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Comment That's more cell sites than any American carrier (Score 2) 124

In the United States, national carriers tend to have between 30,000 and 54,000 cell sites. While this document (http://www.sprint.com/whitepapers/dbdownload/HeavyReading_Assessment_of_Sprint_s_Network_Vision_Initiative_Dec2010.pdf?table=whp_item_file&blob=item_file&keyname=item_id&keyvalue='25625ay') is mostly about Sprint's network vision, but it also has estimates (page 13) of cell sites for all the national carriers ranging from 30,000 on the low end for Sprint's iDEN network to 54,000 on the high end for AT&T's network. Given that all of the national carriers tend to cover many major cities, it seems unlikely that London would need 70,000 cell sites for 4G.

This is an article from the point of view of a company that sells small cell sites. Putting 70,000 cells in London would mean putting 115.3 cells in every sq mi. That's one cell every 5.5 acres.

Comment Get Out of Contract Free Card (Score 3, Insightful) 207

The original post has made it sound like this will be a get out of contract free card. I'm guessing that Verizon will take a path similar to AT&T and grandfather in customers with a current unlimited data plan. Even if Verizon (or AT&T) want to get people off unlimited data plans, they can do it when people upgrade phones. In order to get a new device, they could require that you change plans - and that isn't grounds for termination of the contract (plus, usually you're pretty close to the end of your contract when you can upgrade). After two years, they could forcibly move anyone who didn't get a new device to the non-unlimited data plans and they'd be out of contract already.

Carriers are usually pretty smart about not changing the terms on people currently under contract. Plus, the heaviest data users are probably going to be the ones who want to upgrade to new devices more often - and will be early adopters of 4G. Both of those are chances to get those customers onto non-unlimited data without invalidating the contract. If someone is on an unlimited plan and only using 1GB of data, the carrier is just getting additional money since they're paying for more than they're using. No reason to force those people to switch.

Comment Re:I know it's fashionable to make fun of AT&T (Score 2, Informative) 285

According to PC World, AT&T's 3G service improved in Boston by 184% (nearly doubling) between Feb 2009 and Feb 2010.

Public perception is one of those things that doesn't change quickly (no matter what the evidence). I know that a lot of people had billing issues after the Sprint-Nextel merger and that's been resolved and Sprint's service is as strong as I've seen it, but customers still have a bad impression of Sprint.

With wireless service, it's hard to really get good data. Verizon is trying to get people's opinions to be high of them based off of their map ads. However, what you really wants is strong coverage where you are rather than weak yet broad coverage in places you aren't. Coverage isn't a binary situation, but mapping broadness of coverage seems to be what people have latched on to. It would be great to see signal strength and speed measurements on a street level of all the different carriers. It would be great if Google could hook up 4 cell phones to their street view cars to measure that (if they aren't already) and then map the signal strength on Google Maps. I'm sure the carriers would object to such neutral data since they'd rather sling ads at each other, but consumers make better purchases when they have more objective data.

Speed is also harder to quantify since you likely don't notice it without the use of tools. It's easy to notice the binary condition of "AT&T doesn't have 3G in rural Maine", but harder to notice, "AT&T is 39% faster than Verizon in Boston". For what it's worth, Boston seems to be one of AT&T's weaker markets (with Sprint taking top honors in PC Mag's test; yay!) and only beating Verizon and T-Mobile in the 40-50% range.

The problem is that people want to believe that one option is better. There is one wireless carrier that if I always stay with them will give me the best service. There is one brand of car that will always have better engineering. There is one phone company that will always produce a superior product. A lot of the time, product lifecycles make a huge difference. People like being consistent - think how Kerry was labeled a flip-flopper. There's a huge social cost to saying that now you think something else is a better option and almost no acknowledgement that someone could be right *both times* even as they're recommending different things at different times. People don't accept that change happens.

Think of the iPhone 3GS. When it came out, it was faster, had a better display, etc. than the Palm Pre and later the Hero/Droid Eris. Then the Nexus One/Incredible/EVO came out and they had a higher-res display and a faster processor. Then Apple comes back with the iPhone 4 which has an even better display, better form factor, etc. Companies are often leapfrogging each other, but people want to believe that they're always using the best so they justify, ignore evidence, and even downright lie to make themselves feel like they're never on #2. I mean, Sprint has 4G right now, but I don't expect Sprint to always be in front of everyone just because they're the first to 4G - life is more complicated than that and companies change position in an industry a lot.

