August 29, 2010

My New Smartphone

I took the smartphone plunge. My old Motorola phone had a cracked glass face so I decided to upgrade to a new DROID2 from Verizon about a week ago.
This thing is a very powerful device but I'm just beginning to learn how to use it. I chose Android because I want to remain with Verizon Wireless and because I'm an inveterate Google user. The ability to manage Gmail and Calendar using the new and improved slider keyboard is so convenient. I have set it up to use Google Voice for calling and voice mail.
Android 2.2 (upgraded to 2.2.2 on Friday) is a powerful operating system and I particularly like the voice actuated search and calling tools in this Android release. Future software upgrades can only include improved capabilities.

I debated waiting for Verizon's 4G LTE roll-out and the powerful phones that will surely follow, but that's likely two+ years away in Vermont so I decided on the DROID2.

Since I have a MiFi hotspot device that has a few more months to run on its two-year contract, I'll hold off on activating the WiFi hotspot feature on the DROID2.

August 26, 2010

Bacteria are eating the oil plume in the Gulf - SmartPlanet

Bacteria are eating the oil plume in the Gulf - SmartPlanet

More good news from the Gulf of Mexico. The oil plume is being eaten voraciously by bacteria according to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The catastrophe seems to have been avoided. Everyone should be pleased with this result...except many researchers depending on grants to measure the extent of the expected long-lived catastrophe.

August 17, 2010

L.A. teacher ratings: L.A. Times analysis rates teachers' effectiveness -

L.A. teacher ratings: L.A. Times analysis rates teachers' effectiveness -

An extensive value-added analysis of teacher effectiveness using student performance results in elementary schools in Los Angeles, the nation's second largest school district, identifies marked differences in the quality of individual teachers. That in and of itself should not be surprising, but the fact that a newspaper rather than school authorities conducted the analysis is disappointing.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, teachers' union leaders have have called for a boycott of the LA Times rather than deal with this analysis constructively!

"...Nevertheless, value-added analysis offers the closest thing available to an objective assessment of teachers. And it might help in resolving the greater mystery of what makes for effective teaching, and whether such skills can be taught.

On visits to the classrooms of more than 50 elementary school teachers in Los Angeles, Times reporters found that the most effective instructors differed widely in style and personality. Perhaps not surprisingly, they shared a tendency to be strict, maintain high standards and encourage critical thinking..."

But the surest sign of a teacher's effectiveness was the engagement of his or her students — something that often was obvious from the expressions on their faces."
"...Value-added analysis offers a rigorous approach. In essence, a student's past performance on tests is used to project his or her future results. The difference between the prediction and the student's actual performance after a year is the "value" that the teacher added or subtracted.

For example, if a third-grade student ranked in the 60th percentile among all district third-graders, he would be expected to rank similarly in fourth grade. If he fell to the 40th percentile, it would suggest that his teacher had not been very effective, at least for him. If he sprang into the 80th percentile, his teacher would appear to have been highly effective.

Any single student's performance in a given year could be due to other factors — a child's attention could suffer during a divorce, for example. But when the performance of dozens of a teacher's students is averaged — often over several years — the value-added score becomes more reliable, statisticians say.

August 14, 2010

Stimulus Spending and Effectiveness

Because I have trouble believing this, should I then believe that the real unemployment rate suggests that the Stimulus worked or didn't work?

"The stimulus has saved or created about three million jobs and is on track to save an additional 500,000 by the end of the year, according to a new report by Mr. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers."

Official Google Blog: Facts about our network neutrality policy proposal

Official Google Blog: Facts about our network neutrality policy proposal

After much opposition form many quarters, including the NY Times, Google defends it's agreement of principles with Verizon to move the 'net neutrality ' discussion forward. Wireless is where net neutrality and regulators should remain hands off for now. Limited spectrum, explosive growth, fierce competition and rapidly changing technology all favor very limited involvement by regulators.

The large question is how does net neutrality play out on the international stage? America has long been the innovator with Internet development. We should do nothing to impede

August 13, 2010

Pew Research - 21 % of Americans Don't Use Internet

Twenty-one percent of Americans do not use the Internet. We live in an 80/20 world in so many ways. Yet, over time Internet usage will rival POTS household penetration (mid/upper 90 % range). Soon, too, I think.

 TechCrunch states:

"...This isn’t just people who do not use broadband (which is 66 percent of American adults). It also includes people who don’t use dial-up (another 5 percent). These people don’t use the Internet at all. That is like not using the telephone.
The number is a bit inflated because a third (34 percent) of these self-described non-users live in a house with Internet access or have family members who use the Internet regularly. They just don’t think the information on the Internet is relevant to their lives (48 percent), are uncomfortable with computers (60 percent), and are not interested in getting online (90 percent)."

August 12, 2010

Cape Cod in August 2010

We were at Cape Cod in August with fine weather and good friends from Italy for part of the time. Several years had passed since we had visited the Cape where as kids we had spent a lot of time with our parents before Carol and I knew each  other.


Initial U.S. Inquiry Supports Toyota’s Claims About Defects -

Initial U.S. Inquiry Supports Toyota’s Claims About Defects -

Early indications from government tests indicate that Toyota's 'sudden acceleration' problems which received so much media hype a few months ago may be primarily driver rather than technical error.

Could it be that folks were climbing on the bandwagon hoping for big cash awards from Toyota?

More testing is ongoing, but the initial results seem to be in Toyota's favor.

August 10, 2010

Joint Policy Proposal for an Open Internet - Verizon PolicyBlog

Joint Policy Proposal for an Open Internet - Verizon PolicyBlog

Verizon's Tom Tauke, Executive Vice president of Public Affairs, and Alan Davidson, Google Director of Public Policy, issued the proposal of the two companies. It seems a reasonable starting point to move the discussion of 'net neutrality' forward.

