Driveway Moment

This story doesn’t have much to do with wireless technology. It was a driveway moment. Today on National Public Radio, correspondent Daniel Zwerdling took my breath away with a story that inspires on all sorts of levels.

Here’s the story:


It’s an old cliche: “Tragedy makes us stronger.” But one military mother says it’s true.

Since Nellie Bagley’s son, Jose Pequeno, was terribly wounded in Iraq, she has had to marshal all the emotional resources she has to cope.

And she has done more than cope — she is using the power of that tragedy to prod the government to treat wounded veterans and their families better. Now, Bagley talks about her life as though she is two different people.

There was Nellie before Jose got blown up. And there’s Nellie since he got blown up…

Cynics might say only NPR could afford to run a 13 minute human interest story. But I don’t believe that’s true. I think passionate, eloquent work will find an audience in digital media. Daniel Zwerdling (and many others) provide an inspiration.

The Nook supports the open ePub format, plays MP3s, includes WiFi and a microSD card slot. Perhaps Soundslides for ebooks could combine the best of everything.

That’s a platform. At $99, it could be…unstoppable.

Animated Holiday Lights

Chuck Smith, considered by many to be the father of computerized holiday displays, started PlanetChristmas over 10 years ago as a place for people to learn how to light up the world.

The members of PlanetChristmas became pioneers in animated displays, building their own home brew systems. He uses a micro-powered radio station on site. The music heard through the outdoor speakers is also going out over the radio station 24 hours a day between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

If you’re a do-it-yourself person, Vixenlights.com has open source free software but doesn’t support commercial hardware. It’s primarily for DIY projects. Ready to go kits are available from Animated Lighting, D-Light, Galaxia or Light-O-Rama. Here are some Bay Area Christmas light displays.

Light-O-Rama, a leading manufacturer of user programmable light controllers, has 16 Channel to 128 Channel controllers that are ready to go.

Packages include and the PC software to synch the lights with your music. You supply the lights and a Windows PC to run the show.

Google engineer Andy Swing describes how he automated his Christmas light show in this video, including details about the hardware and software. His setup uses 32 strings, controlled using a combination of off the shelf and custom built components.

Is there an App for that?

One Economy + Comcast +/- Google Phone?

Comcast and One Economy today announced a major technology learning and service initiative. The program, Comcast Digital Connectors, will take place during after-school hours at the Urban League of Springfield as well as in 21 other locations across the United States.

Teams of high school students, who come from diverse and low-income backgrounds, will gather at the Urban League three times a week after school throughout the year to learn digital literacy skills. The young people will then volunteer their time at community-based organizations, senior centers, churches and even in their own homes to help improve digital literacy.

The curriculum for Comcast Digital Connectors covers several broad areas to help the program participants learn real world applications for broadband technology. Modules include leadership principles, real world learning opportunities, digital technology skills development, community service, financial literacy and civic journalism. The students will learn how to network computer labs, connect wireless access points and create video documentaries.

One Economy has launched on-the-ground programs in 42 U.S. states, Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. To date, more than 3,000 Digital Connectors have delivered more than 56,000 hours of technology focused community service. By the end of 2010, the Comcast Digital Connectors program will operate in at least 22 cities across America.

The Comcast Digital Connectors program will be rolled out in at least 22 locations across the U.S. including; Washington, DC; Miami, FL; Springfield, MA; Hanford, CA; Dearborn, MI; Denver, CO; Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA; Tallahassee, FL; W. Palm Beach, FL; Morgantown, WV; Atlanta, GA; Tacoma, WA; Pittsburgh, PA; Chicago, IL; Portland, OR and others.

Leap Wireless and One Economy earlier teamed up to apply for broadband stimulus funds that would bring wireless broadband access and digital literacy training to 23,000 low-income families in Baltimore, Houston, Memphis, San Diego and Washington, D.C. It builds on the work already done by Project Change Access, launched last fall in Portland, Ore., as a pilot by Leap Wireless and One Economy.

I’m a WiMAX fanboy because my hunch is that it could deliver FREE internet access. To everyone, everywhere. Free Wi-Fi is virtually everywhere, right now.

I believe at least 1Mbps access should be a RIGHT of everyone in the United States and that advertising could subsidize the service. For $15/month, you might eliminate the advertising. Higher tiers deliver faster speeds.

