14th > April > 2006 Archive

Google receives 'voice search' patent

Google is back in the news again after it emerged that the firm recently filed a patent for technology which could lead to voice-assisted search. Patent no 7027987, which was published on the US Patent and Trademark Office website on Tuesday, is for a "voice interface for a search engine". The patent describes the interface as "a system (that) provides search results from a voice search query. The system receives a voice search query from a user, derives one or more recognition hypotheses, each being associated with a weight, from the voice search query, and constructs a weighted boolean query using the recognition hypotheses. The system then provides the weighted boolean query to a search system and provides the results of the search system to a user." In plain English this simply means that rather than receiving text-based queries from users, Google's search engine would receive voice-activated search queries instead. Many analysts believe that the recently filed patent could be the firm's first step towards introducing technology which would allow users to search the internet via voice. However, there's no evidence to suggest that the search engine giant is about to unveil such a service anytime soon. Although Google is the undisputed top-dog when it comes to text-based internet searches, it has sought to build on its popularity by branching out into other areas over the past few years. In addition to introducing a number of related services such as Google Maps, it has also experimented with voice-based internet searches in the past. In fact, a demo of a service known as "Google Voice Search" has been up on the firm's Google Labs website for sometime now although it isn't accessible at present. The patent was filed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin along with three associates. Two of the other named inventors in the patent are Alexander Franz and Brian Milch, who co-authored an academic paper, entitled "Searching the Web by Voice" back in 2002. © ENN
ElectricNews.net, 14 Apr 2006

Wal-Mart switches TV suppliers to back Comcast

In a move that will suddenly set back the US satellite community, Wal-Mart has decided to go into business selling Comcast services including its full suite of triple play services, cable TV, broadband and telephony. The deal was announced this week by Comcast, and jaws must have dropped at DirecTV, where Wal-Mart has been a key component in selling its satellite TV services. It is unclear if Wal-Mart will continue selling the DirecTV service once the Comcast deal starts to roll. Comcast's triple-play will be offered in Wal-Mart "Connection Centers," in 500 Wal-Mart locations right across Comcast's national footprint. The deal is due to start any day, and will later include wireless, and audio services. The deal could overnight turn the fortunes of Comcast which has had its subscription numbers frozen at 21.5 million for the past four years, while the satellite DirecTV service has risen from 11 million to 14 million over the same time. Comcast services will be put in front of the 140 million consumers which visit Wal-Mart stores every week. Wal-Mart shoppers will be offered a single broadband kit with a Motorola modem and Comcast's self-install kit for $59.97. Comcast services are already sold by Best Buy, Circuit City Stores, RadioShack, Office Depot and Staples. At a separate announcement Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said Comcast was on track to have 1 million VoIP customers by the end of the year and as many as 8 million within three to five years. Comcast has really only just begun selling VoIP services, having offered switched telephony services unsuccessfully for many years. Roberts threw this into a speech he was giving at the cable TV industry's annual National Show in Atlanta and he also declared that soon Comcast would be offering wireless in competition with the major US cellular businesses Verizon and AT&T. "In the next couple of years it's going to be a big thing to have wireless in our offerings." Next year, Comcast will focus on selling wireless phone service to its 21.4 million customers after trying it in a few cities later this year, Roberts said. Comcast is sticking to a plan to sell phone service as part of a bundle of products, in 30 US cities this year. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 14 Apr 2006

