Friday, September 24, 2010

Joel Stein, Google and Me on Net Neutrality

I never had any strong feelings on net neutrality, but was always annoyed at how superficial the popular debate has been presented in the media, as always a battle between freedom loving techno-hippies and big business profits.

The economics discuss the trade off between regulating the natural monopoly (due to network externalities) of the bandwidth providers, to ensure free entry which is necessary for competitive markets and innovation, versus the benefits that comes with price discrimination (which is generally seen by economists as a good thing) which allows high fixed cost industries like airlines or telecoms to exist while still maximizing the number of people who get to use their services. Economics frames the issues in a useful way but as is typical with economics, doesn't say which is better.

Joel Stein (probably my favorite magazine writer now that David Brooks has diminished himself as a columnist) does a good job in his Awesome Column elevating the net-neutrality debate and helps clarify my thoughts on this.

Stein shares my essentially practical libertarian bias which shows in his column (I also take pride in knowing that we were both Stanford Daily columnists) but makes the case against Net Neutrality well. Especially with "Don't be Evil" google proposing a partial net-neutrality compromise, it seems the tide may be shifting (though google got demonized for it).

I actually participated briefly at the White House when the question came up at the FCC in 2007 (technology was also in my portfolio). At the time the decision was mostly punted, and technically anyway, the White House wasn't supposed to be involved since the FCC is supposed to be independent.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Physicists

Physicists: "If you need some help with the math, let me know, but that should be enough to get you started! Huh? No, I don't need to read your thesis, I can imagine roughly what it says."

The field of Econo-physics still fascinates me. There are whole journals devoted to answering economic questions using physics. Seems almost as silly as economists trying to solve physics problems using economics.

I have two friends that started doing PhD's in physics, switched to economics believing they would use physics tools to revolutionize economics, but wound up getting "mostly" assimilated by the economics toolset.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

iOS4 and HDR photography

Apple Releases iOS 4.1 for iPhone and iPod Touch: "Right on schedule, Apple has released iOS 4.1 for the iPhone and iPod touch. The update, known as Build 8B117 and available for the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and second- and third-generation iPod touch models, brings several new featu..."

The feature I'm most excited about is HDR photography. I just returned from a beautiful Maine labor day weekend hiking/climbing in Acadia National Park, boating on a 100 year old schooner, and though I brought my old SLR, I did all my photographs on my iPhone, and I don't think my photos suffered too much.

Partly since my SLR was the 1st consumer dSLR on the market so is almost 10 years old, but also as the fstopper blog shows, an iPhone can take professional photos so long as you have the right lighting, but also, I'm excited with the idea that in the near future, camera upgrades will be primarily based on software rather than hardware, (see this Tech Review article). That should allow much faster innovation.

HDR represents such an innovation. For those who don't know, HDR stands for high dynamic range. Our eyes have a very high dynamic range relative to a camera. Meaning when we are indoors and look out a window, our eyes can see details both in the relatively dark room and in the bright outside at the same time. A camera has to choose.

iPhone4.1 HDR from my office:
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One typical sign of amateur photography is a failure to take this into account, for example when a person's face is in shadow (and pitch black) when photographed against a sunny landscape.

One of the advantages of a dSLR over a point and shoot is that it gives you an extra stop or two of dynamic range. But HDR can go far further.

In recent years HDR techniques have made up for this deficiency by having you take several photos and then merging them afterwards. The iPhone apparently now does this automatically.

One thing I did miss this weekend is the polarizer filter I have on my SLR which R- took advantage of, but maybe a future digital tool will make up for it.

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