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The latest collection of snippets from the world of Telematics and Development.

Dear TAD friends, Attached please find the latest collection of snippets from the world of Telematics and Development. If a colleague has forwarded this message to you and you wish to receive it directly, please send an e-mail to [email protected] with a request to be added to the TAD Consortium list. Regards, Neil Butcher *************************** CONTENTS --------------------------- NEWS/TRENDS --- Web Spawns A New Breed Of Journalist --- The Declining State Of Editorial Craftsmanship --- DBAD launched --- BBC stops "commissioning" --- Technology For The Knowledge Workplace ONLINE RESOURCES --- Debating Literacy In Australia: A Documentary History, 1945-1994 --- Everything Postmodern --- Lesson planning strategies and MI by Clifford Morris and Branton Shearer --- ARTICLES --- Collaborative Learning In A Virtual Classroom --- Redesigning Learning Environments: Riverside Community College Adapts a Good Idea TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS --- Why Photonics? --- Will Interactive Internet Television Turn Into a Two-Headed Monster? --- Technology delivers Net access via power outlets *************************** NEWS/TRENDS ----------- Taken from NEWS-ON-NEWS/The Ifra Trend Report: No. 86 (21 March 2001) --- WEB SPAWNS A NEW BREED OF JOURNALIST (GERMANY) -- Online journalists are a new species, a fixed point amidst the ever-changing stream of information that constitutes today's news environment. In online journalism, there's never a final edition -- instead, there's a constantly retreating deadline that seems always just out of reach. For those journalists who can adjust to the new realities of news-reporting, the Internet has opened up the opportunity of giving up print altogether. One recent example of an Internet-only newspaper is the Netzeitung, launched last November in Berlin. "Our strength lies not with a staff of reporters who spend their time running around interviewing people, but instead is based on our knowledge and familiarity with the Internet," says Editor-in-Chief Michael Maier. Industry experts agree that the future of journalism is a convergence of print, television and online. And while lengthy news reports and a text-filled screen can be daunting to online readers, the shift to the Web gives journalists new opportunities for creativity in finding new ways to mesh words and images to tell a story. To meet the demand for "new" journalists, many traditional journalism schools are now including "writing for the Internet" in their course offerings, and the Axel-Springer-Verlag for the first time is allowing online news sites to compete for its annual journalism awards. (Die Welt 6 Mar 2001) ---------------------------------------- Taken from NEWS-ON-NEWS/The Ifra Trend Report: No. 86 (21 March 2001) --- THE DECLINING STATE OF EDITORIAL CRAFTSMANSHIP (USA) -- When publishing was more costly, and undertaken by a relative handful of companies, careful attention was generally paid to the craft of publishing: typesetting, page design, grammar, even spelling. Today, as technology has made it easier and cheaper for anyone to get his or her message out, much of the craft of the publishing business is being lost, according to Peter Zelchenko, president and chief technology officer for VolumeOne. "By the present day," he writes, "our responsibility to reproduce the written word faithfully has slackened; care has become lopsided toward the strictly visual, and even the visual has suffered." Zelchenko notes that today, editors who are sticklers for precision in grammar and punctuation are likely to be seen as "undemocratic." The role of the copy editor has diminished, or even disappeared, with digital spell-checking replacing the judgment and expertise of a dedicated wordsmith. As the Internet granularizes publishing, fostering a world where each article stands alone, rather than as part of a newspaper or magazine, even the broader editorial arts involved in creating a coherent publication are being devalued. (Institute for Cyber Information: Future of Print Media, Winter 2001) ---------------------------------------- Taken from Screen Africa News Bulletin 20 March 2001 --- DBAD launched Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri this weekend launched the Digital Broadcasting Advisory Body (DBAD) and a production counterpart, saying the bodies are to define technical standards and come up with content strategies that will encourage the localisation of broadcast content on the Internet. The 12-member DBAD is made up of technical and communications experts from industry and academia, while the SA Broadcasting Production Advisory Body consists of producers and broadcasters. The bodies were established under provisions in the White Paper on Broadcasting Policy and the Broadcasting Act. The department says the bodies' role will be to advise it on high-level policy in the sector, especially on ways to encourage growth, and to give input into other advisory processes such as Thabo Mbeki's presidential taskforces on technology and communications. Matsepe-Casaburri says the ideal is to devise a long-term strategy "to ensure that all South African lives are touched by and benefit from new digital technologies". The DBAD will be headed up by Alison Gillwald director of the LINK (Learning, Information and Knowledge) centre of the University of the Witwatersrand. ---------------------------------------- Taken from Screen Africa News Bulletin 20 March 2001 --- BBC stops "commissioning" DOCtv reports that the BBC is to stop "commissioning" programmes. The Corporation is instead to require that all future proposals contain online and interactive dimensions. Only such cross-platform programming will be commissioned. "The days of commissioning