CultureLick sings for net neutrality, led by Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg

culturelick-videoA group of wannabe-superstars from the tech world just released a video called “Bits Don’t Lie” (embedded below), a plea in favor of net neutrality based on the Shakira song “Hips Don’t Lie.”

The amount of musical talent on display is, uh, variable, but it definitely lays out the pro-neutrality argument in a memorable fashion. Sample lyric: “The bandwidth, the freedom, don’t you see, baby, this is so open.”

“Bits Don’t Lie” is the inaugural episode of a new web video show called CultureLick, with the goal of “taking an irreverent look at reverent issues — culture, music, fashion, art, technology, and the course of creativity in all of its forms and incarnations.” It’s hosted by artist/blogger/entrepreneur Drue Kataoka, who you may remember from her startup wedding registry, but the real stars of the first episode are Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg (whose weakness for appearing in music videos is well-documented) and venture capitalist Tim Draper (who has already proven that he’s immune to embarrassment).

As for net neutrality (the principle that internet providers must treat all traffic equally, regardless of the content or users involved), Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski has said he’s working to get the FCC to formalize its rules for enforcing neutrality.

Review: AT&T 3G MicroCell [TheAppleBlog]

AT&T’s latest solution to improving network coverage, making the customer pay more and leeching off broadband providers, also known as the AT&T 3G MicroCell, is now in public trials.

While the tiny cellular base station, or femtocell, is not yet available in places like New York or San Francisco, where the call drop rate is rumored to be as high as 30 percent for some iPhone users, it can be had in parts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. I live in Raleigh. How’s my coverage?


Despite the reassurance of AT&T’s coverage map, I’m lucky to complete a call with my iPhone 3GS from home. After several pained conversations with technical support, an AT&T engineer told me that the coverage map is based upon “mathematical models,” and that it might be the trees around the house interfering with my signal. Seriously.

Faced with clear cutting two acres of woods or chancing $150 on an AT&T 3G MicroCell, the choice seemed simple enough. My wife won’t let me have a chainsaw, so I decided to test the veracity of AT&T’s new slogan: five bar coverage in your home. The experience proved interesting.


The Process

Purchasing a MicroCell currently requires a trip to the local AT&T Store. A representative checked to see that I had a 3G phone with AT&T, any Internet broadband, and an eligible, local address. Lousy coverage is optional, but the experience survey that was not supposed to be sent home with me repeatedly mentioned the issue.

Having met the requirements, I purchased the MicroCell for $150, currently subject to regional rebates. In Raleigh, there are three: $50, $100, and $150, for subscribing to AT&T broadband, unlimited MicroCell calling, or both. For $19.99 per month I was offered the Unlimited MicroCell Calling Plan, allowing me to save my wireless plan minutes. Since I hate talking to people and have about a million rollover minutes, I declined.

I was then educated about how emergency services work—don’t move your MicroCell unless you tell AT&T and stay on the line when calling 911. Also, the MicroCell will only function in authorized regions—don’t eBay your MicroCell. The representative then offered to register it online right there, but where’s the fun in that?


At home, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple setup was. I logged into the MicroCell site with my wireless account info, entered the MicroCell serial number, and was presented with a list of approved users from my wireless plan. You can add more, up to a maximum of 10, but no more than four callers can use the MicroCell simultaneously. Physical setup was easy, too.

  1. Connect the included Ethernet cable to the MicroCell and a wireless router, or directly to the computer for those without a router.
  2. Power down everything, then power everything up.
  3. Anxiously wait approximately 90 minutes with an increasing amount of bile in the throat.


A series of flashing glyphs like something out of StarGate Atlantis indicate progressive success, or lack thereof. GPS lock may take awhile, and AT&T recommends placing the MicroCell within three feet of a window. I got GPS lock pretty quick, but the 3G indicator just kept flashing, then after about 90 minutes I lost GPS. While praying to whatever dark gods that live in the sky to hurl the GPS satellite into my house and end my telecom misery, I suddenly received a text message.


Replacing no bars and no network, there is now a signal indicator for the MicroCell that usually displays five bars and means it.