Gizmodo says the Google Phone “is a certainty.” But no carrier (except Comcast) would want a device that burns bandwidth and costs voice revenue.

Google Phone = Paradigm shift. Free voice. Now that’s competition!

Local broadcasters and newspapers could benefit using a Hulu or Boxee business model with targeted advertising. Subscriptions provide additional revenue.

Free. The new business model.

Verizon or T-Mobile for iPhone?

The iPhone’s next destination may be T-Mobile and not Verizon, says The Street.

AT&T will lose its exclusive agreement to sell the iPhone sometime next year and Verizon has been the leading candidate to take on the popular Apple phone next, but analyst Doug Reid disputes that assumption. Apple already sells phones through Germany’s T-Mobile unit, and their GSM system is similar to AT&T’s.

But T-Mobile USA with 33 million customers, has less than half the subscriber base as Verizon Wireless with 71 million customers.

Verizon is the largest wireless player in the United States. Rumors suggest a possible GSM/CDMA hybrid model that would work on CDMA networks like Verizon’s, in addition to GSM/UTMS-based networks that the current iPhone models work with.

What’s more likely, Reid says, is that Verizon makes a deal to sell other Apple devices like the elusive Apple Tablet and the next version of the iPhone running on LTE in their 700 MHz band.

Apple may already be testing its next-generation iPhone hardware in the San Francisco area near its Cupertino headquarters, says ArsTechnica. The iBART app, which is used to navigate San Francisco’s train system, uses Pinch Media analytics to log usage statistics such as iPhone model and software version number. Usage logs revealed early testing of the iPhone 3GS last year, eight months before it launched this past summer.

South Korea sold about 60,000 iPhones on launch day, a far cry from the 1 million sold in the US for the iPhone 3GS but far more than the estimated 5,000 sold in the first week in China.

CrunchPad is Dead

The CrunchPad is dead, says Michael Arrington in TechCrunch. Arrington says the planned $200-$300, 12-inch touchscreen web-slate has been axed and the project has self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication.

In a long post on TechCrunch, Arrington details the sudden discovery that their manufacturing partner, Fusion Garage, was looking to cut them out of the business and threatening to push ahead without full ownership of the CrunchPad IP.

Arrington claims a wide variety of industry heavyweights were lined up — including development assistance from Intel with sweetheart pricing on Atom CPUs, a “major multi-billion dollar retailer” who offered to sell it at “zero margin,” and even venture capital firms “waiting to invest in the company.”

Looks like they’ll have to wait a little longer. Sounds like a job for Google.

Mexican WiMAX Network to Serve 23 Cities

Mexican communications firm MVS Comunicaciones has reached a preliminary agreement with Clearwire and Intel to invest $700 million in a WiMAX network covering 23 cities, reports Bloomberg.

The joint-venture deal hinges on the Communications and Transportation Ministry renewing the company’s spectrum licenses in the 2.5GHz band in about eight cities, including the key markets of Monterrey and Guadalajara, according to company officials. Telecom analyst Andres Coello said he expects the authorities to renew the frequencies given MVS’s commitment to rolling out its network.

Clearwire is a minority shareholder in MVS, and their announcement is independent their plans to cover up to 120 million people in the U.S. by the end of next year.

If the licenses are renewed, MVS and its partners hope to start deploying a WiMax network during the second half of 2010, with commercial service starting in several cities during the fourth quarter. MVS currently provides publishing, radio, restricted television and wireless broadband services. It’s also the majority partner in Dish Mexico, a satellite-TV venture with EchoStar.

MVS would slug it out with Telmex, a telecommunications conglomerate headed by Carlos Slim which provides telecommunication products and services in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil (Embratel) and other countries in Latin America. Telcel, the country’s No. 1 mobile operator and a subsidiary of wireless giant America Movil, has also invested heavily to upgrade its network in recent years to offer high-speed data services.

The MVS WiMAX network would also put greater pressure on small phone companies such as Axtel, which is rolling out its own WiMax network.

MVS’s broadband ambitions would be a direct challenge to fixed-line incumbent Telmex (Telefonos de Mexico), the country’s biggest Internet service provider with 6.3 million broadband accounts at the end of September. There are currently 77.8 million mobile phone users in Mexico (pdf).