Sun DRM finds a home in Korean IPTV pilot

Sun Microsystems may have already found its first customer, in a Korean IPTV system, for its DReaM (DRM Everywhere Available) open source DRM, a system that is not meant to be completed for at least another 12 months. This was revealed by the director of conditional access at Korean company Alticast, as he was speaking at a Sun Microsystems event at the end of March. Alticast revealed plans to build the DReaM conditional access system into an IPTV pilot, but also to build a commercial product based on it for implementation throughout the Far East. Sun says it is still between nine and 15 months away from a product, but since this is based on an Open source process, code exists already for most of the system. This week Sun released the source code for two components of DReaM, its DReaM-CAS (Conditional Access System) and DReaMMMI (Mother May I) the underlying mechanism for always asking a central resource for permission to access content. In papers that Sun put out this week it has described both of these processes. DReaMCAS or D-CAS currently only manages access to content in the MPEG-2 format. Sun told us in October that it plans to create a royalty-free, interoperable DRM technology, independent of any specific hardware or operating systems which focuses on the concept of a user being given access to content, rather than one specific device being authenticated. This is something that may come more easily to Sun, since it can rely on the Liberty Alliance initiative which is was also behind, for allowing a single copy of a persons identity to act as a trust source for other services, without having to reveal identities to other services. Sun kicked off into DRM with a European Eurescom project started in 2001 and reported on in 2003, funnily enough called OPERA,where it worked with DMD Secure, Exavio, SDC AG and T-Systems and some European operators. The inappropriate name (Opera is a browser company) came from InterOPERAbility of DRM technologies. SDC and Sun built a system that was based on the Java SIM card found inside a mobile phone, and had Windows Media DRM authenticated with RealNetworks, and RealNetworks authenticated with SDC’s client and all of it using the Java based SIM for identity. The iCOD TV system (internet Contents on Demand) is being built now and phase one lasts until February 2007, by a combination of Korea Telecom, which is handling the network design including the QoS services, Etri which is handling MHP/OCAP compatible standardized middleware, Sitec making the set top and Alticast designing a downloadable Conditional Access system based on D-CAS and the EPG. It has been funded by the consortium and some Korean government money with the aim of Korea developing its own IPTV stack of components. The network design is supposed to offer fast channel zapping by using a new version of the Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) although that is really only responsible for a small part of the delay time in a channel change. The system will use H.264 compression over an MPEG 2 transport stream. Billing and purchasing of content is expected to work directly through the downloadable open source conditional access system. At present DReaM will only protect content through the network and is not yet ready to operate on stored video programming, although Sun is likely to address that prior to releasing products of its own. The system uses AES encryption, requires a constantly open two way IP connection and it sends encrypted keys to the content along with the content, and these have to be decrypted by an existing public key. Entitlement messages are delivered out of band in a separate communication using the Mother May I protocols. More D-CAS applications will generate the entitlement messages, and a Java smart card will be used for authentication, which will store and manage viewers rights and viewing history. The EPG that Alticast is designing looks similar to the successful Microsoft-demonstrated Mosaic system, and will show multiple live TV streams on one screen for selecting programming, as well as offering picture in picture capability for watching two views of the same program simultaneously. Currently in Korea NDS dominates the conditional access market, with Nagravision coming a distant third, while Gemstar dominates EPG systems. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 14 Apr 2006

