Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Filling the gap in my Apple system - TV

I just found this product from Elgato:

Screen shot 2010-12-07 at 15.24.16.png

Wow! Looks just what I want. EXCEPT

1 The software and setup is much too complicated, and works the wrong way round. Netstream to Router (by Ethernet?), router to Mac, Mac to iPad!! No output to Apple TV as far as I can see.

This needs a HUGE amount of costly electronics to do a simple job.

A simple system would be Netsteam + iPad + Apple TV only. Then if a Mac book is around they can pick it up too...

2 It does not fit in my Apple eco-system (Apple TV feeding LCT TV and HiFi system, MacBook, iPad)

I want this:Eco-system.png

Where the STB steams by Apple's Airplay to my TV, or my iPad or my Macbook. And the STB can be controlled remotely from the iPad or MacBook. Simple.

Elgato get on the job.

Broadband round-up

It is really tricky to get all the stuff about broadband in one place, after chasing around the web this is my summary

The EU

1 800MHz reserved for BB from 2013

2 No exclusivity time for payback of telcos new investments, but can charge proportional to investment risk

3 Co-investment partnerships in NGA

4 Local admin (e.g. Ofcom) to decide if open telcos fibre networks to rivals (unbundle)

5 CCs to coordinate digs

6 Money from EU Investment Bank, currently €2bn loans, schemes to be decided spring 2011

UK Government

1 EU Basic BB 2Mbps to all by 2013, Superfast 30 (100%)-100 (50%)Mbps "capability" by 2020

2 UK "best" 'fast by 2015, 85-90% of country

3 BDUK £530M - includes £150M/yr from BBC from 2013 to 2015, then possibility of another £150M/yr from the BBC up to 2017. Money to go to local CCs/LEPs. [Must do a spread sheet to see if I can make all this add up! Total is £830M...]

4 BT Openreach investment £2.5bn to reach 10M homes by 2012 & 2/3rd UK homes by 2015 (FTTC/40Mbps). Adding 100,000 homes/week.

Testing FTTH (100Mbps) in York, Leytonstone, Milton Keynes, London.

30,000 engineers and 50,000km of fibre!

5 DVP idea - Digital Village Pump, i.e. local Fibre exchanges (FTTC), then VDSL2 or fibre to the home - could line up with Oxfordshire CC use of its existing OCN network?

6 Mobile 800Mhz and new 2.6GHz to be available for 4G/LTE and existing 900Mhz and 1800Mhz (2G) for 3G.

7 Superfast BB could add 280,000 jobs and £18bn to GDP

UK Projects

1 South Yorks "DR" co. VDSL 20Mbps, 280km fibre, 546,000 homes + 40,000 biz, Who pays?

2 Cornwall with BT 80-90% premises, £132M project/2015 (BT + EU ERDF finding)

3 BDUK four: Cumbria, Herefordshire, North Yorkshire, Highlands & Islands, £50M each.

Are there any more?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Keeping us informed - broadband Oxfordshire

David Robertson has sent out a letter to local District, Town and Parish councils about "A Connected Oxfordshire".

His letter

1 Broadband is more than a luxury. It is a right and OCC agree

2 We are an LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and have a duty to grow business, science and acedemia

3 Whole county must be connected, and this is achievable, realistic and viable

The information


* Government wants fast, reliable broadband by 2015.


* Broadband in a rural county like Oxfordshire is very important to attract inward investment. It will allow home working, links to academic resources, health support, technological advantage. In addition to personal access to education, entertainment, local social endeavours and public services.

BB is a right.


* We have already the OCN (Oxfordshire Community Network) a fibre network linking schools, libraries, offices etc. This was set up by the CC. We will seek partners who can build on the OCN. Our partner will have to dig new cabling, but the OCN will provide a backbone

What can you do?

* Show private ISPs and broadband suppliers how much we want it. E.g. signup for BT Retail's "Race To Infinity".

* Have broadband champions across the county

My comments

There seems to be a lot of confusion between supplying USC/2Mbps to us all (the broadband map of Oxfordshire shows lots of areas below 2Mbps today, the north part of Banbury around where I live gets less then 2Mbps today, mine is only 0.5Mbps.

The Oxfordshire Broadband DisasterScreen shot 2010-11-01 at 16.44.11.png

I look forward to getting some of the vast confusion clarified, announcements from central government (Vaizey/Osborne) do not help as they are confused, spin, and inadequate, as they try to push the responsibility over to local government. They talk about £200M 'faster" for 2M homes by 2015 (18-10-10), £530M/4 yrs being available for "faster" (20-10-10), with a "significant amount" coming from the BBC budget... turns out to be 2 x £150M/yr. Where did the odd £30M come from? They may continue with another £150M/yr up to 2017 also from the BBC.

However BT say that they will spend £2.5bn, and fibre could be delivered to 85% of Oxfordshire.... or this more spin?

What government did say (July 2010) is that USC will slip from 2012 objective to 2015, and that by 2015 some undefined % of the population will get NGA through a mish-mash of pressure on BT and private/local enterprise.

I have expressed my opinion on signing up "I disagree with signing up for "Race To Infinity" as it gives BT retail a commercial advantage, gives Openreach free market data and is actually a very limited program".

Oxfordshire's on the move to broadband for all

Very good news.

I have received some very good inputs from Tony Baldry (MP) and David Robertson (OCC) giving an update on Oxfrodshire's broadband targets and actions.

1 A Digital Summit was held in Culham, 25-09-10

2 100% broadband coverage is the target

- negative impact on economy without it

- needed to help rebalance economy toward more businesses

- benefits for tele-health, e-learning, working from home

3 Roll out of broadband to everyone in Oxfordshire by 2015 (by OCC, Ox Economic Partnership & Local Enterprise Partnerships)

4 Set up Broadband Working Group. Project manager is Dawn Pettis

- focus 1st on OCN (Oxfordshire Community Network for CC Offices, Schools, Libraries etc). Divest OCN to a service provider to allow us by others

- engage with service providers (BT Openreach, Vitesse, GEO, STL, T James, JON Exchange

- meet Cornwall Development Company who have started a project

- document examples of best practice for communities for broadband access, need & desire for broadband expressed in Community Led Plans

5 Funding

- BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK), a government BIS find set up to address broadband deficiencies in rural areas. Workshop 25-11-10 in Guilford. Plan bid in Waves 1 or 2 in 2011

- EU ERDF, investigating

- Regional Growth Fund, investigating

6 All District, Town & Parish councils informed - see next blog post, progress will be posted on the OCC / LEP web site

7 Select a tier 1 partner, detail a project plan for rollout, prepare bid for funding


My reply was simple "Excellent".

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Looking into BT and UK broadband

I have looked into a few things about BT and UK broadband, and I intend to research the whole thing further, looking at what ISPs are doing (e.g. Virgin) and at what the government policy and actions are. The main inspiration for this is my terrible 0.5Mbps speed that I have today, when the government says it has a Universal Service Commitment to provide 2Mbps for everyone.


BT is organised into a group of companies like this

Screen shot 2010-11-20 at 14.47.02.png

Here you can see two of the significant ones as far as getting better broadband is concerned: BT Retail is the company that sells end user products, such as phones and broadband. Openreach is the company that installs the equipment for the exchanges and the wires/fibres to bring it to my home.

Race to Infinity

BT Retail has a current marketing campaign running to get us to sign up our interest in having new fibre (FTTH (home) or FTTC (street cabinet)). They are collecting our names so they can then mailshot us with offers... In the mean time they will pass the inquiries to Openreach who will use the interest expressed to decide where to install fibre first. The rules of the game called "Race To Infinity" are:

1 Each exchange needs 1000 votes to enter the lottery

2 The exchange(s) must get into the top 5 in UK, judged by having the most votes as a percentage of the lines served by the exchange

3 Winners will get FTTC by 2012

4 Some local authorities have agreed to co-fund BT and get programs moving early (e.g. Cornwall)

5 If an exchange has less than 1000 lines, 75% of people connected must vote and must contribute money for a service

This is obviously not as exciting as it first sounds, it is of most benefit to Openreach as a marketing survey, but much less of interest for consumers.

Other ISPs as part of the game

Other ISPs can nominate up to 6 exchanges for fibre FTTC. They must give a commercial commitment that 10% of their customers will switch to fibre within one year or pay Openreach for the cost and, what is more, if BT disagrees with the choice of exchanges they have to pay an extra £5000 for BT to conduct a survey of their own...

Pretty much a complete turn-off for other ISPs, and so far non have announced their participation in the scheme.

[About the Cornwall deal. The EU development fund will provide £53M and BT £78M to upgrade all Cornwall to as fast a connection as they can, some outlying areas may just get 2Mbps, most will get fibre (FTTH, take note "H").

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Follow up of broadband enquiries - Oxfordshire CC & BIS

David Robertson

I have a long and informative reply from David Robertson, lead councillor for the Oxfordshire broadband project.

His reply is very encouraging. Here is the gist of it.

1 Suppliers BT & Virgin do not seem active in rural areas as it is not in their commercial interest...

2 Sign up to BT Infinity is recommended as a way for residents to leave them in no doubt about our interest. There doesn't seem to be any other offerings...

