JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success
No. 31 : January 27, 2001
Business, marketing & futures commentary.
New attitudes, no platitudes.
- What is Kamen's Mystery IT ?
- More on Peer-to-peer File-swapping
- Using Unused Computing Power
- Tech Review 10 : Biometrics (face recognition)
- Holding Light Still
- The Sad Side of Progress
- Language Translation
- Microsoft Mugging
What is Kamen's IT??
In the last eNews, we discussed Dean Kamen's mysterious new invention that
has attracted significant venture financing and attention in the press. It
turned out that the San Diego Union, my local newspaper, carried a feature
on IT the same day, as did many other magazines and TV programs. So, I
received a flurry of speculation. So, who is Dean Kamen? And what is IT?
Someone said : "It is difficult to tell the difference between a saint and
a flake". Dean Kamen got mostly positive, but some negative, comments.
Ray Zack [ZaxFax@aol.com] e-said :
"This is entirely consistent with
Kamen's "MO", One of his last inventions was based on a highly disguised
version of Boyle's Law, which he promoted as a whole new concept. The
latest Patent appears to be based on Stirlings combustion engine, patented
Bob Nickels [firstname.lastname@example.org] e-moted :
"I have the highest
respect for Dean Kamen, not only as a technologist, but as a person of
passion who is driven to accomplish things that most of us just talk about.
I think he is a very smart guy, who surrounds himself with folks who are
even smarter, but it's the passionate pursuit of a fundamental change in
our society's approach to science and technology that impresses me the
most. His pursuit of these overarching goals probably accounts for why
some (who would pursue even more monetary success instead) might call him a
flake. I doubt he'd be up for sainthood either, but if he is truly able
to change how our culture views science and technology, then he'll
certainly earn a place in history - with or without a newfangled
So, what is IT ?? The prevailing opinion is that IT stands for Individual Transporter and
IT may be the device described in Kamen's patent application published in December 2000, which
includes a picture of the product.
Kamen's Latest Patent
Alex Pavloff, Software Engineer, Eason Technology [email@example.com]
"I know what IT is, Jim."
And Alex sent this URL link to a
webpage that shows an excellent picture of IT, actually operating!
Animated Picture of operating IT
Is file-swapping music piracy?
Have you used Napster? It's incredible - name an artist, or the title of a
song and it seeks out copies on other users computers, which you can then
download - for free! While you are downloading, others may be downloading
songs from your computer !
Try it yourself! Napster website
The battle over music piracy continues. We're now entering the next phase
in the recording industry's fight for the control of music distribution.
The three most important numbers in the debate:
- Music file-swapping site Napster has 51 million users
- Napster users buy less music.
- Napster users are more likely to increase what they spend on music than
In other words, people love getting music online, but nobody knows whether
it's good or bad for CD sales. In the meantime, under the wing of
Bertelsmann (the book publishing giant that owns Barnes & Noble, among
others) Napster continues to facilitate downloading. And, if it is ordered
to stop, other websites will inevitably takes its place. How can anyone
stop voluntary peer-to-peer file downloading?
IBM is reported to have come up with a new Electronic Media Management
System (EMMS) technology, which limits the use of a song after it has been
distributed once. But, will this stop Napster? Or, just delay the
inevitable - voluntary sharing?
Read the ZDNET story on IBM EMMS technology
Using Unused Computer Power
There will soon be an explosion of businesses that multiplex the online
resources of all the computers on the Web. Companies are gearing up to
broker unused PC processing cycles to companies that need
supercomputer-like resources: doing complex financial, genetic, and other
simulations, image processing (such as is needed for computer-animated
movies). Because computing power and bandwidth often go hand in hand, it
makes sense for these products to run on idle night-time desktops of
corporate office workers- it would be a good way for businesses to recoup
some of those sunk PC costs. However, it's far more likely that the first
groups to take advantage of this technology will be home users with DSL and
Regardless, this is an interesting business, and it is also a bit of a
race. A bigger network will be faster and attract more paying customers and
thus more people wanting to get on the system to sell their cycles. It's
not quite a natural monopoly, but this business will have extremely strong
In reality, peer-to-peer (P2P) computing is just one-third - grid computing
and distributed information infrastructure are the other two-thirds - of a
very hot idea: distributed computing. This year, distributed computing will
be one of the VC hot-buttons - venture capitalists are throwing hundreds of
millions of dollars at companies like AppleSoup, Centrata, Quiq, NextPage,
Distributed Science, Engenia Software, Popular Power, Static Online, United
Devices, and Uprizer.
Distributed computing is going to change the way we think about technology
and the Internet itself. On a practical level, it will have far-reaching
effects on how software is written, and on how computer and networking gear
is installed in businesses.
P2P will spawn many companies that use Napster-like services to distribute
video, music, files, and even software. Napster provides a primitive
example of what these new applications might be. The music-sharing
service's central servers act like traffic cops, keeping important data on
members and shared file lists and performing music searches. While Napster
users store and download music using their own resources, key data elements
are kept in-house, on Napster's central servers. Napster's technology
applied to the enterprise supply chain - where key data is kept within the
walls of a corporation but the rest of the chain is broken up among
suppliers - is one way companies might use distributed computing.
