NYT on HD Radio

Glenn Fleishman said (Ed: yesterday -- I'm a bit slow!),
In today's New York Times, I wrote about the revolution already in progress for AM and FM radio: IBOC (in-band, on-channel) digital radio, known by its trademarked named HD Radio.

With IBOC, the analog signal is undisturbed and digital audio nestles in the protected side bands. It's a surprisingly huge phenomenon--among radio stations. At least 450 stations are already full-time HD Radio broadcasters, and possibly more than 600. The reason? Digital AM sounds good--remarkably good.

But the real excitement is in FM. With digital FM, stations can choose to multicast. Public radio is funding a huge HD Radio supplement so that its member stations could, for instance, have an all Spanish format or serve other niche audiences that they can't offer enough programming to as part of their regular schedule.

There's only a few tens of thousands of receivers out there, but the tabletop boxes are coming. I was told the chips that drive HD Radio cost $65 for the radio makers now, but the price should drop by 2/3rds when quantities pick up, and then we'll see $100 to $150 radios instead of $260 to $600 units.


Reader Comment: Bill Kirkpatrick @wisc.edu says:

"It's worth pointing out that HD radio came largely at the expense of low-powered FM radio. We could have had thousands more LPFM stations, but large broadcasters objected to these microstations being shoe-horned into the spectrum. Why? So that there would be more room for IBOC. Commercial broadcasters effectively double or triple their spectrum, and non-commercial community broadcasting gets shut out.

There's a great article in Social Policy that explains all this in detail. I can't find it on the web, so I have quoted a relevant excerpt below."

From INTERFERENCE AND THE PUBLIC SERVICE: THE HISTORY AND IMPACT OF LOW-POWER FM , By: Spinelli, Martin, Social Policy, Fall 2000, Vol. 31, Issue 1

While arguments about existing station placement and economics are relatively easy to grasp, perhaps the most significant stumbling block for LPFM is more complex. IBOC-DAB (in-band, on-channel digital audio broadcasting) is left out of reports of the LPFM fight as often for its politics as for its difficulty. One could be forgiven for thinking that digital radio, when it happens at some point in the distant future, will be in a different radio spectrum than the one currently used. But "in-band," in fact, means in the existing FM radio frequency band on the same radio channels or stations that we listen to today ("on-channel").

The way IBOC is being promoted and tested by large broadcasters represents a kind of giant squatters' rights movement on the FM band. The current IBOC configuration, described as "saddle-bagging," would have a station broadcast a digital signal in the side channels immediately to the left and to the right of its analog signal. If two-channel separation standards were to be maintained, there would be far less room for other stations like LPFMs. Of course, if LPFMs are shoehorned into the bandwidth before the establishment of IBOC, there will be much less room for IBOC. The NAB, in seeking to stop or slow LPFM by calling for more engineering tests or trial periods, would buy its members enough time to rush the IBOC proposal through the FCC and establish digital broadcasting saddle-bags.

It is not surprising that LPFM opponents would not give prominence to the DAB objection in their complaints against microbroadcasting. If the IBOC saddle-bag system is established, existing stations will be given, in effect, three times the bandwidth for which they paid, while the consuming public, which has not indicated its desires or needs, will have a technology foisted on it--especially if, as it is being currently tested in the Washington, DC, area, it will be simply another means for existing stations to replicate their analog signals.

Incidentally, the existing IBOC saddle-bag tests are showing no interference to the mother channel to which they are immediately adjacent; consequently, the NAB has called for a loosening of the clear channel requirements for IBOC. This is further evidence that interference is not a genuine issue. It can thus be argued that existing commercial broadcasters do not actually object to LPFM because such stations might interfere with any of their existing signals but because their imminent presence would lessen the space available for their future digital broadcasts.

H.W. Duncan in Seattle says,
I'm a former broadcast engineer who has followed IBOC. Several Seattle FM stations use IBOC and I can't tell any difference between the "Spread" of their signal and the spread of the "normal" Seattle FM stations. And because Seattle was an IBOC-FM test market, a lot of people with experienced ears have been listening closely for problems. Many broadcasters are voluntarily investing big dollars in IBOC-FM.

