Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New Bandwidth at 3.5 GHz

The FCC has announced its intent to release some 150MHz of bandwidth at 3.5 GHz. They state:

The Federal Communications Commission today took steps to provide more spectrum for general consumer use, carrier-grade small cell deployments, fixed wireless broadband services, and other innovative uses, through the creation of a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service. The Commission  proposed rules for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that advances the Commission’s efforts to meet the growing demand for spectrum by  proposing to make 150 megahertz available in the 3.5 GHz Band. The FNPRM proposes innovative spectrum sharing techniques to unlock the value of the spectrum between 3550 MHz and 3650 MHz, and seeks comment on extending the proposed service to 3700 MHz. Specifically, the FNPRM proposes a three-tiered access and sharing model comprised of federal and non-federal incumbents, priority access licensees, and general authorized access users. Together, the proposals seek to promote flexibility and innovation by leveraging advancements in technology to facilitate sharing between different users and uses, including incumbent government uses.

This may represent a significant opportunity for drastic expansions of broadband. Using MIMO and OFDM alone means well in excess of 1 Gbps capabilities. The only weakness is that propagation at 3.5GHz is line of sight.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Obesity: Disease, Genes, or Choice?

There is an ongoing battle over obesity. The AMA decided it was a disease, something that "happens", perhaps due to what a human does, but it is not the sole result of a human decision. It is like mumps, when you go to school and the other kids have it, you get exposed, and blow up. Some look for the genetic link. The refrain, "I can't help it, it is in my genes." has been sounded again and again. Then to my surprise in Nature there is a call for personal responsibility, namely they just eat too much.

The author states:

Obesity is an important contributor to the prevailing burden of chronic disease, lying on the causal pathway to much of what plagues modern society and its people — heart disease and diabetes to name two of the most serious. However, not only can these diseases develop in the absence of obesity, but not everyone with a high BMI develops any such condition.The categorization of obesity as a disease could have a pernicious influence on efforts to remedy the problem at its true origins. The treatment of diseases customarily involves drugs, medical technology, clinic visits and surgical procedures. If obesity is a disease, the therapeutic advances on which its management depends presumably reside in these domains.

 Again, for almost all people, for every 3500 excess kcal we gain a pound. If we burn 2000 kcal per day and we eat 2500 kcal per day, that is three 12 oz sodas, then we can gain a pound a week, or 52 pounds a year!

Thus it is easy to become obese. Frankly it is just as easy to reduce that process, possibly a little slower, but it can be revered.

Thus it is good to hear a voice which lays the problem at the proper doorstep.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Google, Fiber and the Franchise

There has been some recent talk of Google and its fiber Odyssey. In a recent ARS Technica piece they discuss the possibility. Having done some New York builds in my time and being still somewhat aware of the process, at no time does anyone seem to address the issue of the Franchise. What do they expect. Just start digging holes, pull the fiber and well? In New York. Ever head of IBEW Local 3? If not then you better learn quickly. You just don't send a team from Palo Alto into the city and pull whatever and wherever.

As the article mentioned above states:

Google recently announced that it chose nine metro areas around the country for potential Fiber deployments. The closest ones to New York City are Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. New York City already has fiber in the form of Verizon FiOS, and Google has focused mostly on underserved areas where municipal officials are willing to provide expedited permitting and other perks. There are still millions of Americans without broadband, so there are plenty of areas where Google Fiber is needed. One thing that is clear is that Google is building up its Fiber team. Job listings indicate that more than 60 positions are open. There is one other Google Fiber position open in New York, for a network infrastructure design manager.

 But assuming you break bread with the Union types, a real big assumption, then what of the Franchise? That may take nearly forever. You can bet that if Comcast gets Time Warner that any chance another entity has of doing anything is zero, I have been there.

Lastly, the process of getting a Franchise may very well take forever. The costs are unbelievable. How then can one get any return on investment? That is the key question.

Also, if wireless keeps doing what it is doing and expanding data rates and lowering costs, then why build fiber at all?

The International Business Times lays out a more complete tale. They state:

Underneath Manhattan lies a vast labyrinth of tunnels that was originally built for telephone wire after the Great Blizzard of 1888. It runs from all the way from downtown Manhattan to the Bronx, and it's controlled by Empire City Subway (ECS), a Verizon subsidiary. Verizon claims that it maintains the tunnels, and it points to its own fiber-optic FiOS network as proof. But critics, including one of Verizon’s competitors, as well as other businesses that lease the space to run their own cables through there, recently told Crain’s New York that the tunnels tell a different story:

"Conduits are filled with cables from defunct Internet providers that went belly-up after the dot-com bust in 2000. Verizon itself left severed copper wire in lower Manhattan ducts after installing a fiber-optic network following Superstorm Sandy. (The company says the cables could be easily removed, if needed.)"

