This is my promised update on bufferbloat, the problem I write about occasionally involving networks and applications that try to improve the flow of streaming data, especially video data, over the Internet but actually do the opposite, defeating TCP/IP’s own flow control code that would do the job much better if only it were allowed to. I first mentioned bufferbloat in January 2011 and it is still with us but the prognosis is improving, though it will probably take years to be fully resolved.
If you read my last column on LagBuster, you know it’s a hardware-based workaround for some aspects of bufferbloat aimed especially at gamers. LagBuster is a coping strategy for one type of bufferbloat that afflicts a population of people who aren’t willing to wait for a systemic cure. LagBuster works for gamers and might be a workaround for other kinds of low-latency data, but that’s still to be determined.
If you are a serious gamer you need LagBuster.
Lag is mainly upstream (you to the game server), while bufferbloat is mainly downstream (video server to you). Bufferbloat is caused by large memory buffers in devices like routers and in applications like media players messing with the native flow control in TCP/IP. We add buffers thinking it helps but instead it hurts. Something similar happens with lag but it tends to happen at the point where your 100 or 1000 megabit-per-second local area network meets your 3-25 megabit-per-second DSL or cable Internet connection. Lag is caused by congestion at that intersection. You can tell you have lag when you can’t seem to be able to aim or shoot fast enough in your shooter game. It’s not you, soldier, it’s the lag.
As I’ve written many times before, small companies and especially new companies are what create nearly all of the net new jobs in America, yet a new study released last week by the Hudson Institute suggests the rate of job formation by new firms is down dramatically in recent years, from an average of 11 new startup jobs per 1,000 workers at a peak in 2006 down to 7.8 new startup jobs per 1,000 workers in 2011 -- a 29 percent decline. So is the startup economy losing its oomph and should we be worried? No the startup economy isn’t losing its oomph but yes, it’s time to worry.
The Hudson Institute study was written by the think tank’s chief economist Tim Kane. He notes with concern this downward trend in startup job formation but his study doesn’t attempt to explain it, leaving that for the future. He’s not above, however, mentioning the likely negative impact of increased regulation, especially from the impending Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare.
Let’s everybody beat up on YouTube for not pulling that offensive anti-Muslim video that is infuriating people around the world. No, wait. As disturbing as this story is let’s instead take a moment to try and figure what’s really happening and why YouTube and its parent Google are behaving this way.
It’s easy to blame Google’s algorithmic obsession for this mess, but I don’t think that’s at work here at all. Yes, Google is very good (which means very bad in this case) at blaming one algorithm or another for pissing-off users. Google customer support is, in a word, terrible for this very reason, and it often seems like they don’t even care. But this case is different, because it has less to do with algorithms than it has to do with intellectual property laws.
I’ve been told the new faster-bigger-but-lighter-and-thinner iPhone 5 has a Thunderbolt interface. The press has correctly picked up on the fact the cables and connectors are different. They haven’t, however, figured out Thunderbolt is not USB. I guess we can expect the next round of iPads to use Thunderbolt too.
If it is Thunderbolt (I haven’t been able to confirm) you have to wonder why? In one sense this may just be Apple wagging the market because it can, but what if they really need a 10 gigabit-per-second interface for something? And what could that something be?
Following Amazon's Kindle Fire HD announcement, a reader reminded me of a prediction I made at the start of the year: "If Apple gives up its position of industry leadership in 2012 the only company capable of assuming that role is Amazon.com". I stand by those words -- Amazon is really bringing the fight to Apple -- but the most important part is "if Apple gives up its position", which it clearly hasn’t, at least not yet. The real loser here, in fact, is not Apple but Microsoft.
I could be wrong about this but I don’t recall any pundits (me included) predicting that Amazon would introduce a larger format tablet, yet that’s exactly what they did. The larger Kindle Fire HD with its built-in content and app ecosystem (and that killer 4G data package!) is a viable iPad competitor at a terrific price and puts real pressure on the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. Will Apple match the price? I don’t think so. That’s not the game they want to play. But the game is on, nevertheless, and users can only benefit from competition.
Third in a series. As many readers have pointed out, the IPO drought of the last decade has many causes beyond just decimalization of stock trading. Sarbanes-Oxley has made it significantly more expensive to be a public company than it used to be. Consolidation in the banking and brokerage industries have resulted in fewer specialists and hardly any true investment bankers surviving. The lure of derivatives trading and other rocket science activities on Wall Street have made IPO underwriting look like a staid and prosaic profession, too. Fortunately, people in positions of influence are finally starting to realize that there is no economic future for this country without new public companies.
