USA Security at Cost of Economy or Pride?

Well, wow… new secure US passports are being made by European contractors using Far East facilities.

You want free market capitalism; you have it.

There are questions going around about whether this foreign manufacture is a security compromise to the whole US security mission.

The foreign companies manufacturer blank passports and chips (vaguely equivalent to having blank CDs made abroad).  Given suitable PKI this should not represent a security problem.

The real joke is that the apparent reason for this happening is that the US does not have the facilities domestically, to do this production – slight loss of pride.

Well that’s a good thing, because the alternative would be that the US government is chosen to outsource jobs to another country – a loss to the US economy.


Death of Hal

Arthur C Clarke has died at age 90.  He co-authored 2001: A Space Odyssey (based on one of his short stories) and envisaged the idea of the communications satellite 20 years before one was launched.

Some people may not know that there are sequel books to 2001 (along with one sequel movie) including 3001: The Final Odyssey.

I’m just getting started on the 2nd of his Time Odyssey series that he co-authored with Stephen Baxter.  The 3rd book of the series was published just last December.

Will That New Electricity Meter Make you Poor and Fat?

In some locations electricity meters are being replaced with new models that record and transmit data about how much electricity you use at intervals over the day.

The meters communication use RF in small groups to a lead meter that is connected to a phone line in the lead meter’s residence.  I wonder if that user gets anything for that?

I was given such a meter recently.  The time-of-use (TOU) data should be available to consumers at some point in the future.

Also at some unpublished time in the future, the electricity company will switch to TOU billing like this (note the proposed pricing):

Current price is (5c per kWh up to first 2000kWh, and 5.9c thereafter)

Off-peak (3c per kWh)

  • Mon-Fri 22:00 to 07:00 summer/winter
  • All Weekends/Holidays

Mid-Peak (7c per kWh)

  • Mon-Fri 07:00 to 11:00 and 17:00 to 22:00 in the summer
  • Mon-Fri 11:00 to 17:00 and 20:00 to 22:00 in the winter

On-Peak (8.7c per kWh)

  • Mon-Fri 11:00 to 17:00 in the summer
  • Mon-Fri 07:00 to 11:00 and 17:00 to 22:00 in the winter

The accompanying leaflet says I should be “shifting activities that are energy-intensive to the less expensive mid-peak and off-peak hours”.

Given the current rate (5 or 5.9c) the only “less expensive” period will be Off-peak and look when that is!  The “energy-intensive” activities they include are “air conditioning, clothes dryers, clothes washers, electric ovens, electric heating and electric water heaters.”  Only the first 4 apply to me.

So – to summarise so far.  My bill will go up because I cannot effectively use air conditioning after 10pm!!!#$!#$!#$ and I will have to do my laundry after 10pm or on weekends otherwise my bill will go up (and the insurance companies can plan on more claims for flooding as washers overflow while people are sleeping).  It is unlikely that the saving of doing laundry for a couple of hours on the weekend will offset the huge increase of needing air-conditioning during the day (even if it’s set to a higher temperature).  We are about to get ripped off on 3 activities at least and/or be sleep deprived!

So about that electric stove activity (or microwave to some extent).  I will now pay more money to cook lunch and dinner.  In fact I will now have to start cooking dinner after 5pm in the summer or after 10pm in the winter (noting that before 5pm is not feasible for many dual-working-adult families), in order to keep my costs down – or just eat uncooked food.  This leads to 2 realistic choices (excluding extremes like starving during the week):

  • Pay more money.
  • Put on weight due to either buying more take-out (and also spending more money) or cooking/eating later, both because you are trying to save money.

So when the booklet says “What are the best strategies for smart metering?”, that section should be re-titled as “What are the best strategies for choosing how much extra weight you will put on vs. how much your bill will go up”

Solar panels are sounding like such a great investment these days!


I said most of this to the electricity company and they sent me a link to an official report.  The report was conducted by the energy board and local electricity company.