3 There are policies to have broadband as part of the infrastructure in new developments where this is currently possible. For example in Banbury Canalside. But not in rural areas where provision would be difficult.

4 The government has a source of funds called Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) and details are on the web site www.bis.gov.uk/BDUK. See below.

5 Oxfordshire has an embryonic project to roll out broadband to everyone in the county. This could use the existing Oxfordshire Community Network (to offices, schools, libraries, etc). Local independent broadband service providers could connect to the OCN to provide internet access in rural areas where the market has not delivered. Funds will be sought from BDUK. Full info soon.

Good - if a little slow

Cornwall have already a defined plan and money from the EU ERDF & BT to cover all the county, Oxfordshire need to run fast to catch up.


I have ploughed through the BIS BDUK web site, you should too. It is full of spin talk but there are some good bits. Objectives

Screen shot 2010-11-25 at 21.02.05.png

More later as I find it out...

The wheels of government grind slow, filesharing etc

I have just spent a boring 1/2hour reading the guff on the BIS web site. What I noted was these simple things

1 The government regards "Piracy" as stealing if a PROFIT is made, and this is a criminal offence

2 Filesharing i.e. copying for yourself, is "wrong", and is a civil offence

They have a strategy as follows

1 Grow legal markets (downloads)

2 Educate users about rights and illegality

3 Have a graduated response for rights holders and ISPs to use under civil law. Run by Ofcom who will notify illegal activity, and have ISPs release the ID of offenders so that a civil action can take place.

4 Have the Technical Strategy Board look into new ways to pay (e.g. micropayments), rights models and personal security.


Good news? - Broadband roll-out

Tony Baldry

I wrote to my MP (Tony Baldry) about the idea of having broadband as a mandatory utility. It seems he is taking a personal interest in this and working with the Oxfordshire CC.

David Robertson

I also contacted Ox CC directly (David Robertson) and they have yet to get back to me. Some plans are due to be announced in December?

Ed Vaizy

I have now received some information form Ed Vaizy himself (Min Culture, Comms & Creative Ind, Dep of Biz, Info & Skills). I summarise what he says,

1 The 2Mbps broadband is a Universal Service Commitment, it is a minimum "floor". So he has committed £530M from the CSR (Comprehensive Spending Review) to broadband rollout.

2 We need investment in super-fast broadband and aim to have the best in Europe by 2015.

3 In the spending review four pilot projects were announced for provision of super-fast broadband in rural and remote locations.

4 The £530M support is only part of the solution. The private sector he believes will provide access to 2/3rds of the population by 2015. The £530M is intended to support broadband rollout to those parts of the country the market won't reach on its own.


A national broadband strategy will be launched in December.

Clear as mud isn't it?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Trying to make sense of UK broadband development

I have done a little browsing, and this turns out to be a very complex subject. Forgive me if some of the stuff below is wrong.

FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet - in the street) gives 40down/15up Mbps

FTTP (Fibre to the premises) give 100down Mbps

ADSL+ (copper wires) 6-10down Mbps


The EU commission has a digital agenda,

- "Basic broadband" (unspecified) by 2013

- 30Mbps for 50% households by 2030

- Next Generation Access (technology to use FTTC/P, WiFi, WiMax, LTE & Satellite)


eGovernment drives the need for faster and universal broadband. But BT's USC (Universal Service Commitment?) does not contain anything about their duty to install broadband at any minimum speed at the request of anyone in UK - it covers telephone lines, anyone can request one and get it. But see below about USC...

Government has made some hazy statements of objectives (on the BIS web site)

1 Universal Service Commitment of

- 2Mbps by 2012

- using DSL, FTTC

- £200M funding + other (industry, private, consumer)

- Sale of spectrum and mandatory improvement in mobile coverage

2 Next Generation Fund (charge +50p on every phone line)

- Between Virgin and BT 2/3rds of homes should get super-fast broadband

- The last 1/3rd will be served by current generation paid for by NGF

They have also said they will get Ofcom to open up BT infrastructure, giving people access to the dedicated school broadband networks. By mandating broadband as part of new building programs & developments from Xmas 2010. And accelerating the auction of radio spectrum released by switching to digital TV for use for LTE wireless broadband.


BT Openreach, which is the part of BT doing the network installation, will provide

- FTTC 4M households by end 2010

- FTTC 16M households by 2015 (2/3rd of premises)

- Cost said to be only £2.5bn... which seems like peanuts in today's billion pound squabbles...

- FTTP 30Mbps by 2014 with 50% population at 100Mbps

These figures are taken from various press releases. They seem a bit confused (spin talk).

BT has two "divisions" involved in fast broadband, Openreach which install networks and allows other ISPs to piggy back on them, and BT Retail which sells broadband products to you and me.

BT Retail has a current short term marketing exercise running called "Race to Infinity" which invites people to sign up interest in having new fibre broadband. BT will do two things with the list of signees, pass it to Openreach for them to decide where to start the exchange upgrade programs and use it themselves to get back to people and offer broadband services.

Other ISPs can join the program, and nominate exchanges for upgrades, after making a commitment, but none have so far.

They will complete the top 5 exchanges with upgrades by 2012.

If you want fibre to your home the better solution they hint at is to get local authorities to fund the program, maybe by getting UK government or EU funding... see below.


Cornwall CC (and a development company they have) + BT + EU ERDF Convergence fund + SWRDA have got together and launched a project. Paid for by BT £79M, EU £54M. To upgrade all Cornwall's 100 exchanges to FTTC/P and provide better service to everyone (a few will have to use ADSL copper wire and some wireless to get connected...).

I'm off Twitter

I'm off Twitter.

If any one chose to follow me at "syganymede" then forget it. I have deactivated my account, I wasn't twittering anyway and I don't think I will start now. This blog will continue however.

Why have I stopped

1 I never really started
2 I find Twitter completely banal
3 I don't understand it, @ signs, # signs ... what are they for?


Fire Toast

Every time that we make toast in our kitchen, either it is underdone, or burnt to a cinder. I keep twiddling the timer setting on the toaster, up and down, but different breads need different times and so I never get the perfect toast.

But what I have found is that if I put the timer on max, "don't care if you burn", then at about the right moment that the toast is how I like it the fire/smoke alarm in the hall goes off. It seems very sensitive and goes off as well when I cook bacon...

So that made me think. Why not do away with the timer in the toaster and put a fire alarm in instead?

Now isn't that a brilliant idea? Get to it toast makers.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Will Ofcom jump? BSkyB-time

Ofcom has, at the request of the government, started an enquiry into the 100% take over of BSkyB by Murdock. The submissions finish today...

The issues that Ofcom have asked for submissions about, and my inputs, are:

Issue 1: Content type:

We are seeing a merger of content types, a parallel transmission by word, movie and sound.

The potential control and choice of the delivery method must not be under dominant control

Issue 2:Audience:

Audiences today are global. Any tighter control of delivery chains will persist the micro subdivision we have today of the distribution rights of content.

We have to open up content in a way that allows the audience to choose the delivery, no matter how or where they chose

Issue 3:Media platforms:

There is already too much control over delivery platforms.

Print is controlled by newspaper publishers...
Music is controlled by labels through restrictions on media used, CDs...
TV is very restricted to specific radio channels, terrestrial and satellite. What is worse these channels are often encrypted by DRM to limit the user...

The internet has the potential to open up a user controlled platform. But already forces are in play which are taking control of this end-to-end. The new YouView and lots of other offerings are perpetuating this closed model.

This must be stopped, the interface has to be rolled back to the content provider, supplying it to a competitive market of platforms competing commercially on price and technical capability, with no inherent rights control

Issue 4:Control of media enterprises:

Media enterprises are just content providers, in fact they are less than that, they are cooperatives of artists, writers, etc.

We need much more openness and freedom to connect the content creators directly to their audiences, without both opinion and commercial editorial control.

Issue 5:Future developments in the media landscape:

The internet changes everything. It is disruptive.

But we must not fight it. We have to stop any one, or a limited number, of delivery chains from controlling the channel through which we access creative content.

We need to roll back the rights licensing issues and ensure that creators output their content freely, with no restrictive channel control.

Further note that media today is integrated, sound, video, text move simultaneously in parallel supporting any one topic. This must be encouraged, no channel must be exclusive to any one media type.

Additional comments:

The discussion is larger than the BSkyB shareholding. It is about how we intercommunicate today and tomorrow.

The key is more openness, not closed delivery channels.

Getting better broadband in Oxfordshire

In a previous posting I analysed my poor broadband service, "My Broadband speed - or lack of it".

Next step

I have had a couple of run-ins with Oxfordshire CC (this is a copy from an email I sent my MP Tony Baldry):

"Browsing the Oxfordshire web site (www.oxfordshire.gov.uk) and found this news

"Encouraging broadband improvements
Published on: November 11, 2010

Oxfordshire County Council and its partners are encouraging local people to register for BT Infinity in their thousands to get across the message that people in the county want a better standard of broadband.

