An interesting account of the virtues of using VOIP in Dubai from AP tech writer Jim Krane. But there's a sting in the tail where Jim worries that the Emitrates government may join the list of those blocking VOIP calls
Etisalat, the Emirates' government-owned telecom and Internet provider, is reported to be interested in buying software that will block all Skype calls on its network -- apparently because free calls are luring away customers who are loath to pay its monopoly prices
In October IEEE Spectrum ran an article that listed Saudi Arabia, and possibly Egypt as countries employing VOIP blocking technology, and telco companies in Germany and France are reportedly considering similar systems (Slashdot also notes China Telecom is doing the same in Shenzen). And the Spectrum article hinted that at least one US broadband supplier may be contemplating using VOIP blocking software. If VOIP blocking does occur in Europe or the US I wonder how long it will be before this behaviour comes to the attention of competition authorities? It would be interesting to see what view they might take of telco's protecting revenues by filtering out the competition. Answers on a postcard please.
DARPA Grand Challenge Podcast
DARPA Grand Challenge: Finally the podcast, more a soundseeing tour, of the DARPA Grand Challenge, the $2million race for "robotic" cars. Motoring history was made on Sat. October 8th as a converted Volkswagen Touareg became the first vehicle to successfully navigate itself round the course, 131.6 miles of the Mojave desert. DARPA, the advanced research wing of the US Department of Defense organised the race, but didn't directly fund any of the teams who entered the challenge. Given the obvious applications of robot vehicles in Iraq and elsewhere, in research teams the race delivered " a lot of bang for their buck" and I suspect will be a model of its kind.
So what's next? The USAF already has robotic flight well under development with unmanned planes like the Predator; though these are remotely controlled the time-lag in relaying commands means they posses a small degree of autonomy already. Autonomy on the ground is hard to accomplish..there will always be too many variables for much more than routine applications - or "leader follower" type systems where a human is in the loop directing a convoy. To my mind the obvious next step is the Navy. Under the sea, even at shallow depths, the terrain is pretty uniform, obstacles are few and easily avoided with the same 3 dimensional possibilities available to aeroplanes. Transport ships should be the first to be replaced by robotic "liberty ships" or for hi-value assets ,robot submarines. Next expect an anti-ship version of the Predator; a small nuclear powered robot submersible. Without a human crew it shouldn't need to dock or surface, and should be capabable of diving to much greater depths. And it will be much less expensive to build than conventional submarines.
Podcast Paul put me onto this cool if ever so slightly spooky service that lets you visualize where visitors to your site have come from using Google maps - unfortunately I don't think it would work with feeds so still no real way of tracking the listenership though.
Gizmo vs Skype
Over at our production notes section we have a discussion and round-up of the merits of Skype vs the new voice over internet phone system Gizmo. As you know Skype is great for podcasters allowing high quality voice conversations with far flung places like (as in these posts) London,India and Iran . Gizmo has some nice reatures, in particular one-touch recording will appeal to many podcasters.
There are some suggestions that Gizmo's call quality is better. I've not tested it enough to know - and with few users at the moment I think it's too early to tell - but if you've installed it and want to help out with a few test calls we can throw up as a podcast get in touch. For more read the full post..