Distributed Computing - Red Herring Magazine's 2001 Top-10 Trends
Tech Review : Biometrics
The Jan/Fe 2001 MIT Review Technology Trends listed their
selection of the 10 most important technology trends:
MIT Review : Tech Top-10
Let's look more closely at Biometrics : identifying individuals by specific
biological traits. Large companies use fingerprint sensors for logging on
to corporate networks, state driver's license authorities employ face
recognition for capturing and storing digital photographs, and the first
iris-scan-protected ATM in the US was introduced in Texas in May 1999. Yet
consumers have been reluctant to adopt the technology, and so far, it
remains largely relegated to military and government applications.
Today, PDAs and cell phones are becoming our portal to the world, our
transaction devices, our ID and perhaps soon our passport. These small
gadgets carry so much of our personal and financial information, and this
brings great risk - lost or stolen identities. The increasing and urgent
need for security is driving biometrics.
The tools for biometrics are already emerging rapidly : increased
bandwidth, new cell phones, PDAs equipped with digital cameras. Together,
these create an infrastructure capable of putting biometrics into the hands
of consumers. Visionics, based in New Jersey, is developing software tools
that allow rapid and accurate detection and recognition of faces, to enable
the authentication of any transaction.
MIT Tech-Review article on Biometrics
Visionics website - face-recognition software
Holding Light Still
The NY Times, January 18, 2001, had this story :
"Scientists Bring Light to Full Stop, Hold It, Then Send It on Its Way..."
Light normally moves through space at 186,000 miles a second. Ordinary
transparent media like water, glass and crystal slow light slightly, an
effect that causes the bending of light rays that allows lenses to focus images and prisms to
Using a distantly related but much more powerful effect, a research team at
centered around Harvard University, is Massachusetts, first slowed and then
stopped the light in a medium that consisted of specially prepared
containers of gas. In this medium, the light became fainter and fainter as
it slowed and then stopped. By flashing a second light through the gas, the
team could essentially revive the original beam, which then left the
chamber carrying nearly the same shape, intensity and other properties it
had when it entered.
The achievement is a landmark feat that, by reining in nature's swiftest
and most ethereal form of energy for the first time, could help realize
what are now theoretical concepts for vastly increasing the speed of
computers and the security of communications.
Hey! Could this lead to StarWars like faster-than-light "transportation" ?
Beam me up!
Read the NY Times story
The comments continued on my essay :
View 2001 : Growth in a Shrinking World
This from Ron Wheeler [firstname.lastname@example.org] - would you believe, my
school-mate from way back, in Bangalore, India, now a marketing executive
in England :
"I have just returned from sales trips to India and China. I was appalled
at the child labour, the smells, pollution, poor sanitation, congestion and
mayhem in the cities. The countryside looked as good as ever, but the
urban sprawls were dreadful.
"In my mind, I began to criticize the
powers-that-be who are so corrupt and self-serving that they do nothing
about it. And then I remembered that Victorian/Dickensian London and
turn-of-20th century New York and other capital cities in their headlong
rush with electric power, telephones, radio and travel, would have been
just as dreadful with horse dung all over the place, the black smoke from
the chimneys and the fumes from the gas lamps, the poor sewage collection.
"So the western world cleaned up its act and now the Third World will have
to because we have transferred all that stuff to them while we sit back.
The two countries with the largest populations have the problems,
"I am not normally a gloom merchant but I admit to being depressed at the
comet-like conception of all the wonderful things you speak, bright and
fast, but in its wake a less-glorious trail of rubbish. I just hope there
will be a world order which will create a sweeper class which makes lots of
money clearing up after the bright young things in their pursuit of
progress. Perhaps it will be the only way to ensure that the system does
not fall apart."
Doug Bailey [email@example.com] e-wrote :
"You have made some thought
provoking prophecies - I especially like the language translators. That
might come to pass in my lifetime - think of the problems caused by simple
misunderstanding of ideas, opinions, events (catastrophic or common),
cultural mores, etc. I once spent three months living in the jungle in
southeast Asia. The frustration of not being able to communicate even
simple things, let alone have a discussion, is enormous. You cannot know a
person until you know his language."
Still on language translation, Joe Jansen [JoeJansen@KEMET.COM] e-said :
" For what it is worth, I picked up this article over the weekend. The
"Universal Translator". Not quite a PDA, but it is still small...."
Regarding the story on Microsoft - "The Whole Truth" - and my poem:
The Legal Mugging of Microsoft
Bud Keyes, [Bud.Keyes@FRCO.com] e-xploded :
"The mugging of Gates is an apt description. An unbiased analysis would
have to say that Bill and Microsoft are responsible for much of the amazing
productivity gain we enjoyed in the late 1990's and are still enjoying
today. This productivity gain has created capacity, killed inflation and
actually driven prices down. It has also has made wages even less relevant
in the overall inflation model.
" People attribute this productivity pop to
the Internet but really the suite of applications that has popularized the
internet is for damn sure not based on SunOS, UNIX, Linux or any other
arcane operating system. Only Gates software and the complementary
applications that ride on it have provided the ease of use that has finally
"brought the power of the internet to the people". To pillory Gate and
Microsoft is, in my view, a crime that could only be conceived by the
perverted minds of David Boies, Janet Reno, William Jefferson Clinton and
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