I have emailed them to say

1 They should take the initiative themselves to insist that broadband provision is part of any planning approval, just as water, electricity and sewage are

2 They should NOT be recommending any one supplier over another, it is wrong for them to ask us all to go to BT. I for one do not want anything to do with BT as their service and arrogance to me has been unacceptable. I would not sign up for this service if I could get it from another ISP."

Council follow-up

And I have written to the person who is driving the matter in the CC (David Robertson):

"Dear David

I live in an area of Banbury which is a broadband blackspot (OX16 1GB). None of the suppliers I have contacted (BT, Sky, Orange...) can quote me better than 0.5Mbps speeds. In reality I get less than this and have an average download speed of less than 400kbps).

I don't think I am alone is having such a poor service. As far as I understand it this is due to the fact that BT have not upgraded my local exchange, or made any planning what-so-ever to install equipment to improve matters. I have been in direct contact with them about this (Alison Bauress at alison.bauress@bt.com).

I have today found on the Oxfordshire web site an article about improving broadband speeds across the county. I would comment

1 I object completely to be asked to register for BTs new proposed fast broadband. It is wrong for the council to be promoting BT commercial services over other ISPs. I will not register or ask for any services from BT after the poor and arrogant customer service they have given me in the past (about which I have already complained to Tony Baldry before I could get them to even talk to me..)

2 It should be a part of the fundamental running of the county to have broadband as a service, in the same way as electricity, water and sewage. You should mandate the provision of minimum standard broadband (2Mbps) as part of any planning approval. No broadband, no approval).

3 Since I have a very keen interest in this matter, I would appreciate being kept up to date with any and all thinking and decisions about the matter. Thanks.

Best Regards

Antony Watts"

I will post replies when and if I get them.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

They just don't get it - DE Act

What we, the petitioners said:

"...abolish the proposed law that will see alleged illegal filesharers disconnected from their broadband connections, without a fair trial..."

The issue as you see is "fair trial". The DE Act as it is allows people to be threatened at the request of rights owners, without presenting any firm, legal evidence at a court hearing. It is already happening. ISPs are revealing the names and addresses of subscribers who are "alleged" to have shared copyright files. These are then being perused to claim damages with no proof that the evidence against them is valid.

No one doubts that people are file sharing. But the current DE Act is not the way to stop it. It must be repealed and redefined, together with new laws on copyright itself.

What the government replied:

"The Digital Economy Act includes a number of
to tackle the
and we expect these to be successful in significantly reducing online copyright infringement. However this is an area of
rapid technological change
developing consumer behaviour.
The Act therefore includes a reserve power to
introduce further “technical” measures
if the initial measures do not succeed. These technical measures would limit or restrict an infringers’ access to the internet. They do not include disconnection."

- Yes the bill includes measures, badly thought through and badly applied by Ofcom
- It is not a problem, it is a market that is not working. Fair prices for media and people will buy, unfair prices, terms and profits to middle men, not artists, and people will not buy.
- Yes there is rapid technological change, including now file sharing though totally anonymous "file lockers", which cannot be detected.
- Yes consumer behaviour is changing, it is hardening against the current laws of copyright which are seen to be ridiculous in the digital age. Current laws, for example, do not permit you to copy a CD you purchased to your iPod, they prevent transcoding a video from a DVD to play on your iPad...
- There is no point whatsoever in introducing "further technical measures", they will not work. Just as DRM today is broken. DRM and technical measures just make the consumer experience worse and worse.

It is the structure of the industry which has to change to new models that encourage people to buy media and offer it at reasonable prices and terms.

As far as disconnection is concerned, this is futile, anyone can simply go out and buy a 3G dongle and get on line again with a PAYG chip...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Very, very low cost HiFi amplifier

Can you believe I paid 0.99euro for two of these kits to build a 50+50W HiFi audio amplifier!!! (eBay from HK).

TDA7294 amplifier.jpg

I have also ordered a power supply (rectifiers and capacitors), this is £16. And all I need now is the expensive UK part, the 22-0-22V mains transformer, £38 from Farnell UK.

The Amplifier

Putting this all in a box should bring the total spend to less than £70 for a high performance HiFi amplifier. Can't be bad!

I plan to assemble it in a 10cm square aluminium tube, that will match the footprint of the new Apple TV. But I have one circuit to find before I can connect the two - I need a DAC to convert the digital optical audio output of the Apple TV to analog input of my amplifier.

A DAC is needed

Hopefully I will find a DAC that will also fit in the box of the amplifier. But DAC prices look like £50-£90 or so (see Gefen one for example). Humph. I would design and build one but this will cost even more as the printed circuit boards are expensive. I wish some one in China would make a decent DAC kit at a decent price. Technically I want to use the best DAC chips I can and I think these are the Wolfson WM8742 ICs... I will keep searching the web and eBay.

Good bye to the CD, hello iTunes

This is both a commercial and a technical goodbye.


Commercial, because frankly music these days is downloaded. The Internet has provided a new delivery chain which has by-passed the CD. Revolution in the music business which has for all its life held control over the delivery chain (Vinyl then CD), but which has now lost it to iTunes, Amazon and the streaming services like Spotify. As a side effect of this is the loss of high quality audio. At the moment all popular internet delivery uses lossy compression at various bit rates.


Now on the technical side. The CD has dominated digital delivery for years. It is a system that captures music at 16bit/44.1kHz sample rates. And this is the feed that is also used to encode the internet delivery in AAC or MP3 at 192 or 320kbps data rates. Recovered audio is at 16bit/44.1kHz.

Future is different

But, future interest is not in the arcane rate of 44.1kHz (where ever that came from), but in using 48kHz, 96kHz and even 192kHz rates. The future is also a wider bit depth of 24bits in place of 16 bits.

1 DAT uses 48kHz, normally 16bit

2 Stereo output (not 5.1) from disks provides 48kHz, 16 or 24bit when not protected by DRM (HDPC on HDMI links to DTVs..., Blu Ray disks etc)

3 The BBC uses 48kHz internally (with a up/down conversion to/from 44.1 at various parts of its delivery chain and output to us - they haven't got their act totally together yet). They use 24 bit at the front end for concert recordings, but downgrade to 16bit along some chains.

You will notice one thing, 96 and 192 are multiples of 48. That means it is much cleaner to down sample from 96 or 192 to 48. But down sampling or up sampling between 44.1 and the other rates is a software nightmare and a noisy mess.

So the CD at 44.1kHz and 16 bits is dead. Now what we need to emerge is a solid way of getting 16 or 24bit/48kHz or 96kHz audio to our homes. This has to be done on the internet.

File choices

The second choice is whether to abandon lossy encoding (AAC & MP3) and stream or download source PCM files (AIF or WAV formats, or lossless ALAC or FLAC formats). Lossless files are x10 bigger than lossy, so it really depends on the progress we make in having a bigger, faster broadband pipe - and that's another story - but it is the future of high quality music to the home. After all the BBC says you need 2Mbps for iPlayer video, so why not use 2Mbps for high quality audio streams?

Apple's not quite there?

Although there is not a lot of official information about the sound channels in Apple iTunes, Airplay (music over WiFi in the home), Apple TV and Apple Airport Express, it looks like all WiFi streaming is done at 16bit/48kHz using the ALAC lossless codec. This is good news, 24bit would be even better...

But iTunes music arrives at 16bit/44.1kHz (CD standard, but with lossy AAC encoding). This makes no sense and it seems to me that they need to revise their AAC delivery to 16bit/48kHz to avoid re-sampling before WiFi streaming using Airplay. All Apple iPods support 48kHz too.

What I would like to see is Apple iTunes have two delivery routes, for iPods etc AAC 16bit/48kHz for low cost music with fast downloads, and 24bit/96kHz lossless at a (slightly) higher price (not x2 as I have to pay for wider broadband width to get it!) for high quality stuff. The 24bit/96kHz could be re-sampled to 24bit/48kHz for WiFi streaming if the Apple TV & Express hardware can support 24bit (the core audio of Macs supports up to 32bit).

They need to push the recording industry in this direction and firm up their own strategy.

Monday, 1 November 2010

My Broadband speed - or lack of it!!!

I have just written to my MP to see if he can put some welly behind actions of Oxfordshire CC to get an improvement in our broadband speeds.

My current speeds are less than 0.5Mbps down and less than 0.4Mbps upload. This has been checked on various web sites of different ISPs including BT, Orange and Talktalk. I have also had a run-in with BT about the matter after they repeatedly sent me advertising bumph offering 'up to 20Mb broadband', but they were unable to offer any improvement.

Note to my MP

I have been doing some reading to try to get a handle on the 'broadband problem' in Banbury and more specifically why I cannot get better than 0.5Mbps!

First I found this:

"The Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) has met with BT and announced plans to improve the county's broadband internet access by bidding for UK government cash in December 2010. It's estimated that 1 in every 6 local homes receive poor broadband or no connection at all. Some 17% of the region experience speeds of less than 2Mbps and 90% of people live outside the main city of Oxford."

Then this:

"Broadband should be treated as a universal service – a basic requirement and right, just like electricity, gas and water.” - Tina Sommer, Federation for Small Businesses’ EU and International Affairs Chairman

We need to understand the position of Oxfordshire within a national context of Next Generation Access (NGA) broadband penetration. Work is being carried out to assist Oxfordshire County Council and its partners shape a realistic, viable and sustainable future broadband strategy underpinning Oxfordshire’s wider social, economic and business goals."

