Category Archives: Internet

A good bonus service from AT&T DSL, free nationwide hotspot access

I travel quite a bit these days because of my job, and I have been noticing more and more than I can get AT&T hotspot service at places like Starbucks or many airports and some hotels.  In the past, one would have to pay $20 per month for T-Mobile hotspot services or cough up $10 or more per day for Wi-Fi access.  Now if you’re an AT&T DSL customer, you get this service for free which is really convenient.  Even if you have 2G or 3G data service, you will still want to use the much lower latency Wi-Fi access when it is available.

While this Wi-Fi service is nothing new and I’m not making news here, it’s good to point this out for people since not everyone knows about it.  The coverage seems to be getting better over time.  So if you’re already an AT&T DSL customer, simply use your username and the domain you belong to which you can pull down from a menu such as  Then you use the same DSL password you use for your PPPoE account.

YouTube using Silverlight instead of Flash for March Madness

It appears that YouTube is using Silverlight instead of Flash video for March Madness.  That’s awesome news for netbook owners and lower end computers because Silverlight is so much more CPU friendly than Flash video.  Now if YouTube will convert the rest of the site over, at least for all of the 720P content, that would make the site so much more friendly because flash 720P simply chokes on lower end computers such as netbooks.

Alleged Netflix “deliberate throttling” conspiracy is normal congestion

The folks at have accused Netflix of deliberately throttling their users to 480 Kbps (60 KB/sec).  Their proof?  Downloading a video stream using 10 TCP flows is 10 times faster than downloading videos using the normal single flow.  The blogger at concludes that this must mean Netflix is intentionally throttling their users because they assume that there must be extra available bandwidth that Netflix is keeping from their customers.  Unfortunately, this is often what passes as credible news these days and the blog has been slashdotted so they’re probably getting on the order of 40,000 hits or so.

Well I hate to break the news to, but this is normal congestion behavior.  In fact, they’ve accidentally discovered the multi-flow cheat that works around Jacobson’s TCP congestion control algorithm which rations bandwidth on a per-flow basis and not per-user basis.  Even if the server’s capacity is completely filled, asking for 10 times more TCP connections will allow a client to pull nearly 10 times more bandwidth at the expense of other normal clients who are only asking for one TCP connection.  Peer-to-peer (P2P) applications employ the same technique to accelerate its own performance at the expense of other users.

So what this sounds like is that the particular Netflix server they’re connecting to is running out of streaming capacity and it can’t handle this many users.  This may still be bad on Netflix’s part if the performance problems are consistent, but let’s not attribute occasional inadequacy to malice.  I can’t imagine this being frequent since Netflix’s support lines would be ringing off the hook.  I also just ran a quick test with my Netflix account and verified that everything is working fine.  I’m not suggesting that the alleged problems don’t exist, but we need to have a rational discussion about them.

Here is why Microsoft Silverlight is superior to Adobe Flash

This is a good test for a netbook to run to show that 720P Silverlight works on a slow netbook while Adobe Flash 720p will not. Oh and what do you know, this even plays fine in Google Chrome.

This same clip on YouTube in Adobe Flash 720P won’t work on any low end graphics chipset computers which includes the vast majority of netbooks on the market and also many lower end desktop systems with integrated graphics. Try the video below on your netbook or low-end desktop and watch it choke. I can’t even get the supposed hardware accelerated beta 10 Flash player working on netbooks.

The Silverlight clip is encoded with VC-1 compression at 2.25 Mbps and the Youtube version is 2.25 Mbps H.264. Silverlight plays fine on the Asus 1000HE netbook I’m reviewing and that says a lot about the coding efficiency of Microsoft Silverlight. To be more precise, Process Explorer shows that the Silverlight version cost me around 73 billion CPU cycles to play the full clip while the Flash verion cost me around 107 billion CPU cycles. That means 720P Silverlight barely works on netbooks while Adobe flash doesn’t have a chance. Now the Silverlight player still takes twice as much CPU utilization as the native Windows Media player application so it’s as smooth as I’d like it to be, but it could easily be smooth if the video was encoded down to 1024×576 resolution which would be more ideal for 2 Mbps video streams anyways. Maybe the Microsoft team can do some more optimizations to make the Silverlight player closer to Windows Media 11 in terms of performance.