programmes are over, we are now only commissioning projects that have levels of interactivity. It is no longer viable to take programme pitches without interactive elements such as SMS, Internet or interactive TV," says BBC Controller of New Media Ashley Highfield. Programmes without interactive television rights will not be acquired by the BBC. ---------------------------------------- Taken from Techno Update - 23 March 2001 --- TECHNOLOGY FOR THE KNOWLEDGE WORKPLACE Gartner set out to establish how organisations will shift from traditional work settings and locations to the electronic workplace... There is no simple set of technologies or products which enterprises can turn to when looking for technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of knowledge work. Gartner identify four ways in which companies can manage knowledge: 1. Managing explicit knowledge: capturing knowledge in documents and making them available as needed. Focusing on leveraging knowledge which is ALREADY available in the enterprise. 2. Managing tacit knowledge: the role of an IT system is to help find people with knowledge and to support the interactions between them. 3. Creating new knowledge: the focus here is on "making more knowledge" as opposed to making better use of what it already has. The role of IT is to improve the infrastructure for collaboration. 4. Transferring knowledge: e-learning is emerging as a focus area - assisting new workers to become knowledgeable faster. Bottom Line "Too often, it is assumed that the workplace is created organically with minimal planning and direction." Source: Gartner *************************** ONLINE RESOURCES ----------- From The Scout Report for Social Sciences & Humanities, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2001. --- Debating Literacy In Australia: A Documentary History, 1945-1994 Posted by the Australian Literacy Federation, this history of Literacy in Australia draws on journalistic and educational sources to give the narrative of an enduring national debate in a country whose founders were often illiterate convicts. The text offers an extensive introduction to the debate and then divides into two sections. Part one presents the documentary history of the issue, placing the debate in its post World War II and then Cold War contexts. Part two discusses how to use this history to inform political, cultural, and educational debates on the topic. Originally published in 1994, the text was written by Bill Green and John Hodgens of Deakin University, and Allen Luke from the James Cook University of North Queensland. [DC] ---------------------------------------- From The Scout Report for Social Sciences & Humanities, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2001. --- Everything Postmodern Well, maybe not everything, but this Website, posted in 1999 and recently updated, offers plenty of links to materials on the Web about postmodernism and by postmodernists. The site has annotated links of online journals dealing with the postmodern, Websites devoted to the topic, and a directory of links devoted to well-known postmodern theorists, such as Foucault, Baudrillard, Habermas, Richard Rorty, and others (lists for some of the theorists are still under construction). For instance, if you want to read something online by the arch-deacon of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, this is a place to start. There is also an interesting collection of "fringe" resources, including such things as the Postmodern Bible which "is itself an illustration of the postmodern transformation of biblical studies for which it argues" and other similarly tantalizing sites. The site is maintained by Gregory Broquard, an erstwhile philosophy graduate student interested in questions of epistemology and skepticism. [DC] ---------------------------------------- Taken from MI-News Vol. 3, No.1 Spring 2001 --- Lesson planning strategies and MI by Clifford Morris and Branton Shearer In this issue, we continue the practice of bringing to your attention a series of ideas associated with the whole notion of classroom lesson planning and possible teaching strategies that approach the Multiple Intelligences of Howard Gardner. Some of the lesson plans are directed to special education students, while others are geared towards the regular elementary and high school student. To view these ideas, go to ---------------------------------------- Taken from NETWORKING 5:6 --- A new site devoted to educational technology has made its debut on the web. was launched earlier this year "to encourage debate on the merits and pit falls of using educational technology in real schools." The site features a small link library, guest articles, a discussion forum, a "site of the month," and a collection of relevant writings. It hasn't been around long enough to have much in the way of guest articles or discussion, so for now the most useful part is the collection of writings. Eighteen authors are currently represented, and they are grouped into three categories -- edtechnot, edtechyes, and edtechmaybe. For each author, there is a long list of links to online texts, author information, and publication information. These are interesting to browse, and they would be useful for those looking to support or undermine a position on educational technology (in the discussion forum or elsewhere).'s creator is Jim Forde of Forde Multimedia Consulting. The site offers no background information about either the person or the company; the site's subject and a photo of Mr. Forde looking teacherly suggest that he is a K-12 educator. Regardless, he hopes that "will be a refreshing change from the corporate 'rah-rah' associated with each new product launch" and that it will also "encourage those who are feeling battered by the increasingly trendy 'techno-phobic' side of the issue." The site has promise: it has a