SMART Letter #79
Dregs and Grabs
November 13, 2002

            SMART Letter #79 -- November 13, 2002
            Copyright 2002 by David S. Isenberg - "the Hubbert's Peak of telephony" -- -- 1-888-isen-com

>  Fail-Fast Op-Ed in Today's USA Today
>  Quote of Note: Victor Zue
>  SMS with Voice Input
>  Smart Remarks from SMART People: 
   + Howard Morgan on VOIP
   + Anonymous at AT&T on more painful business troubles
   + Gary Hughes-Fenchel, ex-Lucent, on underemployed friends
>  + Christian Huitema on the real history of pirates
>  More on Pirates, with quotes from Bucky Fuller
>  Quote of Note: Walter Cronkite
>  If it's Funny it Must be True, by Scatt Oddams
>  The Trans-Pacific Tour
>  Conferences on my Calendar
>  Copyright Notice, Administrivia


David Weinberger [] and I penned (pecked, 
actually) an op-ed piece for today's USA Today 
[].  Weinberger concocted the brilliant 
ending:  "When Elvis died, one pundit cracked, 'Good career 
move.' That's the advice we would give to the obsolete 
telecoms: Fail - fast."  

SMART People have seen the rest of the argument already.


  "We've been the slaves of our machines, interacting with 
   them on their terms. We want to make machines more 
   intelligent, rather than making humans more obedient."  

MIT Professor Victor Zue, quoted in "Talk to the Machine" by 
Jean Kumagai, September 2002,

SMS WITH VOICE INPUT by David S. Isenberg

I smell a winner app.  Voice recognition -- the ability to 
render tens of thousands of spoken words into text  -- is 
coming to a pocket-sized device near you.  Instead of thumbing 
444-7777-33-66-000-444-7777-33-66-11111-222-666-6, you'll just 
say, "".  Instead of scratching graffiti, you'll 
say, "Meet me for lunch." Then you'll say, "Send." 
For more info see the Kumagai article cited above;

If you try to read all the text messages you'll get while you 
are driving, you'll crash your car -- unless you have a text-
to-speech voice message reader.  Such readers have been 
available with voice mail systems for at least fifteen years.  
However, for some reason they've been consistent marketplace 
non-starters.  So along with more short text messages I'm 
expecting more car crashes.  Message retrieval; a REAL killer 

[] writes:

  "I have been using's IP phone via my cable modem 
   for the past three months. It is my only long distance 
   carrier in our NY apartment (2nd home), and no one I speak 
   with has any idea that I'm not on a POTS line.  And the 
   $40/mo unlimited LD is reasonable.  I have not business or 
   investment connection with the company.

  "The other nice feature is that I can take my Cisco ATA box 
   with me to CA, plug it in, and still receive calls on my 
   212 number.  As you point out, adding 802.11 would be the 
   final icing on this cake."

[I wish I could report similar success, but recently somebody 
called me using the Vonage service and it sounded downright 
crummy.  Admittedly I was talking on a cell phone in an area 
with marginal reception, but he called me back on his 
conventional telephone and it sounded much better.  We still 
have a ways to go with VOIP.  For example, maybe Vonage 
quality would improve if it used Global IP Sound's technology. 
Not that Global IP Sound has any monopoly -- it is just the 
best VOIP codec I've heard to date.  I have second-hand 
information that open source, patent-free technology by Speex sounds pretty good too, but I have yet to 
experience it with my own ears. -- David I]


  "I am sorry about your friends [who have been laid off from 
   AT&T].  However, staying behind has been worse.  

  "[Here at AT&T,] data is not doing as well as it 
   could/should be because we cannot get it installed.  
   Amazing, but we have huge backlogs for T3's and OC3's 
   because of lack of in house knowledge and manpower. The 
   demand for higher broadband is huge but we can't deliver 
   it.  It almost seems intentional.  This is what really 
   killed Concert Frame Relay. . . . Everything they do still 
   interfaces with some aspect of AT&T's legacy network, 
   which, of course, is the source of all the problems to 
   begin with."