Our fellow blogger Charles Burns asked me if this was due to the different compression algorithm being used (VC-1 versus H.264), and I think that’s part of the reason but not most of the reason. The fact that Silverlight uses VC-1 is a built in advantage, but contrary to popular misconception, netbooks can play 720P H.264 just fine. I’ve done it with as little as 45% CPU utilization on a standard 945-chipset netbook so long as I’m using something good like VLC player. Apple QuickTime player chokes but that’s a whole separate topic. The bottom line here is that Silverlight is CPU/GPU friendly while Flash isn’t.

Larry Seltzer also made a great point to me that Silverlight has been out for 2 years now and there have been no security vulnerabilities it exposes you to unlike Adobe flash which is frequently exposing us to security vulnerabilities. I think this is a clear example of why Silverlight is winning so many customers, and Adobe better do something to optimize their software because netbooks are here to stay and their market share is growing. More and more people will expect to be able to view 720P streaming video on every computer they own and not just their high-end systems.

Here’re a native Windows-only Windows Media Player version that runs on Windows systems running IE, Firefox, or Chrome. It apparently runs about 2x faster than Silverlight and about 3x faster than Flash. If you’re on a netbook or low end desktop, this is the most CPU friendly solution. In fact, it plays with only 42% CPU utilization across both Atom processor threads.

Blending creativity and technology

This is definitely one of the most creative short movies I’ve seen in some time and it makes use of some fantastic computer graphics. Much of the technology exists in virtual reality research today in primitive form but this video shows you what might be possible down the road and it shows it in a very artistic context.

For some reason, YouTube is not letting these clips go to high quality mode automatically so be sure to click on the “HQ” button to view it at a higher quality.

Silverlight version of Photosynth working in Chrome

I was surprised to see that Microsoft Photosynth Silverlight edition was working in Google’s Chrome browser today.  It looks like Silverlight is shaping up to be an awesome universal application platform especially when it comes to video playback.  The video playback seems to be hardware accelerated and Microsoft’s VC-1 (Windows Media 9 Advanced Profile) is already very CPU friendly compared to H.264 video compression.  We’ve already had the 2008 Olympics and the Obama innauguration using Silverlight technology.

One of the better superbowl ads this year

Nothing really caught my eye this year but this one was funny.

I watched most of the game this year and it’s probably the only football game I follow these days.  Watching the Pittsburg Steelers almost throw the game away with three penalties, two of which were just unnecessary and unsportsman like conduct has got to be frustrating for the Steelers fans and the team.  Those two unsportsmanlike penalties led to a safety for the Cardinals which could have easily cost the Steelers the game.

I know this kind of stuff drove me crazy when I played sports.  It’s one thing when kids behave like this but these guys get paid millions of dollars a year to do a job.  But what is the point of slapping your opponent in the head after he’s already out of bounce and giving the other team 15 yards?  Then we had James Harrison punching a much smaller cardinal player in the back and then shoving him to the ground after the play which should have gotten him ejected from the game and fined later on.

TCP/IP via “avian carriers”

I’ve been aware of the

“TCP/IP over avian carriers” RFC for some time now. Today, I submitted a comment on it. I was quite concerned that spec was far too specific regarding the tape (specifically, duct tape) used to attach the datagrams, particularly since the spec is otherwise rather vague (such as the type of bird to be used). Hopefully, this critical flaw can be corrected, and the spec can gain widespread acceptance.


Embedding 720P HD video from YouTube

Thanks to this article from, I now know how to embed 720P HD video from YouTube. Here’s are some samples of videos I uploaded from my Lake Tahoe trip this week. All you need to do is add “&ap=%2526fmt%3D22” to the source parameter. Vimeo used to be my preferred video sharing site but they only let you upload 1 HD video per week and they have a weekly cap of 500 GB. The bigger problem for Vimeo is that they don’t let you embed their videos in 720P HD unless you pay them money. YouTube used to be really poor quality and even their High Quality (HQ) mode was dubious in quality because it was only 640 Kbps. Now this new 1280×720 service which probably streams at around 2 to 2.5 Mbps is superb quality. I initially had some problems with this new service from YouTube stuttering but the problems appear to be fixed for the most part. YouTube now appears to be the king of video sharing. The only limitation that still annoys me is the 10 minute and 1 GB file size limit. Note that the video source could have been much better if I had used a real video camera instead of a point-n-shoot Kodak still camera that happened to have 720P video capability.  I avoided using my Sony 1080i HDV camcorder because it was easier to put a point-n-shoot in to my pocket.  I’ll try to upload something of better quality with less sound and video noise and snow storms aren’t exactly conducive to this.