The conduit system that could supply New York with Google Fiber is a crowded mess, which is unlikely to change in the short term. Why would Verizon clear the way for its competition?

 Indeed, there are a plethora of obstacles. First the Franchise. We wrote of our recent experiences. That process is endless, meeting after meeting with every citizen having a say. Second is rights of way as discussed above. The incumbent has those rights, not the city. Try and displace them. Third is as mentioned above is the unions. New York makes Afghanistan look like the paradigm of correctness. I suspect there are unions to manage the "Porta Johns". Fourth, is the process of getting permits for this and that. Those who succeed in Real Estate have spent decades mastering this effort. A new guy on the street just cannot master the effort.

But remember the key factor. Wireless now is a winner. OFDM allows 10 bps/Hz, add to it adaptive beamformed antennae and we may get another factor of 5 to 10. Then HDTV can be compressed to 4 Mbps. Thus we can achieve a Gbps speed per user and can send a ton of video, which Verizon already has access to via FIOS. Ever wonder why they abandoned FIOS?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Getting a Job

I am always amazed when I read something about Google, namely is it true or just for the show. I recall being out there visiting the Chairman in the old building which I believe was formerly an Atari facility in one of my prior lives.

But as is stated in today's NY Times by one of the commentators who frequently tries to opine on the technology space, all too often in my opinion with little understanding, Google tries to hire people with certain skills. He states:

...the first thing Google looks for “is general cognitive ability — the ability to learn things and solve problems,” he said. In that vein, “a knowledge set that will be invaluable is the ability to understand and apply information — so, basic computer science skills. I’m not saying you have to be some terrific coder, but to just understand how [these] things work you have to be able to think in a formal and logical and structured way.” But that kind of thinking doesn’t have to come from a computer science degree. “I took statistics at business school, and it was transformative for my career. 

Analytical training gives you a skill set that differentiates you from most people in the labor market.”
A lot of work, he added, is no longer tied to location. “So if you want your job tied to where you are, you need to be: A) quite good at it; and B) you need to be very adaptable so that you have a baseline skill set that allows you to be a call center operator today and tomorrow be able to interpret MRI scans. To have built the skill set that allows you to do both things requires a baseline capability that’s analytical.”

The overall discussion is how to get a job at Google. Perhaps it should have been how to get a job period. Now just what the second paragraph above intends to say is too complex for me. Just what does he mean being tied to a location. Back in the 60s we moved every other year, from Boston to New Jersey to Boston, to DC, to Chicago, to Atlanta. Frankly I wonder if this is what he is saying. Then the ability to be a call center operator and a Radiologist is a non sequitur of the highest level. I guess it is just what one would expect from HR and a reporter.

Having just returned from a week trip with grandson number 2 to five colleges in anticipation of his next step, the key issue is what is he doing to get a job? He may still be a High School Freshman but now is the time to start that discussion. He may want at this stage to be a Civil Engineer, a noble calling, but then at his age I wanted to be a jet pilot, not knowing that at 6'3" I most likely would lose my head if ever ejected. But the earlier one starts the better is the process. He will not get a job as an anthropologist, there are very few of them, unless you are self funded by a large trust fund. Yet there is a continual demand for Civil Engineers, and Chem Es as well. 

Thus prior planning does indeed prevent poor performance. It is not just analytical thinking but doing so in a long term perspective, looking forward to have skills which are portable, marketable, and sellable. An electrician always has a better chance that an anthropologist.

καλα πασκα

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Methylation and Ancestors

Every time we learn more about genes and their operations we add complexity. Epigenetics has added a dimension which oftentimes surpasses much of what we have learned before. In a recent Science article the authors examine the epigenetic differences in humans and their ancestors. They state:

Ancient DNA sequencing has recently provided high-coverage archaic human genomes. However, the evolution of epigenetic regulation along the human lineage remains largely unexplored. We reconstructed the full DNA methylation maps of the Neandertal and the Denisovan by harnessing the natural degradation processes of methylated and unmethylated cytosines. Comparing these ancient methylation maps to those of present-day humans, we identified ~2000 differentially methylated regions (DMRs). Particularly, we found substantial methylation changes in the HOXD cluster that may explain anatomical differences between archaic and present-day humans. Additionally, we found that DMRs are significantly more likely to be associated with diseases. This study provides insight into the epigenetic landscape of our closest evolutionary relatives and opens a window to explore the epigenomes of extinct species. 

This is an interesting first step well worth the following!

One suspects that the more we understand methylation, miRNAs etc the better we can understand some of the vagaries of life.