[Concert was AT&T's failed joint venture with BT. -- David I].  

SMART REMARKS FROM SMART PEOPLE: Former Lucent employee Gary 
Hughes-Fenchel writes:

  "I find the situation quite upsetting. I know a lot of very 
   good engineers who are now very unemployed.  At age 48 I'm 
   definitely older than most of my co-workers, but I am one 
   of the lucky ones because I have a job.  Roger, my MSEE 
   friend, is selling bolts at the local hardware store.  
   Kent, my PhD CS friend, is now teaching with two part time 
   jobs at about one quarter of his old pay.  My pal Bill who 
   cannot use GUIs (he's blind, but has written some damn good 
   code) is still completely out of work after 1 1/2 years.  
   Willard, who was arguably the world's leading expert on 
   several aspects of the 3B20, found work after a year but 
   has to commute [home from another state] on the weekend so 
   he can see his family."

[The two letters above show the pain of under-employment 
whether or not a person still has a full time job.  Imagine 
the unleashed progress if the existing telecom workforce were 
working up to its potential, without being (a) laid off or 
(b) impeded by organizations that are desperately trying to 
defend their obsolete businesses! -- David I]

[], responding to my recounting 
of Buckminster Fuller's theory that pirates cause progress [in 
SMART Letter #76, see] 

  "Laurence Brothers [, in SMART
   Letter #77,] writes:
   >    to flee when they saw a warship's masts on the
   >    horizon.I wonder if there are any historical 
   >    examples of pirate attacks on warships (not just 
   >    on boats).  I suppose there must have been some, 
   >    but few and far between.

  "Laurence is correct. Many pirate ships were captured 
   merchant vessels, refurbished for speed and gun power. 
   There also were fast vessels, but these vessels were rather 
   small, typically corvettes.

  "The faster and better vessels were mostly found among 
   privateers, which were not quite the same as pirates. 
   Privateers were private operations, financed by 
   capitalistic investors, but they were endorsed by the state 
   to operate guerilla warfare against enemy commerce; their 
   methods were in many ways similar to those of WW1 and WW2 
   submarines, with the twist that cargo and profits were 
   split between crews and investors. They tended to have fast 
   ships. There is at least one documented event of a 
   privateer attacking a warship: the capture of the English 
   frigate "Kent" by the French privateer Surcouf, on August 
   31, 1800. Surcouf was not considered a criminal, at least 
   not in France; today, the French frigate FNS Surcouf is 
   patrolling the Indian Ocean.

  "It is also true that privateers, or pirates, would 
   certainly not try to attack a warship by close reaching 
   upwind. Even with a fast boat, this would be a very slow 
   and dangerous approach. The problem is to avoid the larger 
   ships guns, and you really don't want to be downwind. The 
   song that records the August 31 event mentions that the 
   privateers "vire lof pour lof, en arrivant", i.e. jibes by 
   steering downwind, and then boards the frigate "par son 
   avant", i.e. by its undefended front. The superior upwind 
   speed is not a tactical advantage for attacking; it is 
   indeed mostly an advantage for escaping.

  "There are many other reasons why pirates would not attack a 
   regular vessel of the line. As speed is a function of the 
   length of the waterline, larger vessels tend to actually be 
   faster; lighter vessels may be faster in small airs, but 
   then you see them coming. Larger vessels were also much 
   higher, with three decks, which mean that the attackers 
   have to climb a wall. Large war vessels also had a much 
   larger crew, which guaranteed a very bloody battle. All in 
   all, pirates certainly preferred to attack smaller merchant 
   ships, just like muggers would rather prey on old ladies 
   than on the football team."