strong focus, a visually unified design, and some good content. It could be greatly improved by some annotation of the linked sites and texts; some links go directly to a full text, while others point only to a publication's listing on Amazon. The discussion forum needs some structure if it is to go anywhere -- scheduled events with some of the edtechnot/edtechyes authors would be interesting, for example. However, the site is very new and these things may come with time. *************************** ARTICLES ----------- COLLABORATIVE LEARNING IN A VIRTUAL CLASSROOM Lessons Learned and a New Set of Tutor Guidelines National Teaching and Learning Forum Feb. 2001 Volume 10 Number 2 Dr. Julie Ann Richardson Kings College London Anthony Turner Canterbury Christ Church University College In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of "technology and education" publications, from Computer Assisted Learning (CAL), to the use of multimedia applications in distance education, to the use of the World Wide Web as a resource in the traditional classroom, to the virtual learning environment or classroom. Since 1991, when it was released as a component of the larger Internet, the Web has grown greatly as an informal and formal instructional environment, and Web-based instruction is now being offered by an ever-increasing number of institutions all over the world. However, there is little in the literature about the process of creating or adapting a traditional university course to an online format. In addition, few publications about this topic are written from the perspective of the tutor who is not a technology expert. The Web Came upon Us In 1998 virtual learning environments were introduced to the university to promote the use of distributed learning in undergraduate courses. Module tutors [i.e., instructors] were encouraged to rewrite modules for this method of teaching and learning. During 1999-2000 we designed and carried out an extensive and ambitious evaluation of the use of virtual learning environments across the university. As part of this evaluation we have described what we learned from the process of developing a series of online courses for the first time, and the opportunities and constraints inherent in the process. This part of the evaluation focuses on one particular element of the virtual classroom--the interactive communication systems that give students the opportunity to communicate and discuss their courses asynchronously. What's There The various types of asynchronous systems--e-mail, listservs, and conferencing--allow participation from different locales and at times convenient to the individual student. Synchronous tools, such as chat rooms, voice-based teleconferencing, or video conferencing, allow tutors and students tointeract at the same time but from different places. At present no single mode or technology dominates because the availability of equipment varies, as do the goals of various institutions and the teaching styles of individual instructors. The Experience of It It has become evident from interviews with students taking part in these modules that their perception and the "reality" of virtual interaction were different from face-to-face traditional classroom interaction. Most such interaction lacked the visual,kinesthetic and sound cues that facilitate communication. Most virtual interaction took place asynchronously where students and instructor posted messages at different times and from different locations. Perhaps as a consequence, it did not have shared sociolinguistic conventions to guide the initiation, development and closure of group discussions. There is little research about the nature of virtual interaction and few models for tutors and students to follow. The following comments show students' recognition that this form of learning is uncharted territory fraught with new frustrations: I think [the problems we have been having] are because in this new kind of learning we can't do the same kind of things that we do in our normal seminars . . . I mean that, in a way, I don't know what we are supposed to do with it. It seems unnatural that we have to think about what we want to s ay instead of just saying it. It's difficult as well to work out what the "tone" of the conversationis. And I feel like I'm letting the world know how good I am. I don't like the way you say something and then you have to keep on checking to see if any students or the tutors have responded . . . it's frustrating. They also seem to drag on a bit with no-one really saying anything useful. ... another problem is that people keep starting new discussions so it gets disjointed. After initial analyses of the data collected from interviews, and conversation analysis performed on the actual discussions taking place, we have arrived at two conclusions. Findings 1.Effective communication is not happening virtually, which is leading to fragmentation of a learning community with feelings of isolation and confusion among some students. 