Friday, October 26, 2012

Softbank and the Long Now

My director at work brought up a 30 (or 300) year plan from Softbank in todays Ops review.  For the impatient, you can find the slides or a 2-hour video of Masayoshi Son presenting his 30 year vision.

What's this all about?  It's a long term vision - not quite on the 10,000 year scale of the Long Now Foundation but far more forward thinking than the typical quarter by quarter lurching of modern Fortune 500 publicly traded companies.  What is the vision all about?  Not profits, income or OIBIDA, but human knowledge and satisfaction with life.

Personally I've always worked toward making Wireless better for people.  Not selling phones, not checking boxes on spreadsheets, but making the whole wireless experience better for humans.  Helping people communiate with other people.  Do that right and you'll get the sales, the retention and the trust that makes a company profitalble. 

SOFTBANK works to make people happy
through information revolution.

The presentation starts out starkly - death, lonlieness, suicide and despair, quickly moving to what makes people happy - reaching directly into Maslow's Hirearchy of Needs, speaking to connecting with people and self actualization. After a quick comple slides on the company past and metrics, they jump right into some rather unique goals for a corporate entity:

Endeavoring to benefit society and
the economy and maximize enterprise value
by fostering the sharing of
wisdom and knowledge
gained through the IT revolution.

After a brief review of the past 300 years, they dive right into the Singularity.  Softbank forecasts our computational power will exceed the human brain in just 6 years; far faster than Ray Kurzwiel or Vernor Vinge or other futurists are predicting.  Softbank doesn't mince words - they simply state that one of their goals is to bring the brain / computer to life.  Son and Softbank aren't just futurists or tinkerers like Kurzweil; they are directly working to bring the future to life with cloud computing, instant speed networks and unlimited bandwidth.

They close out with this from Albert Einstein:

We exist for our fellow-men
- in the first place
for those on whose smiles and welfare
all our happiness depends,
and next for all those unknown to us
personally with whose destinies
we are bound up by the tie of sympathy.
-Albert Einstein

Originally published on the Sprint Community in our internal group.

Monday, October 22, 2012

WiFi density as an Economic Indicator

It's interesting that the neighborhoods with known lower income families have far less wifi access point density - the South West corner of the KC metro area is very high income and is nearly full, while the North East corner and North West corner of the KC metro area are lower income.

I'm sure someone with more time on thier hands could pull down the datasets and create a statistical correlation between income level and wifi access point density. 

Suprisingly as you zoom in the 'Leawood Hills' neighborhood in Johnson County is nearly blank, but the income levels there are off the charts.  Perhaps another statistical correlation - that's a lot of old folks living there who haven't caught up with technology yet.  Neighborhood age vs wifi denisty?

Or, since most of the data has been obtained by 'war driving' (driving around with a specific piece of software marking down the GPS location of each WiFi access point), perhaps that's a gated community with no access for the war drivers.

It's not 100% accurate - it has my neighbor, Flip, with his access point nearly a half a block away.  Mine is recorded twice  about 50 yards apart.


(data and map from )


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Watching TV

Cable is easy.  And boring.  But over the air TV reception is interesting.  I've always loved finding radio signals over the air - fascinating.  So, to watch TV in the Overland Park area, here's a few things I'll need.

First, an antenna (UHF will get all the stations available for 100+ miles).

Next, a wall mount - not drilling holes in the roof and the chimney is on the wrong side of the house for where I want to put the TV.

Since I want to get both Topeka and KC stations, plus try for some crazy stuff when we have storm conditions (tropo-ducting), I'll need an antenna rotator.

Wire that up with a bunch of wire and holes in the wall, then hook it to a good TV.  LG has the best reputation for OTA tuners followed by Sony and Samsung.  See what's on sale next year when I get around to doing this!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Who's Softbank? And did they just buy Sprint?

SoftBank, while not well-known in the United States, is a major player in Asia, where it’s one of the biggest Internet and telecommunications companies and is Japan’s third-largest wireless provider with more than 30 million customers.

Headquartered in Tokyo, the company has 22,500 employees, 196 subsidiaries and 97 related companies. SoftBank has a market capitalization of approximately $45 billion.

And the name? Software is called “soft” in Japanese – “SoftBank” literally means “a bank of software,” reflective of its aim to be a major services provider in the information era.