A sample of 124 people were tested on a TOU plan (of mostly new single-family homes with well educated and above poverty-line income) against 125 control group – that’s a horrible sample demographic and size for an official test!!.  Note that 125 & 124 others tried two other plans that are not in my meter literature.

In the best case under TOU someone saved $9 a month; in the worst someone paid $6 more.  The average was a saving of $0.78 per month (wooo), i.e. over the 124 people trying TOU pricing, there was little change and some people did pay more. 

However, since there was a 6.0% reduction of overall use and people were shifting their use (a figure the report hides as not significant for this price plan), on average I still believe people would be spending more.

Also, the TOU pricing structure was officially designed so that someone on TOU would pay the same if they did nothing.  Remember that these people are trying hard to save money and change their habits.  People are lazy – after a few months (and not getting another $75 for participating in the survey!), most people will tend to revert back to old habits plus >64% can’t recall aspects of the pricing structure, so the average bill would go up! 

I don’t see any old houses, old people, socially/economically-challenged groups or stay-at-home workers in the samples. 

Many people who (worked their butts off and managed to save their $0.78) were expecting large savings, so many of those people will not bother now and just end up paying more.

While conversation efforts are observed with TOU pricing, “a main purpose of time-of-use and critical peak pricing is to reduce peak demand” – nice to know the energy company’s view of energy conservation and everyone’s efforts.  Admittedly, the point is to increase system reliability/availability, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to put this responsibility on the customer who will end up either doing it or paying more (and will that more pay for better service?)

And as for getting fat?

According to surveys with focus groups: “In response to a critical peak notification, customers might reset their thermostats by a few degrees [get hot]… plan on dining out [get fat or pay more money] or cook on an outdoor grill [abandon their electricity supply]…”

I support conservation but as clearly stated, smart meters are not about conservation.  Oh, and someone has to pay for the system…

My Kingdom for a Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1 Go-Live License

So you’ve got your Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1 download and have synaptic marvels firing off about how to make a cool application with it, and perhaps some money.

On the Silverlight website you see that there’s a Go-Live license for this release – oh but there’s no information on how to get this.

Being a good boy you remember that there’s a software license with the SDK so you check it out – here’s a non-comprehensive sample:

a. You may install and use any number of copies of the software on your premises to design, develop and test your programs for use with Microsoft Silverlight.

b. You may not use the software to develop or distribute programs that work with the final commercial release of the Microsoft Silverlight 2, you must acquire the final release version of the software to do that.

c. You may also use the software to design, develop and test sample code and programs that you (i) make available to other designers and developers in source code form as examples of how to use Microsoft Silverlight or (ii) deploy to end users for non-commercial purposes. These license terms will refer to such sample code and programs as “Silverlight applications”.

Bummer – no commercially exploitive opportunities there.

But wait – there’s more:

If you want to use or distribute your programs for commercial purposes, you must do so under another agreement or an amendment to this agreement. For more information about applying for commercial use rights, please contact

Yippee… the words “golive” sound promising – time to send an email…

Then this:

Final-Recipient: rfc822;
Action: failed
Status: 5.1.1
Diagnostic-Code: smtp;550 5.1.1 User unknown


The next move will therefore to be to contact Mr Tim Sneath (evangelist for Silverlight, etc) or Mr Scott Guthrie (head silverlight man and circus performer wannabe – see mix08 keynote) directly…

For those that don’t know – you can’t just pick up the phone and call Microsoft and ask for the Silverlight team – you need to know someone’s name.

OK we have some names, but these are busy people, so best to try contacting them via their blog or possibly email first – these are busy guys after all. 


Adam Kinney (formerly MS Channel9, now MS client platform evangelist with Tim) spots the post and forwards the issue to the appropriate people.


Tim Sneath contacts me here and by email with a humble and helpful response – the mailbox had an issue but should be working shortly.  A fantastic response experience.  Thank you Tim & Adam.

The ultimate Horrific Question

Warning: the article referred to, deals with with war-crimes.

In reading this CNN article about a war crimes trial (only for the non-squeamish!) I came across what seems like one of the worst questions of all time – you’ll know which one it is if you read it.

