August 22, 2007

Secrets of the Cable Universe #2: Bandwidth, pt 1

As with previous installments (ok, the one :P), this post also isn't so much a "secret" as it is a clearer explanation, with some implications, of widely available information. There's been an increasing fervor building around bandwidth, bandwidth management, and its implications as consumers are now finally beginning to consume rich web content at scale (if "Monkeys kissing women" , "Man in underwear" or crappily digitized stolen content can be considered "rich" :P).

So how much bandwidth does the Cable infrastructure provide?
In past lives, I'd always heard that Cable was a "shared" pipe, while technologies like DSL were not - so let's explore what that means.

To go back to first principles, the coaxial cable coming in from the street to your house delivers about 750mhz (or so that's usable) of information spectrum (I'm not going to get into RF modulation and how it works here). In the old days, that 750mhz was split into 6mhz channels, which turned out to be about what you needed to deliver a single ucompressed "standard defintion" (NTSC) audio/video signal - a channel, basically.

And that's why you basically had about 100 or so channels on Cable, and no more, really - there's a limited capacity to what the "cable" from the Cable head-end into your home could deliver. Fundamentally, it was constructed as a multicast technology - broadcast from the Cable company's head-ends, down your street, and split into homes in your neighborhood. Each node from the head end could pump a signal of sufficient strength to service from 200 to 2000 or so homes (really, really, roughly).

And everybody got basically the same content (though so-called "Conditional Access" would encrypt at the head-end and decrypt either at entry to your house, or on your settop box - again, beyond the scope of this discusion).

Then came digital signals, and things got interesting. Turns out, that over these 6mhz bands, you could send, oh, about 40Mbps of information (still multicast, of course - meaning everyone gets the same information). And if you MPEG-2 compressed your video, that worked out to - for Standard-def (SD) video - about 10 or so video streams per channel (figuring 3.5 to 4Mb per video) - or to put it another way, you could pack 10 or more digital "channels" into the bandwidth occupied by a single analog channel.

In part 2, I'll cover how this maps to Internet Connectivity and your Cable modem and how much bandwidth Cable really delivers to the home(its not the number you think - do the math implied above) .

August 15, 2007

Facebook, baby

(First: Sorry for the post dearth - its August, what can I say?)

It started a bit slowly, but since Facebook opened up its doors to all comers, its become quite the deluge from my social circles (way behind on friend approvals still) - it took LinkedIn many years to achieve any critical mass for me.

Zero to hero very quickly... obviously curiosity and, quite frankly, a well thought out product with a positive developer eco-system have been rewarded (remember this idea?). In fact, no coincidence, I think, that developer APIs coincide with Facebook's recent rapid rise beyond the college crowd... this is how you go from narrow to general: by letting your application become a platform.

That is, you succeed best by letting others success feed you.

So, I'd been meaning to blog about this upswing for a few weeks now... and then I ran into this today:
Ick, old married guys on Facebook

It speaks for itself: Perspective is everything :)

August 2, 2007

The Future's A. Kay

In discussing past lives with a new colleague, I found that he worked (back in the day) at Atari, with, of all folks, Alan Kay (who knew Alan was at Atari?!?).

In any case, it reminded me of one of my all-time favorite quotes, uttered by the aformentioned Mr. Kay:

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

There's a boldness there that rarely fails to get my blood pumping.

But its occurred to me: Alan's expression is also a rather clever, oh-so-polite and positive (if slightly passive aggressive) way for a technologist to say: "When I want your opinion, I'll give it you" (think about it) - no wonder I like it so much :)

How about you guys in the peanut gallery? Any favorite sayings that spin on multiple axes of rotation?