Cisco man's 7-hour commute is killing Yosemite

LettersLetters Silly us. We thought the tale of a man driving 7 hours to and from his job at Cisco would impress The Register crowd. What commitment. What passion. What a fantastic opportunity to catch up on the latest audio book discussing the pros and cons of FB-DIMMs. The story, however, of America's longest commute angered many of you - especially those with a green tint. Dave Givens, a Cisco electrical engineer, drives close to 400-miles roundtrip from Mariposa to Cisco HQ in San Jose because he enjoys living near Yosemite national park and raising horses when not in the lab. Many of you wonder if this long commute doesn't do more for Exxon than Yosemite in the long run. It's not a little ironic that the beautiful environment he loves so much is probably being damaged by the vast amounts of carbon and other pollutants he is pumping into the atmosphere with his insane daily commute. Ben Robinson Good to see Cisco advocating flexible/remote/home (delete as appropriate)working. A few thousand more commutes like that and perhaps even the air around Yosemite won't smell so sweet anymore? Dave Duff The Duff man does not approve. Oh no. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) If this guy wants to spend 7 hours every day for the privilege of living on a volcano, who am I to question that. Something tells me though that this is not just a basic rank-and-file grunt. Your basic average wage slave will have to commute two hours because that's the closest they can find an affordable place to live. This guy chooses to live 3 to 4 hours away. That means he has a big fat pay check and he'll take the inconvenience of spending more time in his car than with his family along with it. You have to get your priorities straight. Jorge My girlfriend used to have a similar commute. We live in Oxford and she was working as an Educational Psychologist in Lewisham. As she doesn't drive she would get the train from Oxford to Paddington, tube from Paddington to Victoria, train from Victoria to Lewisham, and then a bus from Lewisham station to her office, and THEN she would be out and about all day visiting schools before retracing her steps to come home! Luckily she left that job and found a job in Westminster. Now she just gets a coach from right outside our door in Oxford to Baker Street and walks to the office from there. Andy Clyde It's a darn site prettier than my 100 mile round trip past Merthyr Tidfil and Pontypridd (the scenic route) or Port Talbot's smog works and Bridgend (the pipe hole for Wales' enema - should it ever need one) for a more direct (if more time consuming) route. Nice. Richard Longest commute by car maybe... I once met a chap on the Bus from Oxford to Heathrow...It was early one morning and he lived somewhere further out in the Cotswolds..... Everyday he drove from his home in the Cotswolds to the park and ride on the East side of Oxford - something like 40 miles... He then got on the bus to Heathrow - another 40 miles or so.... next he checks in for the first flight out to Geneva (yup Switzerland), has his breakfast on the plane. and finally gets in a taxi to his work on one of the business parks by the airport. and of course reverses the trip each night. Now that's one heck of a commute, but apparenlty took a similar time to when he was working in the City of London! Martin Hepworth I salute this man for being able to handle that journey on a regular basis, anything over 30 minutes driving and I'm practically dead. Recently did a journey Luton to Bolton, just under 3 hours of driving, this was two weeks ago and I'm still recovering. However, what an idiot he is. James Smith Well you can tell from this that either Americans don't pay much for petrol/gas or hotel rooms are incredibly expensive. I would have a 180 miles daily commute here in the UK if I didn't quickly work out it's cheaper (and far more enjoyable) for me to get a room in a pub (it's a hard life *hic*) than spend 4 hours of my day at the mercy of the M25. Steve No, it's not worth it. It's pathological. When does he actually get to enjoy the view at his ranch? Except for one hour in the height of summer, it's dark when he leaves the house and dark when he returns. He may own a ranch, but he *lives* in his car. Also, his lifestyle his helping to damage the environment that he loves so much: http://www.billingsgazette.com/newdex.php?display=rednews/2002/10/08/build/wyoming/65-ozone.inc Affluent Americans fleeing sububia are bringing it along with them and their autos. Like a man running from his own shaddow. It's bizarre. I have a 15 minute bike commute to work. I don't expect any award from the auto industries for it. But more of my life is my own. And that's its own reward. Voline - Portland, Oregon Yosemite is nice (unless you total your vehicle there like I did a couple of months ago). But, this guy is spending at least $500/month on gas (very low estimate!) and I suspect he can rent something (well, maybe not given the prices here) nearby. He is VERY devoted to his location and is family, I can say that. Tom Watson Shame on Midas for indirectly condoning such gas-guzzling commutes through this contest. I hope I'm not the only one to see the irony and idiocy of driving and polluting the air for 7 hours each day just to live close to "nature"?? This guy's commute is about 8.4 times that of the average American (50-minutes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau - http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/004489.html.) Even if the guy drove a 40-50 mpg hybrid as I do, it wouldn't be justified. I urge him to use his gasoline money instead to buy a home near San Jose, and drive to Yosemite on the weekends, which seems to be the only time he has to enjoy the place in the daylight anyway. Gary T in San Diego Let's do a little math here. If this gentleman takes, say, 3 hours to get to work and 3 hours to get home on a typical day. That means he is spending 6 hours of every day on the road. Assuming, generously, that he takes 30 days off per year what with vacations, holidays and all that, at 6 hrs x 230 days, that's 1,380 hours per year that he wastes in the car rotting his intestines out with coffee and brainwashing himself with Tony Robbins tapes. 1,380 hours is 57 and a half days, so he is effectively tossing away two months of his life every year just so he can claim he works at Cisco. Now since he has done this for 17 years, that's 17 x 2 months, or 34 months, so in effect, he has wasted almost three years of his life hauling his own ass around, traffic jams, sucking road smog, and adding to global warming. Let's say that the average car is driven 20k miles per year. The average car produces 77.1 pounds of hydrocarbons per year, 575 pounds of carbon monoxide, 38.2 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and 11,450 pounds of carbon dioxide....and uses 585 gallons of gas. Mr Givens, with his earth-hostile attitude, driving 372 miles per day, for the conservatively assumed 230 days per year, drives 85,560 miles per year, or 4.278 times the average. Therefore in 17 years, Mr Givens, while Awakening the Giant Within, has belched out 5,607 pounds of hydrocarbons. He has spewed 41,817 pounds of carbon monoxide, and 832,712 pounds of carbon dioxide into our planet's atmosphere, more than one pound for every acre of Yosemite. Now according to our buddies at the Wikipedia, CO2 has a density of 1.98 kg/m3. Converting to SAE, over 17 years, Givens has gifted us with 6,736,750 cubic feet of carbon dioxide. Stacked on top of each other, these cubic feet would be as high as 513 Mount Lyells, the highest peak in Yosemite. John Muir, who founded Yosemite National Park, would roll over in his grave. It's nice to know that Givens, who loves his "scenic" back yard, is doing his part to conserve it. Dave Ashlee, Thanks for your story about the numbskull that commutes 372 miles each day to work at Cisco. Too bad there was no mention of what type of car he drives (considering the whole Midas angle). I'd be curious to know if he has considered the ramifications of using that much fuel to shuttle himself to and fro for the past 17 years? Somewhere, a big oil executive is smiling... Al ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Apr 2006
server room

