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IPTV - Broadband Infrastructure set for Massive Overhaul

TelkomAs anybody following the technology media of South Africa knows, Telkom is preparing to enter the subscription television arena via their fixed line infrastructure, utilising IPTV (Internet Protocol Television). "A general definition of IPTV is television content that, instead of being delivered through traditional broadcast and cable formats, is received by the viewer through the technologies used for computer networks." [wikipedia.org]

There is absolutely no way that IPTV could function on today's broadband infrastructure at a decent video resolution. There is no future for IPTV in a capped environment, as a 3Gb cap would get ravished by the shear bandwidth IPTV requires within a couple of hours. Youtube eating your bandwidth? Don't even think of streaming IPTV. The cost of seven hours of IPTV viewing on existing broadband packages was calculated to be about R680, excluding subcription costs.[IOLTechnology]

Currently, the cost of IPTV would simply be astronomical. That Telkom is sincere in their IPTV plans is a definite sign that the South African internet infrastructure is set for a massive overhaul. Telkom media spokesperson, Chris van Zyl says the following, “IPTV will not be delivered on SA's existing infrastructure. Telkom is busy with the roll-out of its next-generation network using ADSL 2+ technology. This technology enables the IPTV traffic to be separated from the Internet traffic. We don't know what decisions will be made about the capping of Internet traffic, but the IPTV traffic will be uncapped and will not impact on a customer's Internet usage at all,”

The question, however, is whether consumers will not only see uncapped and high-bandwidth IPTV connections at reasonable rates, but also comparative internet connections at the same tarrifs, since both are basicly the same thing, using the same technology and the same network. Taking into account the strong anti-consumer-friendly approach Telkom is known for, the answer is not necessarily yes. In fact, it is more likely that internet usage will stay the same or even deteriorate as Telkom prioritizes their network for delivering IPTV.

When IPTV sees the light, the Free Bandwidth Campaign would have all the proof they need that Telkom has local bandwidth to burn. Will this mean the end to local capping? Div0 thinks not...

ZA Stands Up Against Microsoft

Open standards beat Microsoft 13 to 4 - Microsoft's plans of having its OOXML document format accepted as a national standard were thwarted by a conclusive vote against the move in a meeting yesterday.

The issue:
There are currently two emerging document formats battling it out for the title of the new industry standard format. Think of it as a fight to replace MSOffice's .doc format.
In the one corner, we have ODF, or Open Document Format backed by the technological community. ODF is a published ISO and IEC International Standard, and meets the common definitions of an open standard, meaning the specification is freely available and implementable by anyone.
In the other corner, we have OOXML, or Office Open XML, backed by the software behemoth, Microsoft. OOXML is currently, NOT an ISO standard, but Redmond is twisting arms left and right to gain ISO certification. Adverse criticism of OOXML by ODF proponents, is that OOXML is inherently closed in many respects,despite the name, and thus a poor candidate for a global standard.

So why do we need a new format?
MS Office is currently considered the defacto standard when it comes to document distribution. Microsoft knows this, and this is why we have to pay through our noses for MSOffice products. Switching to an open standard ensures that anybody can release office software compatible with the format, and that documentation will look the same in all office packages. More importantly, it ensures that all office packages in the future will be able to access documents written today, we will never again have the problem of incompatible document formats.

Where does South Africa come into the picture?
Microsoft knows that it will lose a very large portion of its revenue if its stranglehold on the desktop office publishing arena is released. Now, they are throwing around their considerable corporate weight trying to gain ISO certification for their OOXML standard. This involves having each country pass a vote on whether they would accept OOXML as a national standard.

When I read that such a vote was recently passed here in South Africa, I was greatly impressed by the outcome:
"Yvonne Ndhlovu of SABS, who acted as project leader for the local leg of the process, informed Tectonic that the votes amounted to 2 votes of yes, with comments; 2 votes of yes, without comments; and 13 votes of no, with comments.
"South Africa will vote no," she said, referring to the international voting to take place."

The outcome of the vote clearly shows that SABS is competent in making such decisions, and won't be dazzled by the shiny Redmond giant. Good work SABS, we are proud of you!

Read more about why OOXML is bad here: noooxml.org

Hilarious MS Windows Ad

After seeing all the hanged Vista computers in Incredible Connection yesterday, I thought about this clip again. Don't think the essence of Microsoft has really changed very much since then.

From the revolutionary windows 3.1, to the bug-riddled '95 and '98, to the majestic XP and now the lackluster Vista. We sure have come a long way.