And I found the data about broadband speeds in my area. The charts are attached

1 A broad overview of the status of broadband in Oxfordshire. As you see the north of Banbury is poor

Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 16.44.11.png

2 A zoom in to Banbury itself. Blue areas are 'Poor" speed ones

Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 16.16.02.png

3 A very close look at my estate, again blue means 'Poor'. Just as I suspected the blue cloud has settled right over me!!!

Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 16.17.03.png

Are you interested in this matter, and what can you do about getting a better service for the outlying areas of Banbury?

Best Regards

No one was thinking

I live in a new house (less than 5 years old). I am amazed that at the time no one considered that broadband should be a universal service like water, gas and electricity. I have got all those, neatly laid underground. But I don't have good broadband.

Now how to make a bigger noise about this???

I did find a report from the Oxford Times saying:

"COUNTY hall bosses have pledged to try and boost broadband access in Oxfordshire, as a Euro MP warned the lack of coverage posed ‘serious risks’ to businesses.

Oxfordshire County Council deputy leader David Robertson said the authority had met BT bosses and would bid for Government cash in December to extend coverage."

There's hope yet.

Thinking about future TV/IPTV

We have got ourselves into a right old mess today trying to combine TV and the internet. Lots of crazy solutions are around, content suppliers don't know which way to turn and who to licence for delivery of their work. We have chaos and profusion: BT Vision, Virgin, TalkTalk TV, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Channel4 4od, Five demand, Sky player, iTunes, Blinkbox, Fetch TV, 3View, Seesaw, TV Catchup, Joost, JumpTV, and so it goes, on and on...

Frankly that is no way to treat consumers or suppliers. These middlemen are crazy, or maybe it is us, we are crazy to even think about using them and content providers are crazy to keep pumping their content into these delivery channels.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was an alliance of suppliers, all delivering their content in the same way (pay per view for example, with consistent technical standards - MPEG4/H264 etc) and we could just chose our favourite viewing software or box as a consumer preference - just a piece of hardware/software all compatible with any content supplier... That's what I want anyway. Not to be badgered by thousands of diversified offerings!

Wrong thinking

In the home we have a TV. This is often the centre of our living space, and arranged so that we group around it for a common viewing experience. Why then would we want internet browsing on the TV (a la Google?), who is going to do the browsing and who are the unfortunate ones who have to watch someone else click around?

No the TV cannot be a way to browse the internet. There has to be something specific (iTunes?). And again here we have a problem: IPTV services can be created so that the internet can be the delivery chain for TV, but what's the point in that, satellite is much better (bandwidth...). And no broadcasters seem to be able to provide POD (programs on demand, past and future) because of rights limitations.

What the internet can bring is VOD (movies). You request the program you want, and you get it ASAP. All that is then needed is a way to pay for it and the internet can do that also.

But you still end up with a communal viewing experience. What if you want to check out the internet whilst viewing a program?

You need a 2nd screen of course!

Another thing

The greatest problem is that all current offerings are one way. They are directed solely at the TV screen.

But what we need is integration between the computer and the TV. We need the two way flow of data.

This means the data that drives the EPG must be output from the TV to our computers. They can then use this to provide a better consumer experience.

I could have my iPad in my hand, it could provide me with official statistics while a politician is answering a question on Question Time. It could give me sports statistics while I watch the Olympics, because it knows, from the TV data, what being shown and can run off to the internet and find the data.

The future of systems like YouView is not on the TV screen, it is on the

TV AND the personal computer,


The current obsession of media delivery chains to have exclusive delivery of copyright content to one screen, your TV, is a distraction from this development.

Media control

I am absolutely fed up with being turned over by the media companies. The three way struggle: the studio makes a film, they licence it for distribution to specific channels using the draconian copyright laws, and I get to see it only if I subscribe to the chosen channel, Sky, Virgin, BBC, iTunes, etc.

I am being systematically fleeced. The distributors are misusing copyright, which is supposed to encourage artists to be creative, make money and let them control the distribution of their works, not make the media labels rich. And it gets worse, you know you can buy this movie on iTunes, but you can't rent it. You can buy it only in USA, but not in UK. You can see it at Odean cinemas but not at others. You can get it from Netflix or LoveFilm or Hulu, but not in UK.

And the delivery chains think they are doing a good job of providing us with a service.


Shake up needed

This market needs a huge shake up to induce competition in the delivery chain, not based on exclusive content but on cost and convenience for the user. Unfortunately this is not going to happen by commercial forces, in fact the current forces are just making things worse, just ask Spotify about opening their services in the USA...

It needs political attention and political will to do something about entrenched forces and the overdue need to revise copyright laws. We need to look hard at the exploitation of control of the delivery chain, to the huge disadvantage of the consumer, not by artists but by the media delivery companies. Its not the artists who are making any money, its the medial labels, the middle men who control the delivery chain in a selfish and self-seeking way.

We need to have a public interface at the level of the creators, and let consumers chose how their work will be delivered to their ears and eyeballs. If I want to view a film on TV, at a time of my choosing, I should be able to do it - and pay for it to the creators - at the time I chose and wherever I chose. If I want to view a movie I purchased, in anyway, DVD, download... I should be able to watch this on any hardware I own with no restrictions. I should be able to loan it and resell it.

As an addendum...

The BBC has no mandate to provide an exclusive delivery chain, but they are doing this with iPlayer and YouView participation. They are there and paid for to make programs and provide open access to all past and future programs. They should provide an open interface for any software, commercial or open source, to deliver their programs to the consumer. They have to get used to the fact that they are an open, public broadcaster, paid for by a licence fee, and the material they output is public, past, present and future. There should be nothing illegal about sharing public broadcast material.

Sky, Virgin, BT Vision etc are basically delivery chain exploiters, they make few, if any, programs. I cannot for the life of me see why people pay for a TV licence (£140/year) and then pay another huge subscription to Sky (£500/year), just to get so many channels that have little value and which they have no time to watch. And as for gimmicks like 3D TV, Video Recording... Internet on TV, oh my.

I am led away screaming.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Keeping up with Apple

I like to keep a regular note of what Apple might do and what I would like them to do. Here is my list

What they might do

1 Apple complete TV - unlikely
2 99c TV rentals, likely
3 iPad with AirPlay and AirPrint - certain in iOS 4 November
4 iTunes subscription service, a la Spotify... - likely, but audio quality MUST NOT suffer
5 iWork 11, Mobile me updates
6 New iPhone for Verizon/CDMA (or maybe 4G/LTE)
& update form factor, digital wallet, built in SIM, app programmable
7 Mac OS 10.7, Lion, summer 2011 - announced
8 Drop Flash from all OS X releases - announced
9 Drop white iPhone - very likely

What I would like them to do

1 iPad remove 30 pin connecter, use only USB and Bonjour/WiFi, plus AirPlay/AirPrint/AirPlay
2 'EyeTV'-like box with AirPlay WiFi streaming to iPad, ATV... control by iPad app
3 Mac OSX iTunes separate out:
a iTunes / shop
b iMedia / library mgr, books, PDFs, Audio, Video, play media and stream AirPlay
c iSync / all sync functions, phone, iPad... and have the iPad also initiate syncing, over WiFi
4 Lots more content on Apple TV. Including BBC iPlayer and in future YouView, open SDK
5 24/96 audio on iPad, Apple TV, iTunes, simplify audio to 16/48 lossy and 24/96 lossless downloads. Forget CD 16/44.1 standard. Push up audio quality.

So there, I have spoken. Listen up Apple.

A new TV

I am looking for a new TV. And it is the most confusing business I have ever got involved with. So many, many models and very little differentiation between them.

My requirements are simple

1 32inch screen, max 40 as we don't have too much space

2 Thin

3 White frame surround, not the ubiquitous black, complemented by a white VESA mounting arm, it will fit in a corner, not on a flat wall.

4 HDMI inputs - for Apple TV, Wii and DVD player

5 Built-in Freesat (not Freeview)

6 Simple remote control, I believe it should be possible to control a TV with no more than 5-10 buttons (not 50-100 as some think!).

7 There maybe some technical issues I don't yet understand, but which will be important, for example I need full HD (1920x1080), I need smooth action pixs (120Hz?), I need...

What is NOT required is

7 Internet access to specific, chosen by the makers, channels. The TV may be a network device (to my home WiFi, computers, iPads and NAS) but not a direct Internet terminal.

8 DNLA, I will use Apple TV (streaming from the internet, my NAS, my Macbook, my iPad etc) so DNLA is not of interest to me.

9 Any other connections, e.g. VGA, PC, USB, SCART, YRGB etc etc

Does anyone make such a simple thing????

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Musing on copyright infringement

Copyright infringement is the use of a person's work without his permission. It is not a criminal offence, it is a civil offence, particularly if you make money out of it.


So many people talk about 'peer-to-peer' as though it is illegal. OK so its the main technology for transferring files from A to B, but it is just a technology. There are many other ways of exchanging files: and if you want to do it so no-one can see what you are doing then 'peer-to-peer' is not the way, use an encrypted file vault.