I thought twice about posting this.  Not much surprises me and I generally post about technology surprises or disappointments.  While I was aware that the subject matter dealt with has been known to happen in human history, I was surprised that the defense attorney would ask such a question.

Mix08 Day 2 Keynote with The Steve Ballmer & Guy Kawasaki

Mix09 will be March 18-20 2009.

Guy Kawasaki and Steve Ballmer sitting on chairs chatting.  Guy jokes that Steve should have hired him in the past, and that it was racist that he didn’t.

Guy is asking Steve questions – some paraphrasing below.

Guy: ‘Why do you want to buy Yahoo?’

Steve: ‘… be a serious player in search and advertising…. could have got going quicker…. have a great time…. long way to go… Yahoo way to accelerate’

Guy: ‘What’s the current status of the deal?’

Steve: ‘We’ve made an offer…’

(Joke about throwing chairs and going monkey)

Guy: ‘Do you have to do Google in?’

Steve: ‘Search is a key application.  Have to have strong position in search for a strong position in online advertising.  It’s a zero sum game’

Buffering on my windows media player…. hmm.  Trying the 350kbps stream…

3 minutes missed…

Guy: ‘You’re an under dog?’ (to apple or google)?

Steve: ‘Yes… that’s a fair thing’

Guy: ‘Why don’t you sue them for anti-trust?’

Buffering… who knew Steve was so in demand.

Steve: ‘In phone we outsell Apple’ (note Microsoft doesn’t sell phone, only the OS)

Guy: ‘It will never leave this room but…. I use the Mobile Q with Windows Mobile 6.0 – I need Exchange server for my phone’

Guy: ‘Let’s talk about… bet with Facebook’

Steve: ‘Serious about online advertising.  Will get a few big platforms for ad serving… Happy to be a partner’

Guy: ‘Who negotiated it?’

Steve: Not him. ‘I’m well known not to be the world’s greatest negotiator’

Guy: ‘It was in the ashtray of your Lexus?’

Steve: ‘I’m a Ford guy…  not a huge amount of money’ (for facebook deal)

Guy: ‘What drives you?’

Steve: ‘3 things: 1  I love what we do…. jazzed about Silverlight 2… 2 Work with customers/Microsoft funnest, most energetic folks in the world… 3 I enjoy challenge… with the guys we have to compete with, can’t sit at home and work on golf game’

Guy: ‘.. huge organisation… can you describe your day?’

Steve: ‘3 types of day: 1 with customers from 7:30 to 8pm then get on plane to next city’

Guy: ‘South West airlines or a gulf stream?’

Steve: ‘Not South West’

Steve: ‘2nd type – doctor in office – every hour a meeting – exhausting…. 3rd type – think write and research – most of the time is his time to initiate things -get a view of what we should be doing’

Guy: ‘How many emails?’

Steve: ’60-70 pieces of email a day’

Guy doesn’t buy that – Steve gives out his email address –

Steve: ‘I’ll probably get 50 pieces because of this.  I’ve not found that human beings are not abusive’

Guy: ‘You have no secretary?’

Steve: ‘No – I wont be dealing with 60 tomorrow… I answer it or forward them….’

Guy: ‘Where’s Bill at? What is MS post-Bill’

Steve: ‘Bill transitions end of June to part-time.  Need to figure it out… Bill lucky about MS and Foundation… will do special projects after time off this summer.  Company has evolved in ways that aren’t generally appreciated.  Innovations come from people in the company.  Have such amazing people that continue to propel the place.  Notion of all-knowing…. through combined work of 5 or 6 key leaders in addition to me, Craig, Ray’

Guy: ‘Where can the stock go to get new employees?’