2.We need a set of guidelines to help facilitate online discussions. Planning Guidelines In an effort to progress through this rather significant problem, we drafted a set of proposed guidelines for "virtual" communication and asked a group of students and tutors to review them and make suggestions for revisions. Frank comments like the following offered genuine help in redrafting our test set: "We have to accept that the dynamics of posting on Lotus are different from the seminar discussions. At the same time, some of us, and I include myself here, need to remember that the courseroom is a discussion, not a chance to wax eloquent. All lecturers, regardless of training, like being in front of the class. . . . It takes mighty strong medicine to stop us from turning responses into mini lectures." We are currently test-piloting the following procedural guidelines to see whether, with such a set of guidelines, discussions, and thus students'experience of online learning, can be improved. Prerequisite Assumptions Before a module begins, tutors should be well versed in good practice in courseroom discussions. They should also have their own resource bank of information and guides for students to assist them in their discussions.These may include: good examples of successful courseroom discussions; guidelines for how to read and reflect critically on seminar papers; guidelines for working effectively as a team. The Pilot Guidelines 1.Tutors should clearly state (for their own benefit) the purpose of the discussion--asking themselves, How will this discussion help each student to achieve the learning outcomes in terms of skills, knowledge and understanding? They should also be clear in their own minds why the courseroom is the best method of developing these outcomes. 2.Students and tutor should, at the beginning of a module, spend time raising the metacognitive strategy awareness of the participants. (In other words, How is this going to help me . . . ?) 3.Tutors and students should come to mutual understanding and agreement about the style of writing and conventions they will adopt during discussions. This is most effectively achieved during a face-to-face tutorial/seminar. 4.Courseroom discussions should be linked either formally or informally with assessment arrangements, and these expectations should be communicated clearly to students. 5.The tutor clearly states the minimal number of postings expected,per student, per discussion. 6.To initiate a discussion, the tutor posts course questions or issues, using concise and clear language. Students respond directly to the question or issue, keeping their responses short and to the point. 7.The tutor models how to facilitate virtual discussions. When students feel comfortable with the new medium, student-led discussion should be encouraged. When using a seminar format,students, individually or in small groups or dyads, are given opportunities to identify critical issues in the lectures and readings, and lead discussions related to those and other related topics, because (as research shows--Harasim, et al., 1997) active student involvement strategies are an effective way of promoting student critical thinking and interaction. 8.Students should communicate with the tutor via e-mail to make suggestions for discussion topics. The tutor should then use these as (1) an opportunity to take advantage of students' own questions as a starting point, (2) a basis for modeling the skills required to ask effective questions, and (3) a means of building a one-to-one relationship with individual students. 9.The tutor or facilitator should act as moderator of the discussion, guiding individual students if their contributions do not follow the agreed conventions. 10.The tutor or facilitator should continually evaluate the "academic" contributions students are making. For example, is there evidence students are supporting their views with self-study? Is there evidence that students are developing their skills of critically evaluating/responding to assigned texts, as well as each other's contributions? The tutor should use e-mail messages to encourage participation and positively reinforce contributions made. 11.When new or related topics arise during an ongoing discussion, the tutor or facilitator should start a new conversation. Tutors need to decide whether this is best run concurrently or consecutively. 12.The tutor should advise students of the days when she or he will visit the conferencing environment to participate in ongoing discussions, or check on them. 13.Discussions should occur during a specified time frame. For example, students may have two weeks to participate in ongoing discussions, starting with the date of their first posting. The conversations are then closed. 14.Once a discussion is closed tutors should provide feedback to all participants via the courseroom which 1) summarizes the discussion and conclusions made, 2) refers students to further reading, etc., and 3) evaluates the quality of the students' overall contributions. This responsibility could also be given to one or more facilitators. These guidelines are currently being adopted. All tutors who are involved in the module have been introduced to each of the points above and given opportunities to discuss with each other their most effective implementation. References Crossman, D.M. 1997. "The Evolution of the World-Wide-Web as an Emerging Instructional Technology Tool." In Web-Based Instruction, B. Khan, ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: EducationalTechnology Publications), 19-23. Harasim, L., Hiltz, S.R., Teles, L., & Turoff, M. 1997. Learning Networks (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press). Khan, B. 1997. "Web-Based Instruction (WBI): What Is It and Why Is It?" In Web-Based Instruction, B. Khan, ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications), 5-18. Kirkwood, A. 1999. "New Media Mania: Can Information and Communication Technologies Enhance the Quality of Open and Distance Learning?" Distance Education 8:228-241. Murray, D. 1998. "The Context of Oral and Written Language: A Framework for Model and Medium Switching." Language in Society 17:351-73. Richardson, J.A. & Turner, A.E. 2000. "A Large-scale Local Evaluation of Students' Experiences Using VLEs." Educational Technology and Society Sneiderman, B. 1998. Designing the User Interface Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley). Walther, L., Anderson, J., & Park, D. 1994. "Interpersonal Effects in Computer Mediated Interaction: A Meta-analysis of Social and Antisocial Communication." Communication Research 4:460-87. Stefanov, K., Stoyanov, S. & Nikolov, R. 1998. "Design Issues of a Distance Learning Course on a Business on the