As a Sprint customer, I'm more than happy with the service I get and really can't get into the "my network is better than your's" that Verizon and AT&T customers spout. Verizon customers are especially bad and will usually recite ads more than evidence. It's why I find evidence so important. In this case, if someone has a less-good wireless carrier, who cares. I mean, really. However, evidence is what brought medicine to where it is today and non-evidence-based medicine is often dangerous. Yet, millions of people commit themselves to opinions and treatments with no basis in science and evidence. That's dangerous! Here, whatever: people like getting into silly arguments about things that don't matter. However, it's a bad habit to get into to rely more on anecdotes and feelings than evidence because there are places where it really does matter.

Comment Re:I know it's fashionable to make fun of AT&T (Score 1) 285

I'm actually a Sprint customer (I refuse to pay AT&T's prices and have a really awesome deal with Sprint and am really happy with the service and don't understand why more people don't use them). However, I appreciate objective evidence rather than partisan anecdotes. Most people only have service from a single carrier and any experience they have with another carrier is years old. So, a Verizon customer who says AT&T is unreliable either has no evidence (they never were an AT&T customer) or they have evidence that doesn't reflect the current situation (they were a customer in the past). Their "opinions" are nothing more than stereotypes that are more likely shaped by advertisements than by actuality.

Frankly, if anyone is a shill or fan, it's you. I don't mean to attack you and if you're genuinely questioning, I apologize. But look at it from my perspective: I post a comment with a link to *three* independent studies proving my point. You start an ad hominem attack on my character calling me a shill and fan while providing no evidence in your post that contradicts my post. That is not an argument against my point. You've just decided that your subjective opinion of wireless companies is more accurate than data or you're a shill/fan of (Verizon|T-Mobile|Sprint) and the only way you can rebut evidence that your preferred carrier isn't #1 is to call someone else a shill/fan.

I don't like fighting on the internet or the obsession with winning so I hesitated to even write this comment. However, I thought it was important to tell you where I was coming from. I would love to see recent studies showing different results if you could link me to them. I like having more evidence from good sources. Those are the only tests that I've been able to find and it would be awesome if you knew of more. If you don't, please stop calling me a shill or fan.

Comment I know it's fashionable to make fun of AT&T, b (Score 4, Informative) 285

Just imagine trying to do this from an iPhone in a major market!

I know that it's fashionable to make fun of AT&T. I don't like carrier-exclusive agreements either - I think that they're anti-consumer and shouldn't be allowed. However, AT&T's network is actually the best in most markets as shown in independent tests by Gizmodo, PC World, and PC Magazine.


The most recent test (PC Magazine) shows AT&T nearly 80% faster than the other 3G networks (June 2010). PC World's tests show AT&T to be 67% faster than the competition (Feb 2010). Gizmodo's tests show AT&T on top, but by a smaller margin (Dec 2009). PC World's tests do show that AT&T has improved markedly since their Feb 2009 tests (improving speeds by over 200% in some places). By the end of 2009, AT&T's network was the fastest and it's kept improving to widen the gap. Even in so-called trouble markets like New York and San Francisco AT&T is doing well. In San Francisco, their speeds are double the competition's average and over 75% faster than the second fastest. In New York, T-Mobile's HSPA+ network (recently rolled out) is 10% faster, but AT&T is still 94% faster than Verizon and 130% faster than Sprint.

It's fashionable to make fun of AT&T. If you live in a rural area, AT&T might not have 3G service to you. If you were using AT&T in 2007 and 2008, their service was likely slower than the competition. That is not the case anymore. Real data (rather than anecdotal evidence) shows AT&T to be quite ahead of the competition when it comes to 3G capacity in major markets.

Comment The 4G Article is Simply Wrong (Score 4, Informative) 64

It makes statements like, "Other carriers are slapping the 4G label on a 3G-based technology, LTE". That's incorrect. LTE is part of the upgrade path for GSM/HSPA, but it's a completely new air interface using OFDM rather than HSPA's CDMA air interface. Just because something comes out of the same standards body doesn't make it 3G-based technology. Based on that logic, all of these technologies are based on old-fashioned radio technology. The author seems to want to imply that most 4G is just re-branded 3G that won't help users.