The Results

After several days of testing, I have yet to drop a call. Call quality ranges from good, a slight echoing the most common issue, to static-free excellence. Most often it’s the latter, and call quality is always better than the overpriced VoIP service from Time Warner Cable. As for data speeds, it’s like being on Verizon’s network, that is very good, but why settle for 3G when you have Wi-Fi at home?

There are a few issues with the MicroCell, though. The range is 40 to 60 feet in a straight line, but you better be living in a tent. So far, I’ve found signal quality degrading through multiple walls, especially when calling from the kitchen, the room farthest from the MicroCell. I’m still experimenting, but turning off Wi-Fi on the iPhone seems to increase both range and reception at extended distances for me. Should I pass beyond the range of the MicroCell, calls seamlessly transition to “No Service,” though most others will find themselves on AT&T’s wireless network. Be advised though, that transitioning works only one way.

There is one other potential performance issue. Should you be using computers for network intensive applications, like backing up online or torrenting. . . Ubuntu distributions, you may have problems during calls. Others said I was cutting out, though I heard them clearly. The MicroCell requires a minimum bandwidth of 1.5Mbps down and 256Kbps up. I have, in theory, 7Mbps and 512Kbps, respectively, but have been forced to do my perfectly legal bandwidth hogging at night. Still, that’s a minor inconvenience.

Overall, I am very pleased with the AT&T 3G MicroCell and give it the highest praise an Apple devotee can: it just works! Sure, there’s a $150 price tag on service AT&T should already provide, but it’s a price that I and many other long-suffering iPhone users will no doubt we willing to pay.

Acer Joins Android Army, Demotes Windows Mobile [jkOnTheRun]

android-logo1Fanbois and girls alike constantly debate the future mobile operating landscape. Is there room enough for all of the current platforms or will there be just a few? From a consumer standpoint, there’s room for plenty of competitors — after all, choice is good, right? But more choices can play havoc with the finances of the companies that produce handsets. With a fixed budget of resources — in a tight economy, no less — handset makers need to judiciously manage their resources and devote them strategically.

Acer is reportedly doing just that, says Digitimes, and they’re adding to the growing trend of phone makers who are joining the Android army.

The company’s focus will shift from Windows Mobile to Google’s operating system, with at least half of their 2010 phones running Android. Palm and Motorola have already enlisted at the expense of Windows Mobile, but neither was a particular big player when compared to other WinMo licensees. What I find fascinating about all this is that we’re not hearing phone makers switch to Android from any other platform besides Windows Mobile. That insinuates Android is seen as the future by several handset makers, because they don’t feel that Microsoft’s mobile OS can compete with Apple’s or RIM’s. It leaves them little choice and could set up two or three big mobile platforms owning the market majority.

But Windows Mobile clearly isn’t headed for the morgue just yet. LG is on-board as a recent licensee and plans over 50 handsets running WinMo. Version 6.5 of the operating system hits handsets next week and I’m already taking an early look at it. I can’t say more until next week, so stay tuned. And next year, Windows Mobile 7 offers Microsoft another chance to reinvent itself as a leader in this space. In fact, some analysts are already expecting that to happen — yesterday, iSuppli forecast that by 2012, WinMo will regain the second place worldwide smartphone market share it lost last year. iSuppli bases this on Microsoft as the only player to offer a “complete set of services that can assist clients in their customization and software integration efforts.

Back in the day, that might have been a strong selling point, but from where I stand, that’s not enough. If it were, would handset makers be jumping on the Android train one by one? Again, we can intelligently debate which OS is best for us, but at the end of the day, you can’t argue there’s a growing trend happening right before our eyes.

Twitter to roll out labs for experimental features

picture-22Twitter is launching a Google Labs-like area where engineers can roll out add-ons and other experimental functions for the social network.

Britt Selvitelle, a Twitter engineer, made the announcement earlier today at the Future of Web Apps conference in London, but didn’t release further details. The move comes the same month that Facebook unveiled its own testing area called ‘Prototypes’.

As social networks have made it dirt cheap to launch features affecting millions of users instantaneously, it’s become a necessity to have special areas to test features with a small number of interested users. It makes it easier to iron out bugs and to figure out what kinds of features users will have an appetite for.