Piracy in South Africa decreases - More jobs by 2010

BSA logoAccording to a study done by the Business Software Association of Australia, South Africa had the 17th lowest piracy rate (just under Canada) out of 84 countries in 2004. At this time, South Africa had an estimated piracy rate of 36% (R1.2 billion or $171 million p.a.). [1] Since then, there has been a steady decline in piracy due to initiatives such as the BSA (Business Software Alliance), along with cooperation from government and other factors.

After the recent launch of an anti-piracy advertising campaign, the chairman of the BSA of South Africa, Stephan Le Roux, said that piracy cost South Africa only R950 million (or $136 million) last year, indicating a drop in the piracy rate from 36% in 2004 and 2005 to under 30% in 2007. [2]

The BSA estimates that a decrease in piracy of only 10 percentage points over a four year period could generate 2,400 new jobs, R12 billion ($1.7bn) in economic growth and R920 million ($131 m) in tax revenues.[3] If they are correct, the current downwards trend in piracy statistics will result in almost 2000 new jobs by 2010.

Even with exploding crime statistics, South Africa can be proud that piracy, at least, is being brought under control. Well done BSA.

[1] http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_sof_pir_rat-crime-software-piracy-...
[2] http://www.bsa.org/southafrica/press/newsreleases/sapressrelease9feb2007...
[3] http://www.bsa.org/southafrica/press/newsreleases/BSA-IDC-Study-Illustra...

eNaTIS hack indeed "laughable"

As those following local online news media might know, the eNaTIS website, enatis.com, was recently defaced. Soon after, a torrent of "eNaTIS hacked!" sensationalism swept South African internet news sites spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) like a bad flu. Certainly online media writers are not so clueless as to think that a simple Joomla defacement has anything to do with the actual eNaTIS system whatsoever? This google search seems say otherwise: http://www.google.co.za/search?q=enatis+hacked

South African hackers everywhere flinch as the media once again defiles their most sacred of titles. For those who do not understand how defacements work, here is a short summary:
Many websites use publicly available web-software (like Joomla in eNaTIS's case), produced by communities of open-source developers.
This software is released for free and with all source code available.
Since many people use this free software, hackers inspect the source and find holes or "vulnerabilities" that could allow them administrative access to an installed version.
They then trade these "exploits" with other hackers or make them publicly available online, after which far less experienced people, without any programming knowledge (like the eNaTIS "hacker") may then obtain it.

Perhaps eNaTIS should have looked at a more professional website presentation solution, or perhaps they should have simply kept their website up to date...

Free Bandwidth for South Africa

BandwidthThe Free Bandwidth Campaign believes local bandwidth should be free as it was before November 2005. Telkom claims its network cannot support the traffic of all ADSL users who are entitled to free local bandwidth, however the FBC disagrees.

Users are asked to download a small application that will start downloading content from local websites for 5 minutes at a specific time on the 30th of June 2007.
“It will put Telkom’s network to the test and prove whether or not Telkom can meet the needs of the people it is supposed to serve. It will throw open to the world the capacity and capability of Telkom’s network with results which will be collected and published.”

Optimistic efforts by a disgruntled community, exploited by an abusive telecoms monopoly. Unfortunately like many good intentions, there is no way that such an endeavor could succeed. The plan is riddled with obvious flaws:

  • There is no way that a significant percentage of the 200 000 ADSL subscribers could be organized in such a short amount of time to deliver intelligible results. The discussion thread on myadsl received 2,697 views in total, less than the amount of ADSL lines Telkom adds every month.
  • Telkom will be unphazed by such an attempt, even an effective run would only result in large hosting bills for the targeted website owners.
  • Participants will effectively form part of a distributed denial of service attack, even though there are multiple targets.
  • Gaining user trust in this way will make it easier for malicious users to distribute malware under the guise of a similar campaign.
  • Telkom's excuse for non-free local bandwidth has nothing to do with network capacity, but rather their inability to seperate local from international traffic from an accounting perspective. (which is bullshit anyway)

The FBC ultimately wants to prove that Telkom is lying. Even if they succeed, an obvious point would have been proven. Telkom is obligated by its share holders to maximize profits without regard to the South African public, and will not be swayed in its ways. Even though the FBC website owner put R15 000 on the line for a developer to implement his idea, there is yet a program to be released.

Fortunately, South Africans are on the verge of a communications revolution, with exciting developments such as the planned Cape Town fibre network, Neotel entering the consumer market, the introduction of Infraco, and other consumer-friendly services following adoption of the new Electronic Communications act coming into effect recently.

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