadgets is found here, and the API for development of custom Gadgets is here. For iGoogle find general information here and also at Wikipedia. And there is an API developers guide.
  • Microsoft. Microsoft has a Gadgets-based technology also. I have not worked with this API referenced at microsoftgadgets.com


Ubuntu: the power of free software

There are hundreds of Linux distributions from which Red Hat and SuSE are likely the most popular in corporate deployment; and there is Ubuntu.

Why is Ubuntu, a relatively recent entrant into the crowded Linux distribution space, so successful to be selected by Sun and by Dell as an alternate certified and supported Operating System (OS) for their respective products, and selected also by the French Government to power desktops for Parliament and servers for the Ministry of Agriculture?

Possible elements contributing to Ubuntu's success include the following.

  • Mark Shuttleworth. Mark Shuttleworh articulated the free software commitment for Ubuntu and provided the funding for software development directly and through Canonical a UK based company focused on the promotion and support of free software projects.
  • Unique culture. Shuttleworth managed to attract talented personnel as well as define and promote a unique culture behind Ubuntu the product, the process for continued innovation and related support services.
  • Quality. Principle of least surprise is evident in Ubuntu. The user interface and selected packaged applications 'just work'. The OS is well integrated and tailored for use for desktop and for server functions.
  • Free software only. Products bundled with Ubuntu are those that are free of charge and free to distribute.
  • Multilingual support. This is the Ubuntu's statement re language support: "Ubuntu aims to be usable by as many people as possible, which is why we include the very best localization and accessibility infrastructure that the free software community has to offer."
  • Commercial technical support. Via Canonical and associated partners, paid support and technical assistance is available. Canonical global support site is based in Montreal, Canada.
  • Partnership program. Through Canonical, and associated certification program, there are Ubuntu support organizations across the world. Also, several Ubuntu-based value-added distributions benefit from the relationship and partnership evident through distibutions such as Kubuntu among several others. There is always a need to customize a Linux distribution for a company, for a Government, for an application. Ubuntu facilitates such work, everyone wins and maintains the continuity and presence of Ubuntu's core distribution.
  • Collaboration with the open-source community. Tight collaboration and use of common tools permit open-source participants to work together productively with Ubuntu and partners. This approach helps individual participants identify and schedule priority work, bug fixes and new development, efforts that contribute improve the quality of Ubuntu.
  • Free of patent agreements with Microsoft. While Novell's SuSE and few less known Linux distributions have signed patent/liability 'agreements' with Microsoft, Shuttleworth has stated the policy to maintain Ubuntu free of any such 'deals' that effectively compromise rather than contribute to keep software free for use and free for distribution.


OpenID: single sign-on for the Web

OpenID is a distributed, decentralized, identity management and authentication service that offers a simple way to sign-on to several sites using a unique ID.

This is an old problem for which centralized solutions are available. What is interesting about OpenID is that it is distributed, it is simple in concept and in implementation, and it is an open-source project.

  • Offers single sign-on. OpenID offers a way to sign-on to different sites without creating separate userName and password for each. The participating sites must support OpenID for the authentication service to work.
  • Uses a url as identifier. It uses an Internet Resource Locator, a url, such as charlieBrown.peanuts.com, for identification. A user registers one or more urls with a site offering OpenID identity management services. Each url is claimed, owned, by a registered user.
The OpenID specification includes the ability for any organization, individual user, company, government department, service provider etc, to offer the registration and authentication service.

How does it work
? When prompted for userName and password, sites supporting OpenID offer it as an alternate way to sign-on. The user enters the OpenID url in place of userName and password. The site redirects the authentication to the site managing OpenID identity, the OpenID site validates the identity and in turn it redirects back to the calling site indicating authentication success or failure.

By using 2-and-3-factor authentication, OpenID can be used for transactions were Strong Authentication is needed.

Why is it needed? Each user must manage separate online identities using same or separate userNames and passwords. OpenID addresses this proliferation of userNames and passwords.

What is needed for OpenID to succeed? There have been several attempts to address this problem. For OpenID to be successful it needs universal adoption, enhancement and support as an open standard by industry in general. What is needed is for Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, phone companies, banks, credit cards, retailers, et al to adopt it, and offer it as providers and consumers of the service.

For information go to openID.net, and kiwipedia.org.