They propose a differentiation between wireless and wireline broadband Internet access, which, given wireless broadband's infancy and explosive growth, should not be unduly restricted or burdened.

Here are the seven elements of their joint proposal:
"First, both companies have long been proponents of the FCC’s current wireline broadband openness principles, which ensure that consumers have access to all legal content on the Internet, and can use what applications, services, and devices they choose.  The enforceability of those principles was called into serious question by the recent Comcast court decision. Our proposal would now make those principles fully enforceable at the FCC.

Second, we agree that in addition to these existing principles there should be a new, enforceable prohibition against discriminatory practices. This means that for the first time, wireline broadband providers would not be able to discriminate against or prioritize lawful Internet content, applications or services in a way that causes harm to users or competition.
Importantly, this new nondiscrimination principle includes a presumption against prioritization of Internet traffic - including paid prioritization. So, in addition to not blocking or degrading of Internet content and applications, wireline broadband providers also could not favor particular Internet traffic over other traffic.

Third, it’s important that the consumer be fully informed about their Internet experiences. Our proposal would create enforceable transparency rules, for both wireline and wireless services. Broadband providers would be required to give consumers clear, understandable information about the services they offer and their capabilities. Broadband providers would also provide to application and content providers information about network management practices and any other information they need to ensure that they can reach consumers.

Fourth, because of the confusion about the FCC’s authority following the Comcast court decision, our proposal spells out the FCC’s role and authority in the broadband space. In addition to creating enforceable consumer protection and nondiscrimination standards that go beyond the FCC’s preexisting consumer safeguards, the proposal also provides for a new enforcement mechanism for the FCC to use. Specifically, the FCC would enforce these openness policies on a case-by-case basis, using a complaint-driven process. The FCC could move swiftly to stop a practice that violates these safeguards, and it could impose a penalty of up to $2 million on bad actors.

Fifth, we want the broadband infrastructure to be a platform for innovation. Therefore, our proposal would allow broadband providers to offer additional, differentiated online services, in addition to the Internet access and video services (such as Verizon's FIOS TV) offered today. This means that broadband providers can work with other players to develop new services. It is too soon to predict how these new services will develop, but examples might include health care monitoring, the smart grid, advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options. Our proposal also includes safeguards to ensure that such online services must be distinguishable from traditional broadband internet access services and are not designed to circumvent the rules. The FCC would also monitor the development of these services to make sure they don’t interfere with the continued development of Internet access services.

Sixth, we both recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement. In addition, the Government Accountability Office would be required to report to Congress annually on developments in the wireless broadband marketplace, and whether or not current policies are working to protect consumers.

Seventh, and finally, we strongly believe that it is in the national interest for all Americans to have broadband access to the Internet. Therefore, we support reform of the Federal Universal Service Fund, so that it is focused on deploying broadband in areas where it is not now available."
I need to study all this more fully.

Coakley backs Cape Wind-National Grid contract - The Boston Globe

Coakley backs Cape Wind-National Grid contract - The Boston Globe:

The Massachusetts Attorney General recommends the wholesale pricing to National Grid for new electricity from the 130 turbine Cape Wind installation which is expected to be built and operating by 2013. This is a significant wind energy project that has been bitterly opposed by several parties including Ted Kennedy when we was a Senator as well as Associated Industries of Massachusetts and various Indian tribes.

The scale of the project makes sense, but the pricing Coakley recommends at 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2013 increasing 3.5% annually will produce a wholesale price in 10 years (2023) of 26.38 cents per kilowatt-hour, a hefty 41% net increase.

By any accounting, that's costly electricity considering that I pay 13.84 cents per kilowatt-hour retail with Green Mountain Power.

Offshore industrial scale wind energy is very expensive, assuming this project represents a realistic price for the project to be profitable including the government subsidies. This project will demonstrate the operating feasibility and costs of off-shore wind power for the first time in the United States.

The Globe story portrays this deal as producing only a modest price increase for National Grid retail customers, but fails to include the 10 year price reality. Will the costs of electricity from all industrial scale sources rise by this amount? It seems that's only likely with implementation of a carbon tax in some form which would provide a substantial restraint on national economic growth.

In any event, a couple of decades of experience in northern Europe/Scandanavia has shown that electricity from wind accounts for only 9% of total electric production and that result is only possible by large investments in the grid and inter-country load balancing. Overall electricity costs are three times higher in Denmark, for example, than in France which opted for a nuclear generating capacity which produces the lowest cost electricity in Europe.

Americans should be skeptical of green energy advocates' claims that wind (and solar) is all a wonderful deal for the country given the experience of other countries.

"Late last month, Coakley got National Grid and Cape Wind to reduce the base price by 2 cents a kilowatt-hour, to 18.7 cents, with it rising 3.5 percent annually over the life of the contract. The altered deal, which Coakley described as “in the public interest,’’ still needs to be approved by the Department of Public Utilities.

Under the revised contract, National Grid electricity customers who use an average of 600 kilowatt hours of power a month would pay just under $1.50 more on their electric bills in 2013, when the contract begins, according to estimates provided by the utility. That’s about 40 cents less than what the original contract would have cost."

August 8, 2010

Op-Ed Contributor - A Net Game for Google? -

Op-Ed Contributor - A Net Game for Google? -

Google working a deal with Verizon to place their servers in or near Verizon hubs or data centers or central offices would make a lot of sense, but the FCC has some rules about interconnection and co-location of facilities that may create some obstacles for an exclusive deal by Verizon with Google.