Steve: ‘Pitch is same as 25 years ago.  We’re recruiting the best and brightest – people that want to change the world.  People made money but they thought they wouldn’t.  No get-rich-quick notion as primary recruitment.  Google doesn’t have any new factor, nor does MS – need to go to private company – most start-ups fails’

Guy: ‘I have 4 kids – 12/14 oldest.  Went to Halo 3 roll-out.  His sons wont tournament and launch event’

Steve: ‘Way to go’

Guy: ‘My kids… they don’t know OS wars, anti-trust.  They think MS is cool company making xbox and halo – different perspective.  Seems not enough people know Microsoft does cool stuff – marketing opportunity’

Steve: ‘Opportunity it to keep making great products.  Your kids use our productivity products.  Kids grow up using PCs, communications, games.  Have to continue driving forward.  10-15 years ago was good then.  For 13/14/15 year old – what have you don’t for me lately’ … ‘Xbox users generate excitement. 20-25 million xbox users. 1 billion windows users.  Have to make sure all people fired-up’

Guy: ‘I love xbox… interface’

Steve: explains xbox live free/paid subscriptions

Guy: ‘Tell audience about silverlight – long term goal, from head of MS’

Steve: ‘As PC/Internet have grown, found we force developers/designers into fork – either easy to deploy through browser or it is rich – trying to bring things together – trying to avoid compromises – best of internet and rich PC for developer/designer – heart of .net’

Guy: ‘Some numbers?’

Steve: ‘Silverlight launched last mix.  In last year – 1.5 million downloads daily’…. ‘Have WPF on high number of desktops through Windows update’

Guy: ‘Deal with Vista? Seriously. That you get no choice of getting… wouldn’t you want one of these – Mac Book Air’

Steve: ‘Missing half the features of the PC’  Grabs Book Air to pretend smash on floor.

Guy: ‘DVDs are passe’

Steve: ‘Tell that to your kids on a long flight’

Guy: ‘You don’t sell any movies’


Guy: ‘MS has lost focus… have xbox, live, phones.  How can you do this well?’

Steve: ‘Great company moves forward or becomes less relevant.  No option of doing the same thing.  Software never wears out.  Have to constantly move forward.  Things MS has done – we have already built two skill sets – desktop and enterprise.  Going to built consumer devices and online skill set.  Apple skill set in only in consumer devices – not in enterprise, perhaps in online.

Guy: ‘Apple may say you punted on OSs’

Steve: ‘You’d be wrong…’  Jokes about EU… ‘Strength that we built two capabilities.  We will build the 3rd and 4th?  Become less relevant if you don’t move forward’

Guy: ‘Skipped Vista’

Steve: ‘Popular in consumer world.  #1 issues are on app/drive compatibility.  Made choices to enhance security.  Very little issues on that.  Made choice to hurt compatibility.  Customers let us know that was painful.  Stuff upgraded and shipped service pack 1.  Vista continues to sell strongly in consumer market’

More jokes about getting rid of Mac Book Air

Guy: ‘Firefox and IE’

Steve: ‘Firefox has presence.  We are now really investing – still have lion’s share.  Talked about ie8 – more story to be told with end-user features – will see browser innovation from us – is core for us – measure will be how well we do against other browsers’

Guy: ‘IE Mac development?’

Steve: ‘Not top on our list.  Lots of people use Mac.  Smart for us to put innovation energy on other things’

Guy: ‘MS perception on social networking?’

Steve: ‘Notion of using internet to stay in touch with friends, is not a fad.  The fundamental nature has changed forever…’ … examples…. ‘no question social networking is not a fad… any one entity has it right?… have to keep pushing’

Guy: ‘Is there thought of opening APIs like facebook app phenomem?’

Steve: ‘Sharepoint and AD have open platform.  Evaluating where we are.  Have some extensibility.  People have written apps on MSN messenger’

Guy: ‘Been working with MS a lot unbeknown to you.  It’s a different MS.  No arrogance/bullying.  Smart people.  Bit of praise.  New MS employees very different.  No reason to bullshit’…. ‘Was evil empire… nice facilities in mountain view… need more facilities like that…. see MS employees touching them’ (laughs from audience)

Guy: ‘Would like to open up to audience questions’

Audience guy: ‘Talk about Adobe’

Steve: ‘Adobe is big competitor… Silverlight vs Flex/Flash… try to give you exciting choices.  Try to get you to pick the MS alternative.  Adobe will remain important company for a long time – will support Adobe as ISV and other regards.  Appreciate Adobe pioneers for PDF.  Have Office support.  Will continue to drive interoperability’

Guy: ‘PR answer’

Audience guy: ‘How did IE get left out?’