So let's get it clear, peer-to-peer file transfer is nothing to do with copyright infringement.


Piracy is another emotive word that is bandied about. Piracy is stealing. Copying a music file is not stealing, it is copying, the original still exists. Also piracy is criminal. Copyright infringement is not piracy.

And, by the way, copying a work is perfectly legal for certain reasons, for example for education, for journalistic review and many other 'fair-use' reasons. Libraries can stock CDs/DVDs and loan them out, copying that CD/DVD would be illegal, but listening to it is not. There is a very strong argument that making a backup copy of your own CDs for your own safety is not illegal, but many people even want to block you from doing that. For DVDs you will have to break the DRM on the disks, but that is already broken thing anyway.


Blocking copying technically is called DRM - notionally meaning Digital Rights Management - or in other words using technology to enforce the rights under which a work is released. The trouble is that in many cases DRM actually blocks your perfectly legitimate rights, for example it can block you from freely using any player to listen to your purchased music, or watching a movie on any player or recording a TV broadcast or making a backup copy, or for convenience copying a movie to your home network storage hard drive.

BBC iPlayer

This is a mess. The BBC have many different versions for web browsers and as dedicated players on various platforms. The different versions use different video codecs, in particular web browsers and PC players use Flash, with DRM! While the version for iPhones/iPads uses MPEG4/H264 without DRM. Watching is limited to one week, on-line or for saved files (you can't save on an iPhone/iPad as, without DRM, they have no way to stop you watching after one week!

What a mess!

Watching TV on iPlayer does not require you to have a TV licence, the TV licence is only to use a TV receiver connected to an aerial at a specific premises. Recording a program from a TV broadcast is not illegal either and you can keep it for as long as you like.

The BBC seems likely to expand its use of DRM, which as a public broadcaster it cannot impose on over the air transmissions, by building a new set-top-box, called YouView, which itself will encode the received signals and prevent you from saving files to place on the internet... this is how it is planned to work:

Screen shot 2010-06-15 at 08.51.24.png

DTCP (networks), HDCP (HDMI connections) and AACS (Blu-Ray disks) are forms of DRM which are used throughout the system. It means you have to have dedicated, licenced equipment supporting each of these in your home theatre system. Notice that this DRM operates mainly for HD video, not for SD which can be copied openly! Creepy, creepy studios!

Of course the system architecture may not be the one you want in your home. If you prefer to have the system that Apple is proposing then it won't work with the BBC. Tough cookie, or is it? This is not what I call an open market.


Apple, again at the demand of studios uses its own, non-compatible, DRM called Fairplay! Not really fair, but hey ho.

This whole thing boils down to the studios wielding power of broadcasters, and the broadcasters not standing up for their customers. The BBC should just say no to DRM not play wormy games with our legitimate rights and wants.


Copyright protection is a legal issue, a moral issue, but not a technical issue. Stop messing with progress.

And by the way the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 gives the right to record a broadcast for viewing later at any time. So you should be able to save the iPlayers files for viewing later, at ANY time you chose, not just up to a week later. The BBC has taken away your legal rights.

DE Act

The DE act was passed in the infamous wash-up of the last parliament. 40 MPs debated it, then 180 streamed in from the bar to pass it. It is a bill to prosecute people who infringe copyright by copying files without permission, and it also stops you using any software to break DRM. (Don't worry most DRM is already broken... and is un-workable).

The DE act has already spawned some pretty ugly legal firms who have employed internet monitoring companies to record the IP addresses of people who they believe are downloading copyright works, pass these IPs to ISPs and demand the name and address of the user. The ISPs have then passed these names and addresses back , and the legal firm have sent threatening letters, tantamount to blackmail, to the downloaders asking for money. Foolishly some people have paid up, even though there is no firm legal evidence of wrong-doing and no court case. In fact these lawyers have never brought any cases to court. The solicitors society is jumping on them, but still the scam goes on. If you get a letter, just bin it.

OK, so it is right to try to legally stop copyright infringement, but the bigger picture is that copyright itself needs rewriting for the digital/internet age.

Fix it

End of rant. Let's hope some clear thinking will someday come.

Monday, 18 October 2010

More HiFi spectra - look at the difference

What I would like to start with is a convincing (at least for me) demonstration that you do need your HiFi system to have a wider bandwidth than 20-20kHz to reproduce sounds correctly. It is a simple test, the rattling of a bunch of keys infront of a microphone. Here is the spectrum, just look at the sounds above 20kHz... to get a realistic reproduction of the very fast rise times of this rattle sound you need a bandwidth above that of the human ear's perception. [Spectra are from SoundScope software, mon/left channel Red, right channel Green]

Key Rattling 2.png

Now to get a hang on what sort of bandwidth the music industry is actually delivering to us, and to understand why almost all of their recordings are useless when it comes to actually hearing the original instrument sound, look at these limited bandwidth offerings

The CD


iTunes current version AAC


ITunes early version - when they had DRM on the tracks

iTunes early.png

MP3 lossy compressed download

MP3 download.png

A couple of tracks from Spotify - Spotify seems to have a variable quality... the second one is terrrible!

Spotify 2.pngSpotify.png

And just yesterday I read in the paper that the BBC claim to be transmitting HD Audio on the internet, it is NOT HD, but simply MP3 at 320kbps and for Radio 3 only. Look at these spectra for Radio3 and the terrible quality of Radio 1. If they transmitted HD Audio in lossless format this would need 2000kbs, but anyway that is only what is needed for IPTV/iPlayer, so why is radio the poor relation?

BBC Radio 3.pngBBC Radio 1.png

Finally what we all need, a track delivered at 24bit/96kHz, look at the improvement


My belief is that the music industry has lost the plot, they over compress tracks, they refuse to move forward and use new wideband technology, and if they carry on this way they have no future growth potential. With us all having much wider pipes for our broadband today, now is the time for the industry to redefine its offering.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Demonstrating HIFI

While I was recently thinking about how to show everyone the limitations of various delivery streams for HiFi (MP3, CD, HD audio). I took a single track recorded at 24bit/96kHz and down sampled it to CD 16bit/44.1kHz and to MP3 at 128kbps. Here are the audio spectra for these



128k MP3.png
MP3 128kbps

Since many musical instruments produce sounds way above 20kHz, even up to 50-80kHz for some, you can see why MP3s and even CDs can never reproduce the sound of the original instrument. 24bit/96kHz is a bare minimum required. Its nice to see that the original was a true HD recording, probably extending way up to 48kHz or so.

PS These spectra were made in Sound Studio software running on a MacBook.

Thinking about it - TV for tomorrow

I just spent a few minutes thinking about tomorrow's TV. I am more and more convinced that Apple is going the right way, but to complete its offering they need some additional stuff:

Have now

- Apple TV (WiFi to HDMI, internet access limited to iTunes and few other media sources)
- Computers WiFI (iMac, MacBook)
- NAS and routers WiFi (Time Machine)
- Remotes WiFi (iPod, iPad, iPhone)


Needed to complete the picture

- Set-top-box receiver with WiFi interface for streaming TV and for remote control. View on TV, record on MacBook/iPad/iPod/iPhone...
- Expanded internet access (directly by ATV or WiFi stream from iPod/iPad/iPhone)
- WiFi sync computer to iPad/iPod/iPhone
- Audio amplifier (optical in, LS out) for HiFi system

This would give the perfect solution. With just ONE remote, an iPod, iPad or iPhone). Everything WiFi.


There is a big opportunity here for someone (EyeTV?) to make the STB and someone making HiFi amplifiers to come up with the missing hardware (who?), the HiFi part of the needs could be satisfied using active (Optical Audio input) loudspeakers (ADM?)

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Grabing your TV

A quick first comment, more later...

There is a definite acceleration in the mish-mash of offerings for your eyeballs. Your TV set is about to be an internet thingy, a video-on-demand thingy, a catchup TV thingy, a gameing thingy. Offerings are coming from many new makers, of which Apple, Goggle and UK's YouView are just some of the media ones.

Apple TV - your TV as a monitor

The new Apple TV is an amazingly small and simple box. It links to the world via WiFi and to your TV by HDMI, and that's it. But what it does is put your TV into the Apple eco-system. You can browse the iTunes store and rent movies and TV programs, you can stream movies from your other Apple gear - your MacBook, your iPad, your iPhone... - directly to your TV screen. And all in 720 HD format.

Apple TV also streams audio to its Optical audio output, connect your ADM9.1 powered loudspeakers and you have a complete music centre, also based on buying music from iTunes. And playing from your iPad remotely.

But the Apple TV does not have the BBC's iPlayer. For some reason these two guys cannot get on enough to allow the BBC to create an iPlayer app (probably the DRM problem, Apple won't licence there's and the BBC can't implement iPlayer without DRM as the studios won't have it?).

The Apple TV also does not have TV!

And you have the frustrating business of using the TV remote to switch across to Freesat, another to watch a DVD or Blu-Ray, another to control your HiFi... More than one controller for your home system is too much.