It says things like the iPhone being "just one device used by 3 percent of [AT&T's] customers." That's flat out wrong. Last quarter, AT&T activated 3.1 million iPhones. AT&T activated iPhones for more than 3% of its customer base *in a single quarter* and over 46% of AT&T's post-pay customer base used integrated devices as of the last quarter. Was there no fact checker for this article?

Finally, the article says that 4G won't solve the spectrum/capacity issue. It provides no evidence for this and merely rants about how you can't use a phone made for one carrier on another carrier and, therefore, nothing will ever work right. Yes, it's disappointing that all carriers don't use the same technology and spectrum bands, but that hardly has anything to do with capacity. The fact is that 4G is likely to solve a lot of capacity issues. With a 4G, all-VoIP solution, carriers should be able to get voice usage down to a fraction of their bandwidth. That's huge. Yes, 4G will see users consume more data as it gives them a faster, better experience. However, people aren't likely to start streaming audio at 512kbps or video above what YouTube and Hulu are pushing anytime soon. So it's likely that 4G will see an increase in available bandwidth considerably above any increase in customer usage. Plus, when talking about websites and such, the majority of the time is still spent with the connection idle as the user reads the page.

4G will improve our wireless experience by improving speeds and alleviating some capacity issues.

Comment Re:Real Improvement? (Score 2, Interesting) 144

It isn't an improvement from customers switching away. AT&T added more customers than Verizon last quarter and had a similar churn rate of 1.4%. So, no, AT&T has more customers than ever and customers are staying with AT&T at the same rate as Verizon and more customers are signing up for AT&T than Verizon.

It's a real improvement.

Comment What's wrong with the gas tax? (Score 1) 891

With the government pushing through cap and trade, why would we replace the gas tax? The gas tax both taxes people based on distance driven and pollution generated. Now, if cars become more efficient, we might need to raise it, but from where I'm sitting it offers a nice incentive for people to drive more fuel efficient vehicles and pays for the roads.

Comment Not Bypassing the Wireless Carriers (Score 5, Informative) 71

Most likely this service isn't bypassing the wireless carriers. Comcast (along with TimeWarner and others) are partial owners of a company called Clearwire which Sprint owns roughly half of. Clearwire has been rolling out WiMAX as part of Sprint's 4G strategy.

So, while it might be being sold under the Comcast name, you're essentially buying service from Clear (http://www.clear.com/) run by Clearwire (http://clearwire.com) which is (half) owned by Sprint.

Comment The Number of Uses (Score 1) 517

The problem with guaranteeing software is the number of uses that it can have and the number of different environments it can be used in.

Well, it's not necessarily a problem of software. If we look at the PlayStation/Wii/Xbox model, there is the potential to offer a guarantee there. Users are really only allowed to run things certified for the platform, one at a time, etc. That makes it at least *possible* to create a guarantee.

The problem with computers is that it is impossible to create a guarantee like this. Different programs do sometimes interfere with each other, people can and do use them improperly in a way that they are the source of the problem, and nothing is certified.

To go back to the toaster issue: what if toaster manufacturers had to certify that their toaster would work (or at least not break) with any input? I decide to put a knife in there and rattle it around, I decide to dump it in the bathtub, etc. and it still has to work. Well, software is somewhat like that. I'm putting all sorts of unknowns in there and so no one can certify that it will *just work*.

Heck, would you hold a toaster manufacturer accountable if someone put a bagel too large in one of the slots? Of course not. There's a logical thing there where it's the user's fault. However, in software it becomes more murky. We often don't know what is a valid use of software until someone tries it. I guess we could offer a similar guarantee - our software will work properly for everything that it works properly for. Which really is the same guarantee that the toaster is offering. It's just that the toaster has much more limited and known uses.

I guess an easy way to get around this is to claim that your software has only one "proper" use that is guaranteed - to use up some CPU cycles. Any use beyond that is "improper" use akin to throwing a toaster off your roof. Users can use it for those cases, but they won't be covered.

Comment I'm a Mac. . . (Score 4, Insightful) 858

and I can admit that PCs are WAY cheaper. The issue is that the pricing of Macs is completely devoid of choice. Don't need a built-in, high-res webcam? Too bad! Don't need the latest processor? We know better than you!