Steve: ‘We made a set of decisions for reason I wont go back through.  Try to accomplish version of windows now known as vista, then known as longhorn.  Had everything tied to next OS after XP.  We have learned from in design process.  Important to incubate.  Had long gap.  Painfully long gap between releases of innovation.  Understand how to decouple to incubate seperately.  Some mistakes and good learning.  Now have to hussle to drive browser innovation’

Audience guy: ‘Microsoft takes over Yahoo what happens to PHP applications?  Convert to’?

Steve: ‘Would have to make final integration plans.  Shouldn’t have two of everything, search, ad, etc.  Technology from both sides.  Tech comes with infrastructure that runs it.  Some PHP apps will be in production for a long time to go.  There will be innovations.  Most of big apps on IE (anywhere) will end up being re-done.  For foreseeable wouldn’t be a PHP-shop too.  Love in new Windows Server – lots of attention to make sure PHP works well.’

Audience guy: ‘Major synergies between MS and Yahoo?  How to get through anti-trust issue?’

Steve: ‘Pass on 2nd part.  Synergy – scale (form of synergy) is advantage in search – more search is more ads is more revenue.  More ads.  They have talented engineers.  Have at least 1+1=2.5’

Audience guy: ‘Focus on Yahoo.  Congrats.  Queryless search.  Fast search – how does that shape?’

Steve: ‘Fast is company had internet and website/corporate products.  Sold off web search.  They have great for high end search on enterprise and engines that can search web sites.  Tech fantastic and team is great.  Anxious to build both ways.  Love company/people.  Great integration plan – more to say’

Audience guy: ‘About upcoming virtualisation.  Licensing scheme to compete against amazon scheme?’

Steve: ‘With hyper-v, anyone can set up web farm virtualised.  Will offer computer/storage in cloud?  Ray said we would.  Will say more later.’

Audience guy: ‘What would like to see happen with Seattle Sonics?’

Steve: ‘Will not answer’

Audience guy: ‘Silverlight gone mobile [barely].  Is there one for iphone? Plans with Danger acquisition’

Steve: ‘Want Silverlight everywhere.  Apple announced new runtime.  Want 30% of revenue.  Apple not welcoming royalty-free runtimes.  Danger – about opportunity for unique application with service components on top of Windows Mobile – service application experience – want to get in market on great set of phones’

Guy: ‘What phone do you use’

Steve: ‘Q, Black Jack, Dash, getting old’

Audience guy: ‘When going to see default for MS properties?’

Steve: ‘Will introduce it into variety of application experience – months to years.  Have same issues as other people.  Need new release of products…  No reason to move live messenger to silverlight.  All relevant ones will move to Silverlight’

Guy: ‘Want a woman’

Audience guy: ‘Love that there’s no bathroom guy.  Working with Amalgar – vision?

Steve: ‘Health only vertical that we’ve chosen to dig into deeply.  Healthcare is least well services by IT.  Made big investment with healthcare provider.  Know what we’re doing really well.  Hard road to follow.  For consumers, experimentation – have to figure out what it will take to bootstrap consumer health – management of consumer health record – complicated…. important to be on edge.  Will encourage 3rd parites’

Audience guy: ‘Bluray won – thoughts on that?  with xbox?’

Steve: ‘We don’t make drives [conveniently].  Thought HD-DVD had advantages.  We’re going to support blu-ray in important ways.  Device driver support in Windows.  Toshiba moved on.  We’ve moved on.  Will HD go over disc or internet?  It’s important to have drive now – maybe not in 5 years’

Audience guy: ‘Can you show love for web developers?’

Steve: ‘You want me to stand up?’


