Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sprint Bad

New York Times article "Credit Squeeze Adds to Sprint’s Challenges". While the credit squeeze may be exacerbating Sprint's problems, its too bad that articles such as this don't delve into why Sprint is in bad shape. In short bad customer service. And the customers are leaving. The Times wrote: "John Hodulik, an analyst at UBS Investment Bank, said he expected Sprint to report the defection of 1.1 million customers in the third quarter, one of its largest losses ever."

I won't go into the details, but we were treated very badly by Sprint. So we left. Too bad that Sprint's management is not being held accountable for destroying the company. Seems that our corporate managers, witness our financial meltdown, have little accountability for mismanagement. It boils down to: No customers, no income, then out of business. To stop this decline, Sprint should be publicly apologizing to its current and former customers and offering to make nice. Probably won't happen since management will collect their bonuses anyway, even if the company goes bankrupt. I won't hold my breath for any apology from Sprint.
Updated 2/20/2009: The New York Times reports that: "For Sprint Nextel, a Drop in Customers and Earnings". According to the Times: "Sprint Nextel reported on Thursday that 1.3 million subscribers dropped its wireless service in the fourth quarter, contributing to a 14 percent decline in revenue. ... the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier, lost 4.5 million customers during 2008 to end the year with 49.3 million."
Updated 11/7/2008 : The New York Times reports that: "Sprint Nextel Lost 1.3 Million Customers in Quarter ". That's just over 14,000 customers a day!!!!

NY Times writes: "Revenue fell to $8.81 billion from $10.04 billion a year ago." "Sprint reported a net loss of $326 million, or 11 cents a share, compared with a profit of $64 million, or 2 cents, in the quarter a year ago."

Sunday, October 19, 2008

AACS Challange

Advanced Access Content System (AACS) is an encryption technology for HD DVD and Blu-Ray Discs. The purpose of this technology is to restrict the ability of the consumer to copy the content and to allow the disk manufactures to control the use of the digital media. Since the purpose of this technology is to limit the consumer; how is it a benefit to the consumer?

website lists consumer "benefits". Among the so-called benefits: 1) A superior viewing experience, 2) Greater flexibility in managing the content, 3) Enabling groundbreaking home entertainment choices, and 4) Platform independence.

I fail to see how the use of an encryption technology can provide any of those "benefits". The whole purpose for using an encryption technology is to enhance the ability of the content creator to limit consumer control. For example, one can have a superior viewing experience without the use of this technology. In fact this technology has the capability to degrade your viewing experience if it does not like the disk that you are using. Ed Felten at Freedom to Tinker wrote: "My lab, for example, has an HD-DVD drive and some discs, which we have used for research purposes. But as far as I know, none of the computer monitors we own are AACS-approved, so we have no way to watch our lawfully purchased HD-DVDs on our lawfully purchased equipment." Furthermore, with an unencrypted disk one can directly access the data and manage the content. The assertion by AACS that the consumer will benefit is Orwellian Newspeak. A shameful abuse of the English language and a disingenuous marketing practice.

My challenge, will AACS provide real concrete examples of consumer "benefits".

Updated: 10/24/2008

Copyright Relativity

An overlooked aspect in the copyright debate is that those who advocate so-called "strong" copyright laws are actually aggrandizing the property rights of those who hold a copyright by diminishing the property rights of the consumer. Previously legal uses of a copyrighted product by the consumer are increasingly being made illegal. The property rights of the consumer to use copyrighted material must be protected.

We are in this predicament today because the public does not have an advocate to protect their property interests. Our political leaders, instead of protecting the public interest have become lackeys of Walt Disney, the Motion Picture Producers Association (MPAA), and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Wikipedia has a nifty graph and article that show how copyright has expanded over the years. Tom Bell also has reviewed how copyright has expanded.

Unfortunately, the corporate spin doctors have successfully characterized the need for "strong" copyright legislation as a method of assuring that content producers are compensated for their work. Clearly this argument has allure. No one wants to deprive the content producers of an income from their work. The logical flaw with promoting "strong" copyright legislation is that it is depriving the content user of reasonable use of the content that the user has bought. The consumer in buying the content also has a significant monetary investment that needs to be protected.

For example, if I buy a book we have well established rights to read the book in the US in Europe, or in Asia; we can read the book at any time; and when we are done with the book we can sell the book. However, the content industry has increasingly tilted the playing field to disable the consumers freedom to use content. For example, DVD disks and players contain region codes so that a DVD coded for the US will not play in Europe. The content industry has attempted to prevent time shifting, the ability of the consumer to save and view content when the consumer wishes versus the time it is offered by the content industry. Finally, the content industry is now asserting that content is never actually sold, but is merely leased/licensed, which has the effect of eliminating the consumers rights in how the product may be used. Ubersoft has a great cartoon series on how End User License Agreements strip the consumer of any legal rights to a product: Grand Unified Interconnected Litigation Theory.

One can make the arguement that the trend in "stronger" copyright law is actually eliminating the concept that products are actually "sold". Many of the products we "buy" (license), such as music and games are tied to Digital Rights Management (DRM) servers. Several stories have recently surfaced that if these servers go down, your entire investment in these products vaporizes. Even Apple has been identified as having a kill switch on their iPhone. With the current trend in how the content industry is attempting to define copyright law, protecting your investment becomes a criminal act. This brings us back to the point that the consumer, by purchasing copyrighted contents, should have rights to use that content. Further, like the content producer the consumer also has significant monetary investment that must be protected. The content industry should not have a unilateral right to whimsically cancel content as they see fit.

From the standpoint of relativity, it is unfortunate that the public debate on "stronger" copyright law avoids the consumer's property right as being equal to that of the content producer. Hopefully, the consumer's property right to use content and the consumer's monetary investment will become recognized.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Afghanistan a Potential Quagmire

Afghanistan has quietly crept into the news with little reaction. There are two major concerns that should be explored.

First, in the last presidential debate October 7, 2008, Obama, made vigorous statements about pulling out of Iraq but then made commitments to increase our presence in Afghanistan. I find it surprising that the media has apparently not picked-up on this dichotomy.

I suspect that Obama's statement to increase our presence in Afghanistan was made so he could look tough without appearing to contradict what he has been saying about Iraq. Assuming that he wins the election, I would suspect that he would conveniently "reassess" the situation and conclude that we shouldn't be there. I don't know if Obama is really saying what he means.

Second, Articles on Afghanistan have recently appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times. What these articles and others point to is an increased American presence and a change in focus for our involvement in Afghanistan. So far we have been very fortunate in Afghanistan by focusing on fighting terrorists we have avoided the issue of being conquerors. Both the British and the then USSR failed in Afghanistan because they attempted to conquer the country. By broadening our efforts in Afghanistan to include a war against drugs we will change the perception of the people of Afghanistan as to why we are there. The US will no longer be viewed as "person A" resolving a dispute with "person B" but as a conqueror who will attempt to change the Afgan way of life, even if we may not agree with it. When that happens a large portion of the Afgan people will react unfavorably to the US presence.

Concluding thoughts, both Iraq and Afghanistan raise a strategic concern that the US may not properly have considered. A war against terrorists cannot be won by holding territory. Incidents of terrorism can pop-up anywhere and at anytime. Though not attributed to terrorism Somali Pirate have seized ships off Somalia and we haven't done much about it yet. Nation building in Iraq can help, but it will take time. In the meantime we need the ability to have a rapid response force dedicated to hunting down the terrorists, wherever they may be. The Israeli's seem to have a pretty good model for us to emulate.

Disclaimer: My commentary is based on reading the newspapers (second hand info) so they should not be considered authoritative in any manner.