One requirement of the JOBS Act, passed last April, was that the SEC look at trading decimalization, and especially tick sizes, to see if there has been an effect on small-cap company liquidity. If the SEC decides there is such a negative effect there’s the possibility that they introduce a new minimum tick for smaller companies of perhaps a nickel (up from a penny) to as much as a dime. I believe this would help the IPO industry, but many people disagree.
Second in a series. Well it took me more than the one day I predicted to finish this column, which purports to explain that dull feeling so many of us have in our hearts these days when we consider the US economy. Our entrepreneurial zeal is to some extent zapped. For a decade it seemed we needed to jump from bubble to bubble in order just to drive economic growth -- growth that ultimately didn’t last. What happened? Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) went away, that’s what happened.
I wrote several columns on job creation over the last year, columns that explained in great detail how new businesses, young businesses, and small businesses create jobs and big businesses destroy them. Big business grows by economies of scale, economies of scale are gained by increasing efficiency, and increased efficiency in big business always -- always -- means creating more economic output with fewer people.
First in a series. A couple of years ago, in an obvious moment of poor judgement, the Kauffman Foundation placed my personal rag on its list of the top 50 economics blogs in America. So from time to time I feel compelled to write about economic issues and the US Labor Day holiday provides a good excuse for doing so now. In a sense you could say I inherited this gig because my parents began their careers in the 1940s working for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This first of two columns looks at employment numbers in the current recovery while the second will try to explain why the economy has been so resistant to recovery and what can be done about it.
You’ll see many news stories in the next few days based on a study from the National Employment Law Project detailing how many and what kinds of jobs were lost in the Great Recession and what kinds have come back in the current recovery. Cutting to the chase we lost eight million jobs, have recovered four million of those, but, here’s the problem, the recovered jobs on average pay a lot less than did the jobs that were lost, which is why the US middle class is still hurting.
Windows 8 is just over a month from hitting the market and my sense is that this initial release, at least, will be at best controversial and at worst a failure. Microsoft is simply trying to change too many things at once.
What we have here is the Microsoft Bob effect, where change runs amuck simply because it can, compounded in this case by a sense of panic in Redmond, Wash. Microsoft so desperately needs Windows 8 to be a huge success that they’ve fiddled it into a likely failure.
Third in a series. Every few years something comes along to fundamentally change how we use the World Wide Web, whether it is online video, social networking, dynamic pages or even search, itself. Last week a new technology called WeJIT was announced that looks like something small but is really something big because it extends collaboration from specialized sites like wikis to everywhere HTML is used. WeJITS is collaboration in a persistent link.
WeJITS come from Democrasoft, a company here Santa Rosa, Calif. that is best known for Collaborize Classroom, a cloud-based service used by more than 30,000 teachers to interact with students, deliver lessons from a global peer reviewed library and even give tests. WeJITS take the best of Collaborize Classroom and place it in a single link.
Second in a series. Three quarters of the bits being schlepped over the Internet today are video bits, so video standards are more important than ever. To accommodate this huge load of video data we’ve developed compression technologies, special protocols like the Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), we’ve pushed data to the edge of the network with Content Distribution Networks (originally Akamai but now many others).
First in a series. One thing about mature markets is they spawn opportunity through pure complexity. What does the press do but sit around discussing the size and depth and pimples on the bum of mature markets? But we spend so much time discussing the implications of what has already happened that we don’t give much space to what’s coming in the form of new ideas. So for the next week or so I’ll be doing a series of columns about new ideas, especially new technologies, that ought to interest us all.
Leading by example I’ll start with a project my kids and I have been working on this summer -- an electric airplane.
While click fraud and identity theft are probably the most common forms of larceny on the Internet, I just heard of a company that sets a whole new standard of bad, lying to advertisers about, well, everything.
Click fraud is when a website either clicks on its own ads to increase revenue, gets someone else to click on them with no intention of buying or works with botnets to generate millions of illegal clicks. I wrote a few months ago how longtime YouTubers were suffering income drops as Google algorithmically eliminated their botnet clicks. But click fraud requires a third-party ad network to work. What I am writing about here is something completely different.
This is a followup to my recent column about Steve Wozniak’s warning on the perils of cloud computing, especially cloud storage. It might surprise many users to know there are firms that sell cloud storage and do not back it up. They rely on the disk RAID and some redundancy in the cloud to “protect” your data. If something happens to their datacenter, they could probably not recover your data.
Remember MailandNews.com? They did not have a viable business model. They also didn’t back up their servers. One day they had a big crash and relied on the RAID array to recover the data. It took two weeks and still not all of the data was recovered.