Google TV - your TV as a nerd's paradise

Google TV is just an OEM software product, like their new Android OS. It is provided to equipment and TV makers to implement. When included it allows the TV to become a TV, a VOD source, and an internet browser (for YouTube, etc).

Google TV uses a QWERTY keyboard so you get the full computer/internet experience on your TV, much to the annoyance of everyone else in the room... A TV is a shared experience, not the domain of one person holding the remote.

There will also be Google TV boxes that link up to older TVs.

Google is working hard, at least in the USA (there is no sign of Google TV support in Europe) to get a lot of media sources signed up - the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and the TV channels.

YouView - your TV as a broadcaster's delivery terminal, but via the internet

YouView is the broadcasters idea of what the future of TV should be like. When they think they have to move from expensive TV transmitters, expensive Satellites and onto the internet as a delivery chain, YouView is what they have come up with. But it is a closed, gatekeeper system, not the open internet.

There's not a lot going for YouView, it has no eco-system, it is just another set top box you have to buy (after you have already purchased one or two generations of Freeview and Freesat boxes), great for the licensed electronic's companies, but very bad for the consumer.

What is worse is that the whole thing is to be dominated by the BBC who will control the User Interface - look and feel. Its a total lock-in.

Don't forget

Apple and Google are building huge data centres - to store movies, music, TV shows? They plan to be the complete offering, storage and delivery. Maybe the broadcasters don't stand a chance in this battle.

What could you imagine?

You don't want just a TV, you don't want internet on your TV - a TV is a shared viewing experience, not a individual one. You don't want multiple boxes, plus your DVD and Blu-Ray players, Wii and others connected by a forest of wires and half a dozen different remotes.

What you want is an eco-system that integrates your PC, your Pad, your Phone, your game box and your TV. In such as way that they can all be used separately, or can interact to give your eyeballs all the information they need, when they want it.

Who will win the battle? Well it depends how stupid we are.

YouView may be foisted on us, by politicians who don't know any better or care, and by the powerful media giants (BBC, ITV, Five, Arquiva (who run the TV transmitters), BT (who own the telephone lines and exchanges) and others). But it is probably not what we want or need.

Apple may like us to invest in their eco-system, and they have been pretty successful in doing that! But they don't have the media offering we need - no live TV, no catch up (maybe coming?), so far few rentals, no purchases. But they do have interconnectivity which others don't.

Google TV is a loser, like many of the other Google ventures. It depends on getting us to buy complete new TVs. It offers combined TV and internet, which means it reaches only one set of eyeballs, not a shared experience. Sure it is an interesting distribution channel, but so are the others.

My money is on Apple in the end, the TV as a monitor, it makes system sense. But they desperately need to have a long hard look at the UK market and give us the features we want.

The other battle - copyright sub-division and control

Of course the other battle is between the companies that deliver the media (Apple, Google, Netflix, Hulu, Seesaw, Cable, Sky, BT, Virgin...) and those that generate it. For too long studios have been controlling the delivery chain, licensing sub-divided permissions of copyright to others who want to carry the content. Even our public broadcaster, the BBC, has fallen in the trap of believing it needs to own the delivery chain and play the studio's game (viz DRM on the "free" iPlayer catchup service, and limits to the time programs are available...). Sorry but public broadcasting is just that, public. It has also chosen a strong encryption system (or DRM) for the YouView project. Our TV is now firmly locked up.

Rogue thought

I watch 1500 hours of TV a year, I pay £140 TV licence for this. Or about £0.10 per hour of viewing.

If I just paid £0.10 per view, and no licence fee. And had free and open access to all channels, VOD on the internet would this be better? Yes, Yes, Yes.

But then YouView has no payment mechanism, so this blocks even this outrageous suggestion.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Paper chase "PoP" - in the digital world

I have seen thousands of people in offices walking around carrying a piece of paper that they take to someone else and waste time having a chat...

In the world of WiFi networks, cloud storage and iPads there is a better solution. I propose this "app" and solution:

- Documents are created on the iPad or scanned, word processed and loaded by WiFi, probably the best is to have them all in PDF format with embedded metadata (Author, Subject, Key Words etc) and an urgent/normal, read/unread tag.
- A database of users is kept on a server, and this is synched to all iPads in the network automatically
- Any user can take a document they have created, chose another user and "PoP" it across to them. Or they can chose a group of users and "PoP" it to all of them
- Any user will see their received documents, tagged as urgent/normal and read/unread
- Document filing will happen in the cloud. This is the tricky bit as few people have solved the problem of decently classifying documents and providing access by other than searching. So search will be important. Only one copy of any document need be kept with metadata about who "PoP"ed it and who received it (and maybe who read it!)

Add-on. Classification

Any classification system needs a central control or defined "menu" so avoid random tagging. Such a menu structure could be defined by a system administrator and imposed on the cloud document database.

Apple TV needs digital amplifier

Have a look at the new Apple TV, a wonderful small device that has LAN input (Ethernet or WiFi) and HDMI and Optical Digital Audio output, and you will see a connectivity need.

Sure you have the simplicity to connect your flat screen TV with its HDMI input direct to the Apple TV and get HD video and audio. But if you want to be a HiFi buff and connect your giant loudspeakers to the Apple TV you need an amplifier with Optical input. These do exists but are expensive.

So what I propose as a new product is a medium cost, high spec audio amplifier to fill this niche:

- Tower design matching the same width and depth as the Apple TV
- Optical TOSLINK input at up to 24bit/96kHz (its not clear if the Apple TV will stream 24bit/96kHz but it may in the future, for now iTunes probably down-samples everything to 16/44.1
- Balanced audio analog input
- Superior DAC based on the world leading Wolfson chips
- Two class D audio amplifiers, possibly the Hypex modules, giving > 100W per channel.

As an alternative solution a completely digital amplifier could be built using a digital audio receiver (e.g. STA120, WM8804...) plus an integrated digital amplifier like the STA328, giving 40-60W per channel.

Contact me if you have any interest to commercialise these ideas.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Better Music

I agree with Bob Speers:

"What happened to dynamic range? That's a question that should be asked of record labels, producers, artists, and last but not least, recording and mastering engineers. The question needs to be asked because we're the ones responsible for what's happened to our music. Much of the music we listen to today is nothing more than distortion with a beat. Great music is suffering because it lacks dynamic range. When music lacks dynamic range, it lacks punch, emotion, and clarity. The record labels blame digital downloads, MP3s, CD burners, and others for the lack of CD sales. While there is some truth to their constant whining, they only have themselves to blame for the steady decline in CD sales. The record labels need to reevaluate what they consider to be good music."

I have been blogging for years about the need for the record companies to recognise that the way forward is better technology. Now we have wider bandwidths for our broadband connections, we can download tracks in FLAC or ALAC non-lossy formats. The biggest music distributor, Apple iTunes, needs to recognise this also and push the record companies to provide studio master recordings without all the limiting and compression that is used on CDs, AACs and MP3s.

Let's see this in technical terms (from Wikipedia):

Screen shot 2010-09-09 at 12.22.39.png

This dramatically shows the limitations of the 16bit CD and FM radio, and the improvements we could have by using 24bit downloads. I don't have any figures for MP3 or internet streaming but they will be much worse.

A properly recorded CD at 16bit resolution, should have its 0dB level equivalent to a digital level of -18dBFS, giving an 18dB overhead, a 24bit file should have the 0dB analog level (1.23V rms) set to a digital level of -24dBFS thus giving a 24dB overhead before digital clipping occurs. For comparison live music demands an overhead of 30dB.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Canvas vs new Apple TV

Who needs Canvas now we have the new Apple TV. Way to go Apple!

Apple has defined the technology for rental/streaming TV. They have built it into a box that anyone would be happy to have in the living room (its just 4inches square!). It is simple, just WiFI/Ethernet connection and HDMI to your TV/monitor. (By the way who needs a TV anymore, you just need an HDMI input monitor with sound built-in).

So why not drop Canvas, which is an overcomplicated system, just like the European proposals, integrating web and TV? What users want is simple, they want content, not interactivity.

The BBC and others must go back to making programs, and stop all this technology "innovation" nonsense. They don't seem to get it.

I look forward to BBC TV on my Apple TV box.

Forget 30 pins - use USB Apple

It really is time that Apple stopped using that clumsy 30 pin dock connector on their products - iPhone, iPod touch, iPod Nano...

Screen shot 2010-09-03 at 08.41.41.png

The future is USB and WiFi. USB for communications and power/charging and WiFi for sync and up/down loading plus internet/LAN connections.

If Apple don't quickly move in this direction they will have lost important ground. They have already shown they can do it by the new AirPlay that streams audio and video between devices, especially to the new Apple Tv.

So go to it Apple, update.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

And thanks to Ajo - we have rights to record the BBC

"Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 s70 (Recording for purposes of time-shifting): "The making for private and domestic use of a recording of a broadcast or cable programme solely for the purpose of enabling it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time does not infringe any copyright in the broadcast or cable programme or in any work included in it."

So yes, the BBC is going down a road which will remove from licence fee payers an existing right firmly established in law - that of recording their TV programmes to watch at any time of their choosing. People should be able to record any programme broadcast on iPlayer to watch when they want to. The fact that you are preventing them from legally doing this is pretty objectionable, given it is preventing them from exercising a legal right purely on a technicality of the method of transmission."