This is not true with IBOC in the AM band, where the digital signal generates sidebands that tend to cover up the stations on the two adjacent channels. The problem is so bad that IBOC-AM cannot be used at night and as far as I know, nobody but Clear Channel stations are rushing to IBOC-AM. And, of course, Clear Channel owns a piece of the IBOC business.

I have been told that IBOC was broadcasting's answer to a European direct digital system, they were opposed because that system gives all area broadcasters an equal voice - power and dial location no longer matter. This was poison to those who want to sell their radio stations for lots and lots of money.

Why do you stay up so late?

A lovely Flash-poem. Link (Thanks, Susannah Breslin)

Geeks: provide technical assistance to lawyers working for freedom

Are you a geek who wants to help keep technological liberties alive? EFF is starting a mailing-list pool for geeks willing to render technical assistance to lawyers working on worthy cases:
Over the years, EFF has connected hundreds of tech-savvy lawyers with potential clients through our Cooperating Attorneys listserv. This has worked so well, we thought we'd provide the same service for those who need technical assistance on litigation and civil liberties issues.

Here's how the Cooperating Techs list will work: Attorneys needing technical assistance on cases will contact us and let us know what kind of help they need and whether they can pay. After we receive the request and determine if it is appropriate for our list, we'll post a note to the list with a basic description of the project. (For example: "CA attorney needs a tech familiar with Microsoft Exchange servers to assist in recovering allegedly deleted email messages needed for lawsuit. Can pay reduced fee.")

If you're on the list and are qualified and interested, you contact us, and we'll connect you to the attorney. That's it. EFF won't investigate or vouch for either side -- we don't have those kinds of resources. We'll simply provide the connection.

Interested in being an Cooperating Tech? Send a note to cooptechs@eff.org, and we'll try to help you find someone.


Hearing aids re-imagined: "hearware"

The V&A museum in London is currently running an exhibition of "hearware" -- hearing aids reimagined by designers and interaction firms from around the world. "The display will show how fashionably designed 'hearwear' can be as desirable and accessible as 'eyewear', and will change the way people think about hearing." Link (via Shiny Shiny)

Gamers pictured alongside their avatars

The Faces of WoW site allows World of Warcraft players to upload photos of themselves, sometimes accompanied by photos of their in-game avatars. It's hard to say what's more interesting -- the people who look just like their avatars, or the ones who look totally different. Link (via Wonderland)

Ten thousand superballs rolling down a San Francisco hill-street

These photos document the release of 10,000 small superballs at the San Francisco hilltop corner of Filbert and Leavenworth. Wow. Pic 1, Pic 2 (Thanks, Umgrue!)

Michael Lynn's controversial Cisco security presentation

Here's a PDF that purports to be Michael Lynn's presentation on Cisco's critical vulnerabilities ("The Holy Grail: Cisco IOS Shellcode And Exploitation Techniques"), delivered at last week's Black Hat conference. Lynn's employer, ISS, wouldn't let him deliver the talk (they'd been leant on by Cisco), so Lynn quit his job, walked onstage and delivered it anyway. (See yesterday's post and Scheneier's take for more). 1.9MB PDF Link (Thanks, Richard!)

Update: Seb sez, "Cisco, Michael Lynn and ISS have all come to an 'arrangement'. It would seem all material pertaining to the flaw, the exploit and the talk are to be handed over to Cisco, who will presumably lock it all up and throw away the key. All videos of the presentation are to be handed over as well, and Lynn has been forbidden from talking at Black Hat or Defcon."

Michael Lynn, a former ISS researcher, and the Black Hat organisers agreed to a permanent injunction barring them from further discussing the presentation Lynn gave on Wednesday. The presentation showed how attackers could take over Cisco routers, a problem that Lynn said could bring the Internet to its knees.

The injunction also requires Lynn to return any materials and disassembled code related to Cisco, according to a copy of the injunction, which was filed in US District Court for the District of Northern California. The injunction was agreed on by attorneys for Lynn, Black Hat, ISS and Cisco.