Lemnis Lighting’s LED Bulb: It Dims But Costs $40 [Earth2Tech]

Lemnis_Pharox_PICStandard-household-sized LED bulbs have long raised a common complaint: They don’t dim easily. Yeah, some can be dimmed by controlling the current instead of the voltage, or by making them flicker at high speeds undetectable by the human eye, but homeowners can’t just plug them into their normal light sockets and expect their dimmers to work. But that looks to be changing, with the launch of an LED bulb to replace a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb from Netherlands-based Lemnis Lighting on Friday.

The company claims the bulb, called Pharox60, is up to 90 percent more energy-efficient — and lasts up to 25 times longer — than an incandescent bulb, and six times longer than a compact fluorescent bulb, with an estimated 25-year lifespan. According to the press announcement, the bulb features “technologically advanced” dimming capabilities, and a warm, soft glow, and is made of non-toxic materials than can be recycled with other metals and glass.

The company hopes the bulb will help it reach its commitment to the Clinton Global Initiative to distribute 10 million LED bulbs globally by the end of next year. The company also is partnering with the initiative to provide LEDs to U.S. cities.

Other dimmable LED bulbs – for applications like track and down lighting – have come out earlier this year from companies like EarthLED. But the arrival of dimmable LED bulbs that can act as plug-and-play replacements for standard-household-sized incandescents could open a potentially huge market, especially once the sale of incandescent bulbs starts phasing out in 2014. The bulb could have the greatest impact in existing homes, as these bulbs don’t require any building conversion, and other options already exist for new buildings under construction or ones that are being remodeled.

But with such an attractive market at stake, Lemnis is bound to see competition coming up fast. The $39.95 price tag will also be a deterrent for most customers, no matter how warm and soft the Pharox60’s glow is. Incandescent bulbs cost less than $1 each (33 cents per bulb at Home Depot) and dimmable compact fluorescent lights are available for less than $5 each (although some cost as much as $13 each). In the recession, it’s unclear how many buyers will feel the cost is worth it, even with the much longer lifespan and the electricity savings.

Russia’s DST raising stake in Facebook at $6.5 billion valuation

dstRussia’s Digital Sky Technologies is boosting its stake in Facebook by buying from existing shareholders, Reuters is reporting.

Offering the same $14.77 a share it put forward earlier in July, the Russian investment firm is turning to shareholders who aren’t Facebook employees to raise its holdings by up to $100 million. DST held a 3.5 percent stake in the company after a $200 million direct investment plus $100 million it spent purchasing current and ex-employee shares over the summer.

The move comes on the heels of Facebook’s announcement that it’s “free cash flow positive” or making money after setting aside capital to maintain and grow its technology infrastructure. SharesPost, a secondary market for more illiquid holdings in private equity or venture-backed companies, lists its highest offer at $14.42 a share, valuing the company at $5 billion.

DST is going after employee shares, which are valued far less than the preferred stock that other investors and DST already owns through its earlier round. The investors’ preferred shares include special privileges, typically including the right to re-invest, the right to sell their stock first, and possibly a board seat or two. Common stock is stock without privileges.

Facebook declined to comment.

“Hackerspace” i3 Detroit to Hold Grand Opening Tomorrow [WebWorkerDaily]

Picture 8Intriguing “hackerspace/makerspace” i3 Detroit is holding its grand opening tomorrow, with an open house between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m at its new facility at 322 East Fourth St. in Royal Oak, Mich., followed by a party that kicks off at 7 p.m. Unlike some run-of-the-mill coworking spaces, which tend to be more like a cross between an office and a coffee shop, i3 Detroit’s 1,500-square-foot facility contains an assortment of fabrication tools, a classroom and a stock of many common components to use during project builds, which according to founder Russ Wolfe should create “a collaborative environment for people to explore the balance between technology, art and culture.”

i3 Detroit is a non-profit organization, and paid membership ($100 per month) includes 24-hour entry to the facility, access to all tools and preferred admittance to classes.

If you’re involved with an unusual coworking project, tell us about it in the comments.