Internet." Journalof Computer Assisted Learning 14:83-90. Woolley, D.R. 1996. Contact: Dr. Julie Ann Richardson Kings College London 3rd Floor, Weston Education Centre Cutcombe Rd London UK SE5 9RJ Telephone: +44 207848 5718 E-mail: [email protected] Anthony Turner Faculty of Education Canterbury Christ Church University College North Holmes Road Canterbury UK CT1 1QU Telephone: +44 1227 782880 E-mail: [email protected] ---------------------------------------- Taken from The Pew Learning and Technology Newsletter, March 2001 --- Redesigning Learning Environments * Riverside Community College Adapts a Good Idea Earlier editions of this newsletter described the Virginia Tech (VT) Math Emporium that opened in 1998 with the objectives of increasing both the amount of math that students learned and the content retained as they moved on to other courses, and serving more students with fewer resources. In the last issue, the lead story described the redesign projects at two other institutions-- University of Alabama and the University of Idaho--that modified the VT design and adapted it to suit the needs of their students. Since all three of these institutions are research universities, the question naturally arises as to whether this model can work in other settings. It can! After careful investigation and consideration of their own situation, Riverside Community College (RCC) has established a Math Collaboratory for community college students taking Elementary Algebra. Enrolling 3600 students each year in 72 sections in the traditional model, Elementary Algebra was taught exclusively in didactic lecture format with minimal student-faculty interaction. Although lecture permits presentation to a large group, it does nothing to address the students’ diverse learning styles, their widely varied preparation, or their need to experience math actively in order to learn it. The most significant academic problem in the course was the decreasing student success rate (defined as a grade of C or better), which had deteriorated to below 50% since fall, 1992. Simultaneously, the student repeat rate for the course had increased to at least 30%. Student retention was very poor, with many students simply giving up and dropping out. Two factors compounded this problem: 1) RCC offers open admissions and attracts a significant population of students who need remedial help (e.g., in fall, 1999, only 4% of entering students could do college-level math), and 2) part-time faculty, who traditionally are not as available to students as full-time faculty, are now even less available due to a new calendar structure and a strong local economy. Like many institutions, RCC needs to educate the same number of students, increase their success rate, and decrease the repeat rate while teaching the course with fewer faculty Launched in February, 2001, the redesign model at RCC incorporates many of the features of the Virginia Tech Math Emporium. RCC has eliminated the four weekly class meetings required previously and established computer facilities at each of the three participating campuses (Moreno Valley, Norco and Riverside). While faculty are offering two weekly Spotlight Sessions focused on areas that faculty know give students difficulty, attendance at them is optional. Any student who wishes may work through the material independently on a structured, but flexible, schedule without attending any classes. Riverside has also developed some special features important to their setting. The Math Collaboratory will include audio-visual lessons on CD, a tutorial system designed particularly for RCC students, and links to online tutoring available through the textbook publisher. Because many of the students are new to the college experience, Riverside has incorporated an extensive math tutorial and counseling support system at the several sites involved. Students in Elementary Algebra will have the support of a dedicated counselor to work on college study habits and time-management skills. Those additional aspects offer a variety of human and technological resources to address different student learning styles and needs. Part of the planning for this project involved review of commercial software products available for teaching math. The Collaboratory makes use of a Web-based artificial intelligence program (ALEKS) that generates individualized assessments, study plans, and active learning sets for homework. Students will take a midterm exam using Quzmaster software. Each lab also includes spaces for paper and pencil activities. To offer assistance to students, an instructor and tutors are always on duty in the lab. The redesign project required that math faculty members standardize the Elementary Algebra curriculum. This was a monumental task, accomplished through a common final-exam committee and a common syllabus committee. The two committees rewrote the course outline of record, developed common midterm exams, standardized the final exam, developed a session-by-session outline of material for spotlight sessions that coordinate with ALEKS topics, and designed worksheets to be used by students as lab activities in the redesigned course. All instructors teaching redesigned courses have agreed to use the common materials. An assessment committee has prepared surveys and a pretest that will be administered to all students taking a redesigned course. The goals of the redesign at RCC are to encourage students to take an active role in their own learning, building on timely assessment, preferred learning styles, and faculty guidance, and to move from a seat-time model to one based on subject matter mastery. The redesign will produce a 45% cost-per-student reduction from $206 to $113, an annual savings of $333,576. Additional savings will result from freeing classrooms for other classes, reducing student repeat rates, and increasing retention rates. Riverside