Steve: ‘Web developers!  Web developers.  Web developers!  If you’re buddy just gave you a buck, I want 50c for it’

Audience guy: ‘Adoption in enterprise for social networking’

Steve: ‘As with consumer, interaction in enterprise changing.  See more use of IM.  Work on Sharepoint and AD.  We know how people relate.  Let infrastructure help you find colleagues with similar interests.  Have done a little bit – will see more.  It’s an early stage today still’

Audience guy: ‘Thanks for Dream spark, Channel 8 student partner program.  Have tools – what services can you give students? Continuing plans for helping academia’

Steve: ‘Providers that would be happy to host.  Will we have some service based facility for deploying?  See answer I gave earlier.  Will it have student discount?  We’ll see’

Same guy: ‘How support students?’

Steve: ‘This is recorded.  Many ways to find this event for students that can’t afford to be here.  Not world of conferences from 15 years ago – when only way was to be there – point friends to web’

Audience guy: ‘Apple said would license ActiveSync.  Comment?’

Steve: ‘ActiveSync has been available to license for a while.  Recently announced we have licensable protocols.  Glad to see iphone participate…’

Audience guy: ‘What plans for Avenue A Razorship?’

Steve: ‘Bought aquantive (?).  Sophisticated for managing advertising.  Set of advertising networks.  Doesn’t fit per-se with rest of MS.  We run it hands of.  Avenue A is free to use whatever technology.  Owned by MS, but pretty independent so long as making financial progress.’

Guy: ‘Deep down you want to use a Mac Air.  I have friends if you want a discount.  It’s been fun.  We’ll do this again sometime’

Steve: ‘Thanks for coming to Mix’.


Mix08 Day 2 Keynote with The Steve Ballmer – Waiting…

It’s starting at 13:00 PT.  I wonder what will be announced.

So far we’ve not really heard anything new.  Sure, the Silverlight 2.0 Beta 1 runtime, tools and sdk have been released (along with a disappointing roadmap for Silverlight on Mobile, save for the Nokia involvement as some unspecified point) along with a developer/standards ie8 beta 1.

If there’s any kind of announcement, I’d expect it would be in relation to a cloud-based service.

I’d like to hear about something both cool and surprising and preferably fully-baked to download today.

Microsoft platform technologies are so community-previewed these days – using the conversation to fine tune the product – that there’s nothing that surprising any more.

I’d like to hear about something both cool and surprising and preferably fully-baked to download today.  Please?

Let’s see…

Silverlight on Mobile Devices – The disappointing Reality

Having covered the news yesterday that Silverlight will (sometime this century) be available on Windows Mobile and select Nokia Symbian devices, I’m extremely disappointed to discover a few realities.

I’ve now watched yesterday’s Mix08 T12 Session (not a great session with projector issues, drawn out introduction, boring demos and of course disappointing news).

With regard to their current (pre-CTP) implementation:

  • It’s Silverlight 1.0
  • It runs in Pocket/Mobile IE
  • It uses JScript for scripting – no .NET!!!! – so much for the closed loop now.
  • It doesn’t have a common codec; it uses the devices available codec, going against one of the selling points of Silverlight being cross-platform.
  • It runs on Mobile 6.0 – PDA and phone devices
  • It uses Windows Mobile Player on the device to play movies – you can’t have alpha blending of video – this one is fair enough I suppose.

The presentation included comments about taking out the .NET code and putting in JScript, like this was a trivial thing.

The big selling point of Silverlight 2.0 is .NET development on the desktop, browser and server, plus WPF on the desktop/browser.  This is a step back and it hasn’t even got to CTP yet.

They demo’d WPF/E (the former name for Silverlight) over two years ago at a PDC on a mobile device.  What has Microsoft been doing for 2 years with this???

Their roadmap:

  • Silverlight 1.0 for mobile CTP Q2 2008
  • Silverlight 1.0 for mobile RTW Q4 2008
  • Silverlight 2.0 for mobile CTP Q4 2008
  • Silverlight 2.0 for mobile RTW Q2 2009

zZZZzZz !#$%#%$