Lynn is also forbidden to make any further presentations at the Black Hat event, which ended on Thursday, or the following Defcon event. Additionally, Lynn and Black Hat have agreed never to disseminate a video made of Lynn's presentation and to deliver to Cisco any video recording made of Lynn."

Update 2: Randi, a reader who claims to be an ex-coworker of Lynn's, and the girlfriend of Lynn's roommate, says, "A settlement with Cisco has been reached, but ISS is still pursuing criminal charges. The press doesn’t appear to know yet that the FBI is performing an investigation now, starting with seizing equipment from Michael and his roommates. On a happy note, Mike has received quite a few job offers, including from some places you wouldn't expect."

Update 3 Courtesy of James, Wired News's coverage of the FBI's investigation of Michael Lynn

Machinima film-festival announced

The 2005 Machinima Film Festival has been announced for November 12, 2005, in NYC:
The Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences (AMAS), an organization that provides advocacy, education and community for Machinima (filmmaking using real-time 3D game technology/virtual reality), today announced the 2005 Machinima Film Festival and the call for entries for the 2005 Machinima Awards (the Mackies). Sponsored by NVIDIA and the Independent Film Channel (IFC), the third annual festival will be held Saturday, November 12th 2005, at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

The one-day event will include screenings of Machinima films, workshops hosted by Machinima filmmakers, special presentations, talks with award-winning independent filmmakers and seminars about Machinima production techniques. The event will culminate in an awards ceremony where some of the best Machinima filmmakers will be recognized for their creative artistry in this new and powerful entertainment medium that's set to revolutionize the worlds of filmmaking and animation.

Link (via Wonderland)

Canada bans copying CDs to iPods

Michael Geist sez, "The Canadian Supreme Court today declined to hear a case involving the private copying levy and its application to the Apple iPod. While some are celebrating, the decision effectively renders copying CDs onto an iPod unlawful in Canada. I've posted an additional perspective that challenges the recording industry's decision to welcome the decision. I argue that it signifies an escalation of its war against its own artists."
But opposing the artists on private copying takes this strategy to new heights. CRIA today claimed that artists will make up private copying levy losses through the marketplace. The truth is that artists and rights holders lost $4 million today, the amount collected from the iPod and digital audio recorders during a fairly brief period. Longer term, they lost tens of millions of dollars of potential compensation. These are not the nickels and dimes that CRIA derides. If anything, for Canadian artists the levy represents a potentially important revenue stream that will not be easily recouped.

Today's decision also likely means the end of a private copying levy that CRIA spent 15 years fighting to get. The system is clearly broken and policy makers will either drop it completely (perhaps supplemented by a fair use doctrine that will permit copying such as store bought CDs to personal iPods) or expand the levy so that it resembles a European approach that extends to both audio and video, while providing even greater compensation.

Link (Thanks, Michael!)

Rule breaking cow

Picture 17 Alan Clifford says: "It's just a cow tethered and grazing under a no tethering and grazing sign. It amused me."

Gallery of bizarre public signs

Picture 16 Swanksigns collects public safety and information signs from around the world. This one is creepy. It shows what can happen to you if you get into an elevator with a trash can and neglect to pull the can all the way into the elevator car. Ouch! Most of the signs on the site are not as nightmarish -- they're funny and/or perplexing.

Roadside Taiwan

 P Taiwan Dan Bloom sends this photograph of a bus stop in Taiwan shaped like a giant watermelon.

UPDATE: Dan Bllom says: "A Taiwanese surfer in Taipei with keen eyesight noticed that the bench in front of the bus stop has some words written in Japanese and concluded that the bus stop could not be in Taiwan and that item submitter 'Dan Bloom' (who now has egg on his face, among other things!) made an innocent but big mistake by wrongly telling boingboing.net that the watermelon bus stop was in Taiwan.'

No taking pix of San Fran building from the sidewalk?

Frequent Boing Boing contributor Thomas Hawk sez, "Shooting the One Bush building (at the intersection where Bush meets Market St. in San Francisco) a building security guard told me he was going to have me arrested and literally followed me around the building trying to put his hand in front of my camera from the public sidewalk.