Community College is modeling this new learning environment on the success of the Virginia Tech Math Emporium while customizing the scale and focus of their efforts. RCC is leveraging the power of information technology to establish an individualized, learning environment suitable to students' needs. And it is reducing the cost-per-student, while increasing the quality of the learning experience. The redesign project at Riverside Community College provides further evidence that “learning math by doing math” is a good model. While some of the attributes of this design differ from those at other institutions, the basic model of providing a customized, flexible learning environment works in multiple settings. For additional information about this project, visit or contact Anthony Beebe at [email protected]. *************************** TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS ----------- Taken from BIZMODELS: The Business Model Insider, March 21, 2001 --- WHY PHOTONICS? by Steve Jurvetson Why are carriers bending over backwards to spend large sums of money on the unproven products of photonics startups? What has collapsed the cozy seven-year product life cycles of the traditional telecom equipment companies? Why does JDS Uniphase have a larger market capitalization than Yahoo? When asked for the touchstone industry for a hypothetical remake of The Graduate for the year 2001, why do most VCs, respond: "One word: photonics." Demand for photonic equipment is skyrocketing. Internet traffic on the backbone networks has been doubling every three months and shows no sign of abating. Companies are laying fiber in just about every cross-country right-of-way they can find. First it was along the railways, and now it's the gas pipelines, sewers, and just about any conduit you can think of. Although the fiber-miles deployed are dramatic, it will be unable to keep up with demand, and the laying of fiber optic cable is still a very costly proposition - one that does not lend itself to Moore's law. Companies like Ciena (, that can squeeze magnitudes more bandwidth from the existing fiber in place, have a very attractive value-pricing proposition for the carriers. The first order of equipment from Ciena was a $50 million tab. Deploying new DWDM equipment at the terminus of an existing fiber line is much cheaper than a backhoe crew laying new fiber, which costs over $250,000 per mile. With all this bustle, why are the optical backbones feeling the crunch? In a nutshell, we have a Web of random access mapped onto a hierarchically-deployed network. Like running a firehose through a funnel, the top of the network pyramid will choke the worst of all. Data networks have been deployed with a set of outdated assumptions about the patterns of traffic. Pre-Internet, computers were used primarily for computation and personal productivity. Today they are used primarily for communication. This shift has a profound impact on the ideal network topology. The vast majority of data access used to be from the local hard-drive, with an occasional file or print service over a local area network. Occasionally, the departments would communicate with the enterprise server. Inter-company communication was a rare activity over private trunk lines. It is a classic "trickle-up" hierarchy with a strong set of statistical assumptions about the locality of reference. Fast forward to today. The Web has blown apart the historical assumptions about traffic flows. The enterprise desktop communicates with computers all over the world. It's no longer a custom EDI project; it's a daily occurrence that almost every computer is connecting to some new computer with little sense of physical or network proximity. Web-hosted services and Office2000 continue to blur the distinction between local and remote files. ASPs,, and soon, streaming applications enabled by companies like Appstream (, will transfer more of the application logic from the PC hard-drive to the network. It's a wild web of data access mapped to a neat presumption of hierarchy. The LAN connection to the corporate desktop is not the bottleneck. In fact, the growth in photonic backbone traffic dramatically exceeds the sluggish upgrade of desktop connectivity. It's the pattern of traffic, not the capacity of the end-nodes. There are several bottlenecks up the networking chain from WAN to Metro connectivity that are also a byproduct of increasing inter-company communications. Rather than purchase mainframe-sized monolithic telecom access equipment from the traditional vendors, the modern CLECs are buying highly adaptable and flexible systems from new companies like Cyras ( These new companies are like the workstation vendors competing with the mainframes. Many of the shortcomings of the mainframe - from glacial product development cycles to cumbersome application programming - apply to the incumbent telecom equipment companies. As with all disruptive technologies, new companies are leading the charge. Such systems are also changing the economics of how carriers compete-the inefficiencies of legacy networks are losing ground to next generation networks that have greater capacity and functionality and yet occupy a fraction of the real estate in the central office. For a variety of reasons related to the basic physics of bandwidth capacity, photons are more effective than electrons for data transport. There is a common misperception that fiber is better than wire because photons are faster than electrons. Both are close enough to the speed of light to be a non-issue. The key is that photons have no mass and thus can carry higher frequency signals that encode more information per second. In other words, more bandwidth. At two terabits-per-seconds, fiber carries one million times as much bandwidth as a T1 line or DSL link. Put another way, a single fiber can now carry 30 million