Internet Story: 27 Apr 1999
BBC Webwise? Well if yesterday's BBC event organized to publicize the web on BBC2 was anything to go by then we may as well all stay at home and watch soccer on TV! Kate Humble, the enthusiastic if a little unknowledgeable presenter, stumbled her way across Cornwall in some kind of pre-recorded-trying-to-pass-as-live treasure hunt which will probably have annoyed anyone who has any knowledge of the Net at all. She didn't even seem to understand that you cannot email www.bbc.co.uk/webwise - it's a web address. She must also be using some kind of bleeding edge technology not available to anyone else in order to receive fast web page updates via her cellular modem on her laptop. Has no one informed the poor lass that 9600 (14400 at best) is the best speed you can get from current mobile technology (your modem is likely to be, at worst, 28000 and more likely to be 56000 these days). And those email messages (which apparently are received in almost an instant!) looked like they came straight from some 1970s sci-fi movie. Apart from all that, according to Mrs. Lincoln, the play was fine :-) Their website, thankfully, is somewhat better than last nights program - maybe the TV series will improve as it progresses... it can't get any worse! Added note (10 May 1999) - if you actually ignore the "technology issues" above the programme is actually quite enjoyable and entertaining. Kate is a good presenter and I'm sure we'll here much more of her in the coming months.
Revolution in Radio Here's an amazing, yet simple, invention that I came across this week that could completely revolutionize the way we use radio waves in the world! This really is an technology that could be nearly as huge as the Internet in its impact - it's major obstacles at the moment are price and politics. The Impulse Radio technology, created by Time Domain, Inc., uses minute bursts of radio waves to encode the transmission of data. In current radio (and TV, etc.) we broadcast a continuous beam of radio waves and carry the "signal" on the back of this beam (either AM or FM). By transmitting very tiny bursts of radio (about 40 million in a second) it is possible to place the "signal" in the pattern of bursts themselves - a bit like very fast Morse code. The advantage of this technique is that it requires very little power to achieve and does not use a particular radio frequency/band (most bands are now allocated and/or are expensive to obtain licenses for). The power requirement is so low that the signal being broadcast cannot be distinguished from background noise by traditional radios - hence the radio signal is essentially hidden (has immense military implications). This technology obviously lends itself very well to high-bandwidth (fast) mobile Internet access.
Listen to the US Police Some folks get a real buzz out of listening to the air traffic control, police and other emergency services on their radio scanners. Well guess what... there's a web site that lets you do this now. Point your browser to http://www.policescanner.com/ and listen to the live action in police departments in cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, or the fire department in Dallas. You can also listen to air traffic around DFW (Dallas Fort Worth). (Note: You'll need to install the Real Audio G2 player, if you haven't already.)
UK Business Ostriches I still find it hard to believe that the UK is always so backwards in taking steps in new directions. OK there are enthusiastic users of the Net in the UK, just as there are elsewhere. However British businesses are still refusing to accept that the giant tidal wave, about 3 meters from their noses, is going to decimate them soon if they don't get their act together. In a recent study by the Institute of Directors and Oracle only 2% (yes that's two percent) think that there's any competitive threat from the Internet. Now either the study was based on a group of undertakers in the Outer Hebrides or British businesses are in for a big and painful shock soon. See the BBC article for more details.
France's 1st Free ISP Kingfisher plc., owner of stores such as Woolworths, B&Q, Superdrug, Comet and French electrical retailer Darty, has announced that it is to start a Free ISP service similar to Dixon's Freeserve, in France. This will be the first free service outside of the UK. Eventually Kingfisher intends to roll out the service, called Libertysurf, across Europe. No timescales have been put on these plans though. Looks like the service is currently being hosted by Universal Netcom.
Andrew Stringer, © Pendle.Net Ltd, 1999
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