AMD's lawyers go fishing in Redmond

AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel AMD this week served Microsoft with a subpoena, seeking documents that may relate to its ongoing anti-trust case against Intel. The particular documents AMD is interested in relate to Microsoft's thinking around developing software for 64-bit processors from both AMD and Intel. In addition, AMD wants to know about Microsoft's decision making around supporting security technology in the companies' chips and also around marketing exercises for various processors. Lastly, AMD's lawyers want to see documents and communications relating to how its "financial viability" was portrayed by Microsoft, Intel and third parties. Microsoft is just one of many companies that have been subpoenaed by AMD, but it's a particularly interesting one. AMD, no doubt, is looking to see if Intel tried to dissuade Microsoft from supporting its line of x86-64-bit chips. AMD voiced plans to produce an x86-compatible 64-bit chip well ahead of Intel, and knew it needed Microsoft's support to make such a chip a success. While Intel was developing a similar chip internally, codenamed Yamhill, it proved reluctant to discuss such a chip publicly as it hoped to protect a strong 32-bit Xeon franchise and a large investment in the 64-bit Itanium chip. AMD hoped to gain traction in the processor market by getting out an x86-64-bit chip and having a version of Windows tuned for the processor available. In the end, Microsoft did support AMD - a huge win for the chip maker - but took ages getting a 64-bit version of Windows out the door. By the time the OS shipped, Intel too had moved to support x86-64-bit processors. For years, it has been reported that AMD founder Jerry Sanders agreed to testify on Microsoft's behalf in the MS/DOJ anti-trust hearings as part of an arrangement with Bill Gates around support for AMD's x86-64-bit products. In a recent interview with your reporter, Sanders denied this idea. "That's totally bogus," he said. "Bill Gates called me up and asked me for a favor. He wanted to know if I would testify, and the answer was, 'Yes' because I agreed with him." (You can hear a brief clip of how Sanders made his case to Gates about the x86-64-bit chips here.) Microsoft had every right to include additional software with its operating system from a competitive perspective, Sanders said. The chip world will be watching closely to see what's turned up by the AMD legal staff. ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Apr 2006