SoftBank operates as a holding company with five segments:

  • Mobile
  • Broadband
  • Fixed-line telecommunications
  • e-Commerce services
  • Information technology-related products 

The company has a very successful track record of improving its competitive position and driving mobile growth and financial performance in prior acquisitions. Softbank established Yahoo! Japan through a joint investment with Yahoo in 1996; subsequently they acquired Japan Telecom in 2004. In 2006, SoftBank acquired Vodafone K.K., the #3 mobile provider in Japan. Since the Vodafone acquisition, SoftBank has outperformed every other carrier and doubled its subscriber base. SoftBank also holds a large stake in China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba.

The company is headed by CEO Masayoshi (“Masa”) Son, an entrepreneur who founded SoftBank in 1981 as a distributor of computer software.

A third-generation son of a Korean family in Japan, Masa studied English and computer science before moving to the United States at the age of 16. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in economics and studied computer science.

And yes, they just offered to buy a majority stake in Sprint.  Sprint and SoftBank, a Japanese telecommunications and Internet corporation, announced a transaction that would give SoftBank a 70 percent ownership of Sprint for approximately $20 billion with $12.1 billion to be distributed to Sprint’s shareholders and $8 billion to strengthen Sprint’s balance sheet. 
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son made the announcement at a press conference in Tokyo.
This transaction would create a new, stronger Sprint. It would provide the kind of financial flexibility we need to grow into a stronger #3 wireless provider competing against much larger competitors. That’s good news for Sprint customers and all U.S. consumers of wireless services.
An improved cash position will allow Sprint to invest further in our network and customer experience. SoftBank is a leader in providing Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology to its subscribers and will provide valuable knowledge to help support Network Vision.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Planting grass

Summer heat killed off all of my bluegrass. Instead of renting a power rake and clearing out all the dead grass, I decided to turn the weed eater sideways and cut some stripes down to the Dirt. Then I seeded in with some Revolution fescue. A weeks worth of gentle watering and TahDah! grass stripes!

Revolution fescue grass seed blend is really incredible. It stays green all summer and winter long and never requires watering. When it is 115 degrees it will go dormant but comes right back once the temperature drops.

Electronic Pearl Harbor - Haven't we heard this before?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta smirked his way though a press conferece, apparently sourced from the 1997 recycle bin.  He claimed that we are on the bring of a 'Cyber Pearl Harbor', where 'terrists' would take control of our systems, introduce foreign substances into our precious bodily fluids, contaminate our water supplies and crash our trains like a giant Gomez Addams.

“The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be ‘cyber Pearl Harbor,’ ...” he said. (

Sounds familiar, eh?  At least to people who've been reading for a few years.  George Smith, security researcher, editor of Crypt newsletter and author of Virus Creation Labs has discussed this since the early 1990s.  The Pentagon has consistently refused to provide substantive proof, other than its say-so, and they continue to do so in the current warning from Panetta, as he spoke with business leaders in New York.  "No one explains precisely the how, whys, and wherefores of these apocalyptic scenarios," says George Smith, the editor of Crypt Newsletter, which covers computer security issues. "You always just get the assumption that chemical plants can be made to explode, that the water supply can be polluted--things that are even hard to do physically are suddenly assumed to be elementary because of the prominence of the Internet." (2002, Washington Monthly)

We've seen this before: 1997, "Experts prepare for 'an electronic Pearl Harbor'" (CNN); 1998, "U.S. Studies a New Threat: Cyber Attack" (Washington Post); and so on and so forth.

George Smith debunked this in 1998; most of the threats posed are overblown, bored kids, and realistically if your PC crashed 10% more, would you even notice?  Smith calls for more attention on basic computer security: 

"If organizations don't intend to be serious about security, they simply should not be hooking their computers to the Internet. DOD in particular would be better served if it stopped wasting time trying to develop offensive info-war capabilities and put more effort into basic computer security practices." - George Smith, 1998 (Issues in Science and Technology)
Fortunately, Panetta seems to be on a similar page, exhorting the business leaders to (after they get done lobbying Congress for more billions in defense dollars for cyber-war), 

"Help us innovate. Help us increase the nation’s cyber security by securing your own networks. Help us remain ahead of the threats that we confront,” he said. “By doing so, you will help ensure that cyberspace continues to bring prosperity to your companies and to people across the world.” - Leon Panetta, 2012 (

Disclaimer - I've been reading this stuff since it first came about in the mid 1990s.  I haven't a dog in the fight, but I do like to call bullshit when I see it.