"I've been hassled and harassed many time in the past for shooting photographs in privately owned public spaces (Starbucks, PF Chaings, Toys 'R Us, the new burger spot on Sacramento St. at Drumm, Tosca, Grand Central Terminal in New York, etc.) but yesterday was the first time I've actually been harassed on a public street over photography." Link (Thanks, Thomas!)

Update: Mat sez, " Everyone in San Francisco needs to go get a picture of this building. To encourage that, I'll give one person a $10 iTMS gift certificate for snapping a picture of One Bush. Take a picture sometime in the next week. Post it online (and link to it in my comments so I'll see it). I'll choose a winner at random."

Update 2 Erik sez, "I'm organizing a get-together this Saturday to walk through downtown S.F. taking pictures of buildings and whatever else strikes our fancy, starting at noon at 1 Bush St. Fun, artistic, and full of Free Speech goodness."

Microsoft "Genuine Advantage" cracked in 24h: window.g_sDisableWGACheck='all'

AV sez, "This week, Microsoft started requiring users to verifiy their serial number before using Windows Update. This effort to force users to either buy XP or tell them where you got the illegal copy is called 'Genuine Advantage.' It was cracked within 24 hours."
Before pressing 'Custom' or 'Express' buttons paste this text to the address bar and press enter:


It turns off the trigger for the key check.

Link (Thanks, AV!)

Hollywood Plots End of Film Reels

I filed this story for Wired News about an announcement from Hollywood's six major studios that they have agreed on technical specs for digital distribution and display of movies. Digital Cinema Initiatives, the group founded in 2002 to bring studios, theater owners and tech manufacturers together in planning an industrywide shift to digital cinema, released version 1.0 of its requirements and specifications yesterday.

Here's the doc -- PDF Link. out of all 175 pages, nearly half are devoted to antipiracy measures.

AES 128-bit encryption of each digital movie file is part of the security prescription, as are DRM provisions. During the spec unveiling at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, panelists representing studios, theater owners, and cinematographers sat onstage, flanked by giant gold Oscars statues. Some described the shift to digital as the "biggest technology upgrade in Hollywood since talkies."

Walt Disney Company SVP of Media Technology Bob Lambert characterized the antipiracy approach for d-cinema as "military- or defense-grade," even stricter than protections designed to keep consumer DVDs off filesharing networks. "Because this is a plan for securing a B2B system," said Lambert, "The cost can be higher and the measures stronger."

I asked a few tech experts outside of Hollywood for their take:

Security provisions in the DCI spec deal mostly with what happens in theaters, and detail an open security architecture that allows a variety of tech vendors to compete and hone their technologies over time. The system proposed by DCI relies on digital rights management, watermarking, content encryption and key management. Digital movie files are to be encrypted for transport and receipt by theaters, which then would use decryption keys to unlock the content. The system is also designed to generate a data forensics bread-crumb trail, with the intent of tracing piracy incidents after the fact back to the theaters in which they occurred.

Outside Hollywood, analysts' opinions on the feasibility of the DCI security specs were mixed. "The devil is in the details," said security analyst Bruce Schneier, "and this document doesn't contain the details."

"Tracking it to the theater won't help, because attackers with camcorders could just make their visits to theaters random," said security analyst Jacob Appelbaum of LogicLibrary. "It means that the camcorders just have to fit into the crowd, and then the theaters have a reason not to adopt this. It's already against the law."

Studio representatives acknowledge that the DCI security specifications do nothing to prevent in-theater copying of movies, which remains a top piracy method. "These technical solutions won't solve internal theft by camcorders," said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners. "But we're working on human-resources solutions and incentives to help address that part of the problem."

Others cited the difficulties involved in the plan's "forensic watermarking" provisions. "There's no such thing as a watermark that is both invisible and hard to remove, because by definition, a watermark that adds no perceptible information to a signal leaves no perceptible change behind after it is removed," said Cory Doctorow, European-outreach coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Link to Wired News story.