simultaneous phone calls. The lack of photon mass provides other benefits over electrons; there is less heat generated (the primary cause of failure in electrical systems), less power consumed, and thus, the lowest cost per unit of bandwidth-distance delivered. Compared to the electronics industry, the photonics industry is in the developmental equivalent of the vacuum tube era. The photonic components companies have mastered the black art of precise hand assembly of discrete elements that need to be aligned with micrometer-level precision. The insertion loss budget, or optical throughput efficiency, of these systems is a concatenation of the losses that occur at each discrete interface. Draper Fisher Jurvetson was the seed investor in Lightwave Microsystems (, a company that is taking the next logical step: optical integrated circuits (OICs). This breakthrough offers performance, miniaturization and mass-manufacture cost benefits that the IC had on the electronics world. Electronic and photonic ICs are built on silicon wafers with similar manufacturing equipment. Rather than aluminum wires, the OIC uses silica glass waveguides, and rather than doped polysilicon transistors, the OIC uses doped polymers as active switching elements. But both involve the mass-manufacture of multiple integrated devices on a silicon wafer. The discrete hand-assembled approach will go the way of the vacuum tube. To date, most of the photonics industry relates to data transport. With optical ICs and MEMS mirror arrays, the all-optical switching function is on the horizon. Initially, active optical switches will be used as add-drop muxes for pulling optical off-ramps from the multilane highways - the SONET rings of the metro area. With optical switches, the functions of service provisioning and fail-over protection become much more efficient than optical-to-electrical-to-optical conversion. A handful of these MEMS mirror companies have recently been acquired for multiple billions of dollars. This is well before they had a working prototype! These switching applications are for network deployment - an infrequent activity that requires only millisecond switching speeds. The core switches of the Internet, the ones that route the packets of information at blazing speeds, are still electrical switches at their core. The photonics industry is still a far way from all-optical switches that match the incredible speeds and density of state-of-the-art electronics. To understand the challenges in the core switching market, think of routing Internet packets like trying to get taxicabs through Manhattan at rush hour. You could have one massive computer that runs a global optimization routine and radios in commands to each taxi. This might work for small towns, but as you scale to larger and larger cities, you would need a networking supercomputer to keep up. This is the approach of Juniper and Cisco and almost every current switch vendor (these companies strain to deliver 80Gbps, a far cry from the 2000Gps that Ciena can deliver on a single fiber). Without a paradigm shift, the core of the Internet will fail to scale. Enter the entrepreneurs again. Brightlink ( is pioneering a different and infinitely scalable approach. They let each taxi cab make local optimization decisions based on local congestion (e.g., Fifth Avenue looks badly backed-up; I'll try jogging over to Sixth). The decisions are local; the algorithms can run very quickly, and it doesn't matter how big the city is. It is a system topology that maps well to the Internet itself. Equipment is not discarded during upgrades; rather, more taxis, or switch chips, are appended as the system grows. Of course, it's a bit more complex since Brightlink does not have to think about a 2D surface maps of roads; so they implement a multi-dimensional hypertorus of connections, but the analogy to a street map with many directional options is pretty close. Ryan Hankin Kent estimates that the market for Optical Core Transport Systems, which did not exist in 1999, will reach $7.3 billion by 2003. Carriers need to spend, and spend big, on these systems to avoid bottlenecks at the top of the networking hierarchy, and keep the Internet running at rush hour. ---------------------------------------- Will Interactive Internet Television Turn Into a Two-Headed Monster? By Gary Chapman Copyright 2001, The Los Angeles Times, All Rights Reserved It should come as no surprise that the Internet is headed to a very familiar technology: your television. The idea of merging TV and the Web typically has been greeted with scorn, skepticism and disbelief among heavy Internet users. Critics of the concept have pointed out that the Internet is a "lean-forward" technology of active engagement, whereas TV is a "lean-back" technology of passive absorption. However, market studies have shown that at least one in four Internet users watches TV while online, and companies are keen on catching the interest of these "multi-taskers." There are also new kinds of content on the Web that might be better suited to TV than to the PC monitor, and at least one of these innovative, interactive Web TV systems is Linux-based. But plainly, some of these new Internet-based interactive TVs are not likely to convert critics. For example, Microsoft's WebTV -- a set-top box and subscription service that allow limited Web and e-mail access on a TV screen -- is being replaced by the company's new UltimateTV platform. And giant AOL Time Warner is rolling out AOLTV at the same time. Both of these services will feature Internet access on TV as well as the features found in products such as TiVo or ReplayTV, which let TV viewers record programs on a hard drive or stop and replay live TV broadcasts. Both UltimateTV and AOLTV also will provide unique content to subscribers, a step toward both services becoming new, national TV networks. But AOLTV and