If you build a PC laptop like you build a Mac laptop, you may get similar prices in the end. The problem is that you can't build a Mac laptop like you *would* build a PC laptop. One good example is that when choosing a processor, often times the price of the processor will go up exponentially in relation to performance improvements. I have absolutely no need for the utmost in processor performance (everything I do is going to depend more on RAM). However, when buying my new MacBook Pro, I had to get a hefty processor with it. For almost all users (and most users aren't /. readers), processor speed isn't going to matter much. Heck, I make my living on my computer and it doesn't matter much.

It's also that there are good deals and bad deals from every PC company. So, if you cherry pick the outrageously marked up PCs against the Macs, the Macs look good. But you can also find very good PCs that are half the price.

The fact is that for under $700 I can get a Dell Vostro 1510 with the same resolution display, more RAM, but with an Intel Core 2 Duo at 1.8GHz rather than 2.4GHz. Part of the problem is that the latest processors cost a lot more for very little gains - and Apple only offers me the latest, high-margin product. Upgrading the Dell to 2Ghz bumps the price up $125 (for a measly 10% gain in clock speed). That's an about 20% increase in the WHOLE COMPUTER'S PRICE for a 10% gain - possibly an increase of 50% in the processor cost for a 10% boost.

I'm not trying to say that Apple products aren't worth the cost - since I shelled out $2K for one, I clearly think they are. But let's not get into a stupid "Apples are just as cheap" rhetoric match. That's like saying, "Dell costs twice as much if you buy 3 months groceries as part of the purchase". You can rig anything if people are passionate enough - and this is a situation that makes people passionate.

Apple likes to have their high margins. You have to pay up to buy Apple computers. Don't try to justify it as the same price. They aren't. I think they're worth the money, but you need to be able to objectively evaluate situations. Most people can't - they bend data to justify what they wish were true. Apples are wonderful. They aren't cheap.

Comment Keep it to yourself. (Score 4, Insightful) 508

I like lists:

1. Ideas cannot be patented or copyrighted. If you let an idea out of your head and someone hears it, they can use it. Now, you can ask people to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and non-compete agreement, but I doubt your professors would sign.

2. If someone else tries to patent something you have created, you have prior art. You can't get a patent for it, but you can void their patent. Yeah, it's a pain, but it can be done.

3. I'd be more worried about other students. Your professors probably have a sweet deal. At my school, it meant 6-figure salary and teaching 0-1 classes per semester and spending the rest of one's time investigating what they found interesting. Why would they leave that for the competition of free enterprise? Your other students might have dreams of grandeur and snatch your stuff more readily.

4. If you're a grad student doing research for them and they're paying you and giving you free tuition, you likely have no protection since they're your employer and what you make is legally their property unless you've explicitly made another arrangement.

I'm from the camp that ideas are a dime a dozen and that execution is what matters. If you talk about it, most likely no one will use your idea because they won't execute. Most likely you won't either - not because you're bad or lazy, but because executing something from scratch takes a lot (both work and chance).

So, don't worry too much and if you don't want someone stealing your idea, keep it to yourself.

Comment Par for the Course (Score 1) 440

First, universities always treat faculty differently. You're just a student researcher. Don't expect faculty rights. It's crappy that's the way the world works, but it does.

Most places consider software written while being paid for by them labor for hire. As such, they own what you create. In this case, the intellectual property rights to the software. This isn't that different from a construction worker building a building - he doesn't get to take what he made when he leaves. The difference is that software is infinitely reproducible in a way that doesn't harm the original.

Still, this is par for the course. Work for Google, Google owns the code you write and you can't take it with you when you leave. Work for Microsoft, MS owns the code you make and you can't take it with you when you leave. Work in this position, the University will own the code you write and you can't take it with you when you leave.

You might be able to negotiate something nice - Universities are non-profits and if you argue for an open-source license they might be genuinely receptive. If you want to push, think of it from the University's standpoint: does it help the school (to give you the code)? does it promote the school's mission (to give you the code)? does it promote the school (to give you the code)? That's unlikely, but under a FOSS license it might promote academic research and the school might like the openness of it and the possible free promotion they'd get if it caught on.

The Almighty Buck

Submission + - RIAA Finally Gets Day in Court (groklaw.net)

CrkHead writes: "After many years of avoiding a jury trial, Groklaw is reporting that they finally have to actually prove a case.

This is history in the making, in that this is the very first RIAA jury trial to actually go to trial in all the years since the RIAA began to sue people four or so years ago. I gather they tried to get out of this one too, but now it's set and it will happen.

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