[BBC blog by Ajo]

Well now this is the real issue, someone out there - the media companies - is trying to take away my legal rights. And the BBC is not on my side, but supports them in this. Even though I pay for the BBC through my licence fee.

How come?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

I am moved to agree with Micheal about the BBC

At 8:31pm on 17 Aug 2010, Michael wrote:

Let's face it, the BBC decision to rely on Flash is driven by DRM and licenced content. That is why the BBC is not using open source codecs and distribution mechanisms. That is why the BBC is locking out homebuilt video players like XMBC. And that is why the BBC is involved in the Project Canvas consortium to make it even harder for UK citizens to watch TV content without paying fees to somebody, whether Sky or BT or some other Project Canvas licensee.

This whole thing is not a technical issue, it is not an issue of providing a high quality experience to the largest possible audience. This is 100% a political issue in which the hidden media players behind the BBC, Sky and other TV companies, are trying to create a CLOSED ecosystem in the UK where revenue will flow from the viewer into the pockets of the hidden media companies.

There is only one way out of this and it is through political action to stop Project Canvas, and to stop the BBC from televising any DRM licenced content whatsoever. It means that the BBC will likely have to stop showing any American TV content because licencing it restricts it from iPlayer or requires DRM on iPlayer. But this is the route that we have to go down. The licence fee payers deserve to get an open television system in which content is freely available to view through whatever means they choose whether that is XMBC or MythTV or a box from Sky or BT.

Spend less time in the blogosphere and more time on educating MPs and OFCOM about this issue. When the lightbulb finally goes on, Project Canvas will be dead, and the BBC's license conditions will be changed. Right now, media interests have effectively taken over the BBC and OFCOM and are playing a game of brinksmanship in order to steer UK TV into a closed ecosystem.

Meanwhile in other countries, people are free to view their TV how they want. There aren't any quality problems and nobody suggests that it is hard to view Internet TV on a TV set.

[From the BBC Blog]

100% right. Canvas is designed to allow the media companies to control the distribution chain, like they already do for Sky and others. To do this the BBC has designed a closed, DRM system and will licence its production to approved hardware makers. The iPlayer we know to day will be dead and we will have to buy a box to view any IPTV...

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Reform the banks - NOW

Our banks are still playing the same old game. They need a solid kick up the pants to change their ways.

Between 1997 and 2009, almost a third of lending was between banks. Half went to individuals, mainly on mortgages that fuelled the housing bubble; manufacturing received just 3% of the pie; other business loans accounted for only 17%. Since the crash, net lending to business has fallen by £40bn.

To summarise

1. 1/3rd of lending is bank-to-bank to cover gambling positions

2. 1/2 is loans to individuals (mortgages, credit cards)

3. Manufacturing gets just 3% of bank loans. No wonder they are screaming for help

4. Business loans are another 17%, but lending to business has fallen £40bn. So our only salvation, manufacturing and profitable business is ignored by the greedy, casino, banks


Neither can the finance sector credibly claim to be the major source of tax revenue in the UK. It contributed just 6.8% of tax revenues between 2002 and 2008, just over half the amount paid by manufacturers; the reason traditional industry generates more is because it is labour-intensive.

Using Bank of England figures, it is reckoned it could take the finance sector 25 years to repay the £1 trillion costs of bailing it out. Bring it on, NOW.

Radical restructuring is needed to separate their genuine utility functions need from their gambling activities.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

BBC & Ofcom cave in to HD studios - implement DRM


I give up, I despair, we have no guts in the UK. We are all lazy dimwits and lack understanding of the issues that concern us all.

The big studios have tried to force TV companies in the USA to implement DRM for HD shows, but this was refused and still they show them... but in UK the BBC and Ofcom have conspired to allow DRM on HD TV. The DRM is placed on your program guide and implemented at your home by the box you buy to receive Freeview and Freesat.

This is ridiculous.

UK has caved in. Our own laws of copyright are to be re-written and enforced by large, mainly USA companies. And politicians are doing nothing about it. In fact they are conniving by turning their backs and ignoring the problem.

It means you have to have a UK-only TV and box, incompatible with any other EU country (expect BIG price hikes). And it means you are restricted in what you can do in your own home, with public broadcast shows that you have paid for. This is what the system looks like, all imposed on you in your own home by USA studios and the BBC...

Screen shot 2010-06-15 at 08.51.24.png

"This technology would control the way HD films and TV shows are copied on to, for example Blu-ray DVDs and shared with others over the internet," Ofcom said. Ofcom have no evidence to support the opinion that people will record and copy to friends shows, or put them on the internet. Anyway those pirates who want to can easily circumvent this DRM. It will only affect ordinary users and force them to buy new boxes.

"Ofcom have taken a decision which pushes technology further towards a copyright-centric model of control, where only copyright holders have the right to decide how everyday devices are allowed work."

"In this new regime, people with hearing problems will be prevented from modifying their equipment to deal with their problems. Software developers will be stopped from making your TV, computer and mobile phone properly working with each other.

"HD devices will have to built to work in the UK alone, reducing competition and pushing prices up."

The complete absurdity and deception being promoted by Ofcom and the BBC is that any DVB-T2 receiver can receive the HD broadcasts without DRM, its just the program guide that gets encrypted!

Let all go out and buy decent DVB-T2 receivers which can receive Freesat perfectly well as the programs them selves are transmitted without DRM

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

STOP hounding politicians over pay

Stop this stupid hounding of politicians, stop it NOW.

They have a country to run, they need to be in the public eye, for all the right reasons - for example to let us know what is happening to our deficit, and the restoration of our human freedoms - not because they took advantage of the loose, ill-defined, previous rules about expenses.

Double pay - small allowances, no homes

There is for sure a lot to be sorted out about pay scales both for politicians and for lots and lots of civil servants. What I believe is that politician should get at least double their current pay, government as well. Then they should have small allowances, no second homes.

Applies to everyone

All, and I mean all, civil servants, and public bodies like the BBC, should earn less than the prime minister.

There needs to be sweeping changes throughout local government, regional government and at all quangos. Do not hit me with the argument that if we don't pay enough we will not get the people we need. That is stuff and nonsense. We will define a pay grade and get the best we can for that, and set about doing the best job we can. If there are failures then there will be dismissals.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Damp squib, with a possible joyful outcome

So 25,000 of us made a huge noise about the Digital Economy Bill - which is now law.

Let's see a summary of what is involved for the protection of copyright.

1. Copyright owners allege abuse and within one month send a copyright infringement report to the ISP.

2. Within another month the ISP has to notify its subscriber, by letter, giving

- the extent of the infringement
- the copyright owners efforts to provide a legal alternative
- the appeal & legal issues

So what?

Well there are some interesting issues here;

How does the copyright owner come to find out about abuse? I guess they try abusing the web themselves and see if they can download copyright material...

What is the extent of the 'legal alternatives' that the copyright owner must provide - I mean is this a valid, legal source of the alleged infringing material. Wow, if it is this is a BIG step. You see the internet is global, but most copyright infringement takes place because music, movies, CDs, DVD, are released in one country before another: a sure way to entice people to file share on the global internet! But now if the copyright owners have to show how anyone can get a legal download, they will have to release their media globally, all at one time. A true revolution and a wonderful breakdown of the use of copyright to control 'distribution right', which is was never intended to do.

Could I be wrong? Yes, probably Ofcom hasn't the guts to write the 'code' this way, but just to insist on listing a few irrelevant legal download sites. Not containing the one thing you wanted.

Added later

Ofcom has issued its code, there is NOTHING in it about the obligation for copyright owners to provide details about how to get legal downloads of the material they claim is infringing...

This is simply not good enough, they have to meet their side of the bargain.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Three things wrong with media industry

Quite simply there are three things wrong with the media industry (Books, Films, Music).

1 They have lots of stuff locked up in their vaults which they hold copyright for, and which people want to purchase, but they do not have open access to it.

2 They impose severe restrictions not on copyright as such (i.e. permission to copy a work), but on the distribution channels, like region codes, DVD vs download, limited release, tim erelated release, etc etc

3 They block users from transcoding purchases (like a valid DVD) to their computers by using encryption/DRM. If material is actually purchased on-line, then this DRM blocks user rights copy for personal use, or re-sell 2nd hand.

This has all to stop. It is unreasonable and simply lead to file sharing.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

I have one!! Faulty 20p piece, £20 anyone?

I have just come across in my pocket one of those faulty 20p pieces, where the lions on the back are stamped offset to one side. News reports say they could be worth £20, but I con't find anyone to buy it!!!

It looks like this

Screen shot 2010-05-18 at 17.21.02.png

I love Apple, but please...

Dear Apple,

Can you sort out your products input/output? For example,

- Apple TV has HDMI audio/video output, MacBooks do not, they have MiniDVI which no one uses and for which you have to buy converters all the time.

- MacBooks have Bluetooth (KB, Audio I/O and networking PAN). iPods/iPads have Bluetooth (audio I/O, but no networking, so you can't sync using Bluetooth)

- MacBooks have Wifi, so do iPods/iPads, but you can't wirelessly sync, why not?.