UltimateTV still have the constraints that hard-core Internet users disdain: the low resolution of current TV screens, which makes Web pages look cartoonish and often unreadable; the "dumbed-down" look and feel of services oriented to people who feel intimidated by a personal computer; and the overwhelming sense that interactive TV is aimed primarily at vacuuming users' wallets. Among longtime Internet users there is a widespread contempt for commercial TV and its "lowest-common-denominator" marketing and programming, and thus irritation that the Internet might be pulled in this direction by the likes of Microsoft and AOL. There are some emerging alternatives for interactive, Internet-based TV that might appeal even to the critics. A company in Santa Ana called Ch.1 ( is working with TV set producers such as Princeton Graphics and Sylvania to hook high-definition, digital TVs directly to the Internet. The Ch.1 system, which is both the hardware inside a digital TV and a subscription service, allows full access to the Internet through any Internet Service Provider, even high-speed cable and DSL services, and the high-definition sets display Web pages and e-mail the same way they appear on computer screens. The Ch.1 TV sets offered now run a modified version of the open source operating system, Linux. Ch.1 is using Linux in the hope it will lure designers to write applications for example to transfer data to Palms and other hand-held computers, and embedding certain kinds of video and audio formats in the system. "We don't see our product as a replacement to the PC but as a supplement to it," says Rey Roque, vice president of Ch.1. Today, there's a lot of content emerging on the Web that can be viewed or heard, such as streaming video, Internet radio, MP3 music, weather maps, sports scores, online games, large graphics such as photographs and Flash animations. All of these things become more accessible with a fast broadband connection to the Internet. The Web site (, for example, lists hundreds of live and recorded Web events in video or audio formats, everything from talking pundits at the Cato Institute in Washington to an interview with a Belgian dominatrix. There's every reason to believe that people will watch a wide variety of Web content online through their TV sets, sharing the experience with others. There also are growing opportunities for creating audio and video content for others to see. Apple Computer's user-friendly (and free) iMovie software is being used by thousands of people to create quick and interesting video files. The Independent Media Center, whose Los Angeles branch was created during the Democratic Convention last year, allows people to post video and audio files (under 100 megabytes) on the Web for free ( It's obvious that a battle is shaping up about whether the Internet will quickly become dominated by giant companies that will mimic the programming and advertising models of TV today, or an explosion of creative and diverse content gradually will replace mass-market programming. Whichever model wins will have an immense effect on society for years to come. Gary Chapman is director of The 21st Century Project at the University of Texas. He can be reached at [email protected]. ---------------------------------------- Technology delivers Net access via power outlets HANOVER, Germany (AP) Imagine every electric socket in your home transformed into a phone jack that delivers phone calls, e-mails and video to your fax machine, computer and even television set. That's what a group of companies are promising at CeBIT, the world's largest computer and technology fair, with a Florida firm saying the technology will be in U.S. stores by June. Known as powerline, the system transmits telephone call data over regular electric wiring. It is catching on in Europe and Asia and could turn local power companies into competition for global telecom companies. "Everybody has electric wiring already all over their house," said Amit Yudan, director of Communication, an Israeli company developing the technology. "This turns every socket in the house into a communication point." is testing the system in six European countries, with its biggest project in Mannheim, Germany, where 200 families get their telephone and high-speed Internet service through local power company MVV. The country's biggest electricity provider, RWE, is also on board with plans to hook up 20,000 people with Internet connections by the end of the year, and another 130,000 with Internet and phone connections in 2002. Source: SIEMENS DISAGREES German electronics group Siemens AG said on Tuesday it was halting work on powerline, because it saw no chance of a mass-market application in the short term. It said it expected better growth opportunities in sales of asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) technology, which provides high-speed Internet connections through traditional telephone networks. Analysts say powerline's ability to take off will depend on whether it can compete on price with broadband ADSL services offered by Deutsche Telekom, which has already sold 850,000 lines. Smaller German utilities have already announced plans to launch powerline Net access this summer. Mannheim-based MVV is expecting to connect 3,000 homes and EnBW will link up 7,500 customers in the southwestern town of Ellwangen. But RWE's main domestic rival E.ON, which is testing powerline with Finnish telecom operator Sonera, is not yet ready to offer the service to customers. Source: *************************** Telematics for African Development Consortium P.O. Box 31822 Braamfontein 2017 Johannesburg South Africa Tel: +27 +11 403-2813 Fax: +27 +11 403-2814 [email protected] * To view an archive of previous updates visit: * For resources on distance education and technology use in Southern Africa visit: ***************************