MORE ON PIRATES by David S. Isenberg

I can't argue with Christian Huitema's naval history -- he's 
clearly an expert and I'm a mere dabbler.  But I did take 
Christian's letter above as a spur to go back to Buckminster 
Fuller's writings to see what he did say about pirates, and it 
appears that when I said that Fuller said that "pirates cause 
progress" I was guilty of oversimplifying to the point that I 
got it wrong.  Here's some of what Bucky actually said 
about pirates:

  "I call these sea mastering people the great outlaws or 
   Great Pirates simply because the arbitrary laws enacted or 
   edicted by men on the land could not be extended 
   effectively to control humans beyond their shores and out 
   upon the seas. So the world men who lived on the seas were 
   inherently outlaws, and the only laws that could and did 
   rule them were the natural laws-the physical laws of 
   universe which when tempestuous were often cruelly 
From _Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth_, Chapter 2, 
paragraph 2, by R. Buckminster Fuller, Southern Illinois 
Press, 1969,

  ". . the people who learned that the water leads between all 
   the countries, the people who then exploited the remoteness 
   of humanity . . . I call them the Great Pirates for the 
   very simple reason that the law of the lands could not be 
   enforced out on the water any further than human beings 
   could throw projectiles, and that was such a little bit the 
   three mile limit and so forth and that was about it. The 
   laws of the land have never been enforced on the sea, and 
   therefore the sea, which is three-quarters of the Earth, is 
   outside the law. And the people who lived on it were the 
   "outlaws." And the top ones are called sovereigns and the 
   lesser ones are called the pirates. The 'ins' are the 
   sovereigns and the 'outs' are the pirates. And it's often 
   they reverse their positions.

From "Everything I Know," a 12-tape, 42 hour monologue by 
Buckminster Fuller, January 1975, transcript available at

QUOTE OF NOTE: Walter Cronkite

  "[The German people] applauded as Hitler closed down the 
   independent newspaper and television stations and only gave 
   them his propaganda.  When they did not rise up and say, 
   'Give us a free press,' they became just as guilty [as 
   Hitler himself]"

Walter Cronkite at Texas A&M University, on Sunday 27 Oct 
2002, quoted in "Journalist Cronkite Warns of Potential War," 
in The Eagle, Oct. 28, 2002,


Hey David,

Wow, check out the graphic on this U.S. government site about 
Homeland Security --  It's an animated 
red, white and blue eyeball peaking through a keyhole!  Do you 
think the web designer is warning us about something?



November 21, 2002, Tokyo, Japan.  Socio-Economic Impacts of 
Mobile/Wireless Technologies: Strategies and Policies, 
sponsored by GLOCOM, the Institute for Global Communications 
of the International University of Japan.  I will be talking 
about the recent Spectrum Policy Task Force report and about 
multi-hop (mesh network) radio.  For more detail, see

November 27, 2002, Melbourne, Australia.  I'll be talking 
about, "The Stupid Network: Why the Intelligent Network was a 
Good Idea Once but isn't Anymore," at 6.30 pm at the State 
Library of Victoria Village Roadshow Theatrette, 328 Swanston 
Street, Melbourne.  This talk is at the invitation of Monash 
University and is sponsored by Australian Telecommunications 
Co-operative Research Centre,  Contact or call Sarah Craze 618-9266-
3581 for more information.

November 29, 2002, Wellington NZ.  I'll be talking at a 
breakfast meeting (7:30 AM) at the e-vision Digital Media 
Centre.  It is open to the public for NZ$45.  See to book a seat 
or contact Prashanta Mukherjee for more 


December 9 - 10, 2002 Palo Alto CA.  Supernova, a Kevin 
Werbach, Jeff Pulver collaboration starring Sergey Brin of 
Google, Doc Searls, Clay Shirky, and yours truly. or
contact Kevin Werbach,

February 4, 2003, Santa Barbara CA.  My talk will be one in 
the lecture series of the UC Santa Barbara Center for 
Entrepreneurship and Engineering Management (CEEM).  Nothing 
is on the CEEM Web site yet, but keep checking and save the date.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Redistribution of this document, or any 
part of it, is permitted for non-commercial purposes, 
provided that the two lines below are reproduced with it: 
Copyright 2002 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com 

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David S. Isenberg            , inc.                         888-isen-com                       203-661-4798 
     -- The brains behind the Stupid Network --