- iPods and iPads have some sort of USB, but on the multi-pin conector. Why not have a standard USB port? Also used for charging. All mobile phone makers have agreed to have standard USB charging very soon an all products.

What I suggest is:

1 WiFi becomes the main 'port' for all fast communications (audio, HD audio, Video, network, share, sync)
Have a new Apple TV box with WiFi to HDMI/HDCP handling including audio, and audio S/PDIF I/O and audio I/O Also a new Airport Express with the same features of WiFi networking and HDMI/HDCP output and S/PDIF I/O and audio I/O.
2 Bluetooth handles slow IO (low quality audio, KB, mouse)
3 Printing either direct to a WiFi printer, or via MacBooks from other computers or iPad
4 Update Apple TV to have browser for VOD and apps for other internet services
5 Break iTunes up, please, into two parts
- A general sync program, all the current sync - mobiles, iPods, iPads... mobile me.
- A media database, to include documents, music, video, books. And integrate this with the finder

Lastly lets have overnight ipad auto-sync using wifi from MacBook and/or mobile me.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

More discussion about Copyright

"A creator of a work should be able to decide how their work is consumed and used..." or the extension to that ".... and distributed."

Should they? It is a "Copy Right" not a "Consumer Right" or "Use Right" or "Distribution right".

A creator should not be allowed to determine the way in which his work is consumed or used, but only be assured it will not be copied for commercial profit.

The net result of allowing creators to control how a work is consumed and used is DRM. It is forbidding Transcoding to other reproduction systems and Backup.

It is illogical that one can copy old VHS tapes to DVD, but not copy a DVD to your HDD. It is equally illogical that you can copy your CDs into iTunes but not your DVD-Audio or SACD disks.

Copyright is a law for creators, not a law for consumers. It protects the rights of a creator to the sale of his work, not the way the consumer eventually uses them. Except that the consumer if he makes copies does not retain all those copies himself, he is not permitted to pass copies of the work to others.

Creators can gain the benefits of sales conditions, but not the activities of post sale use.

In this age where digital goods sharing is easy and global, creators have to come to some new conclusions about their works and how they distribute them. You cannot for example justify the release of a film in only USA cinemas and expect the rest of the world to wait for it. You cannot either justify the use of "Regional code" on DVDs which prevent, for example, players in Europe playing an American DVD. Users will and do pirate it and put it on the global internet.

You cannot expect users who buy a legitimate DVD not to copy it to their media theatre system for convenience in viewing (of course they cannot then give the original away... but then why distribute it on DVD in the first place?).

The growing idea that creators do not sell their work, but distribute and cover it with a limited use licence to consume it specific way(s) is a total corruption of the intention of copyright law.

The conditions under which a sale of a CD of DVD must be made more clear on the label. For example "You may play this CD but not copy it to your computer" or " This DVD is protected against copying by DRM, to break that protection is illegal" should be in large type. The contract the purchaser is entering into must be clear when he buys the thing. That will clear up that point - and probably stop creators or distributor taking the law into their own hands too, as many would simply not buy the product.

You could also argue that if a creator does want to put some limits on distribution, he now has a duty himself to maintain that distribution channel for as long as the copyright on it is granted - will your CD be available in Death+70 years?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Follow through? CO2 attack

From the Guardian, 15 Dec 2009.

David Cameron said.

Cameron's plans for a multibillion-pound investment in energy efficiency are part of a strategy to make environmentalism relevant. Companies such as Tesco would lag lofts and insulate walls, then share the resulting savings in electricity bills with householders over a minimum 15-20 years.


The councils that have struck deals with the Tories would not only offer insulation packages, but also identify the streets most in need of help. A household with the most basic package of measures could expect to see savings of £360 a year on its heating bills, with an energy-efficiency provider putting in an initial investment of £1,500. Some of the savings would go towards repaying the upfront costs of the improvements. Households saving £360 a year would need to pay £120 towards the £1,500 investment, but would keep the remaining £240 a year for themselves.

Domestic CO2.png

[Where your CO2 output comes from]

Cameron said: "I want to launch this from day one of a Conservative government, with councils actually going house to house, street to street, to identify the areas, the homes and the people that would most benefit and would get on with doing most quickly."Faced by a mini-revolt from climate change sceptics within his own party, he said: "A very small number of people take a different view on the science, but the policy is driven by me, and that is the way it is going to be."

So follow through.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Voting - a fairer system


So this is it. Just look at the figures of the previous election, and tell me who should have won:

Votes% Seats% MPs

Labour 35.2 55.0 355

Cons 32.4 30.7 198

LibDem 22 9.6 62

The number of seats in no way reflects the number of votes, Labour go only 2.8% votes more than the Conservatives, but a ruling majority of 157 seats!

I am not advocating complete PR, but we do have to bring the gap closer, a party that wins more votes than the others must have more say in the government of our country.


And now in 2010 we have these numbers

Votes% Seats% MPs

Labour 39 40 258

Cons 36.1 47 306

LibDem 23 8.7 57

Lab + LibDem = 48.7%

Cons + LibDem = 55.7%

It is clear who should govern our country, matching as far as possible policies. And abandoning, even high principled, ones that cannot be agreed - Like PR...

Change? Two things have to happen.

1 We have to abandon the Whip system, where MPs do not have a free vote (as campaigned by you and me) but have to vote according to party lines. This is a strangle hold on democracy. We vote for politicians as much as for manifestos.

2 We have to recognise things in common in party's policies and get those things done with priority. Then have open debate about other proposals.

What to do?

In this election there are two things everyone agrees on:

Reduce debt. Both government (Visible + PFI + Pensions) and personal (Mortgage + Credit cards).

Increase civil liberties. Cut CCTV, no to ID cards, severely cut the quangos, reduce interference in our lives. Stop social engineering by law-making.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Who is in debt to whom in the eurozone?

Just one graphic says it all

Screen shot 2010-05-08 at 10.50.31.png

Hope you can read the text, its a bit blurred.

Time for Green - wanted £100B

UK targets for renewables are 15% all energy supplied by 2020 (its 2% today) or up by x7.5. The 2% of energy generated by renewables today has £2.2B turnover and employs 7000 people. Try multiplying that by 7.5 and see what a business opportunity lies await.

At last, good news, there was more renewable energy capacity than fossil built in the EU in 2008/9.

Here's the summary for UK and the outlook


We have along way to go in UK, but we are making a start - see 'Wind farms' below. 6% of our electricity comes from renewables today. This needs to rise to 35% with 40GW of installed capacity by 2020.


On top of that heating (biomass, solar, ground heat pumps etc) from renewables is only 1% today, and this needs to rise to 12% by 2020. The new Renewable Heat Incentive coming from April 2011 will boost this.


The target is 10% of road transport energy from renewables by 2020. The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation calls for 3.5% of biofuels (many think this is stupid use of food...). But anyway it comes nowhere near the target as the 10% target equates to 14% by volume...

This is a BIG problem. We need to turn fast to both transport-miles reduction and electric vehicles.

Money maker?

£100B will be invested in the next 10 years.

Screen shot 2010-05-08 at 12.20.51.png

Wind farms

Just how many wind farms do we have, and how much electricity do they make? There are four steps along the way:

Planning -> Agreed -> Under Construction -> Operational

When all these are finished for the current projects we will have 19GW of wind power, about half the 2020 target for total renewables. And probably not enough to stop the lights going out in 2015-16 as old power stations are de-commissioned. We need to accelerate even more this investment.


Onshore 250 = 3491MW
Offshore 12 = 1041MW

Total of 4532MW. There are 2896 trubines, enough energy for 2.5M homes. CO2 reduction 5.1Mt/year, SO2 reduction is 0.12Mt/year, NOx redution is 0.036Mt/year

Under construction are

Onshore 24 = 522MW
Offshore 5 = 1452MW

Total of 1975MW

Projects agreed but not started construction

Onshore 186 = 4327MW
Offshore 7 = 2794MW

Total 7121MW

Project in planning

Onshore 255 = 7558MW
Offshore = 5 = 2260MW

Total = 9818MW

Friday, 7 May 2010

Everyone looses

I have lived outside the UK for 30+ years and I am utterly baffled by the election result. It seems clear to me that top down state control by Labour is not what the British people want or deserve.

And yet they continue to vote for Brown, an embodiment of the worst unelected PM we have ever seen, together with his henchmen (/women) who seem to think we can be governed by ever more laws and ever more targets. While running up enormous debts to pay for their indulgences and totally limiting our personal responsibility and freedoms.

I want my country back. I want to have private enterprise (as low as 15% in some areas) bigger than public spending (as high as 70% in some areas), this level of public spending is unsustainable, and thus the debt. Change that and we get what we want, to get rich and have fulfilled lives. Change that and people will have to save, work, and be creative. Change that and we can get the local services we are prepared to pay for locally, not those imposed on us by the state. I want to stop completely living on debt, both public and personal.

So this man should not be entering the famous No 10 tonight.

Screen shot 2010-05-07 at 10.15.16.png

Maybe this guy could do a better job of it?

Screen shot 2010-05-07 at 10.53.13.png