Archive | Technology

Type This…I Said, THIS!!

The idea of speaking into my computer and having it correctly type what I say has intrigued me since I saw the Star Trek episode Assignment: Earth, in which Gary Seven dictates to his IBM Selectric typewriter while plotting to sabotage a NASA launch.

The thought that I can now actually say – and have my computer type – the phrase,”the museum is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm, Sunday from noon to 4 pm, closed major holidays,” makes me positively giddy – covering Disney World doesn’t look so daunting anymore.

It was with this light thought that I cheerfully set about installing IBM’s new SimplySpeaking Gold (remember: IBM made the Selectric! No one gets fired for buying IBM!), touted by Big Blue as the software that would change the world. My father was with me, and as I was describing what the software would do (‘yeah, that’s it… I can just talk into it and it will type what I say,’) he was shooting me looks of open dubiousness, if not mild derision.

“YouE’re skeptical,” I said.

“I’m not skeptical,” he said, “I know it won’t work.”

“Why,” I asked, knowingly,”would IBM offer a 30 day money back guarantee on it if it didn’t work?”

“I don’t know” said my father,”But it won’t work.”

Chuckling to myself (what does he know?) I set to installing SimplySpeaking Gold. Following the directions to the letter, I donned the little headset that came with the software. The training session lasted about half an hour, after which I started talking and it started typing.

Unfortunately, those two actions were entirely independent. It was as if had installed Tourette’sSyndrome for Windows95. I said,”Hey, look Dad, I’m talking and this thing is typing,” and it typed, “pay stark land vice talking in myths saying it is typing.” (“typing”, I noticed later, was one word it consistently spelled correctly, along with`SimplySpeaking Gold”) I said,”this system sucks.” It typed,”cheese feet and ducks.” Okay, it wasn’t really that bad – I am exaggerating a little (just a little) – but it was, in fact, terrible.

I returned it the following day. Later I spoke with a software salesman, who told me that almost everyone who bought the IBM software at his shop (one of New York’s largest) brought it back.

“That’s not to say it’s bad,” he was careful to say, “it’s just that a lot of people bring it back.”


This salesman went on to tell me that a lot of the people who were disappointed with IBM really liked Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but that that software was much more difficult to learn then IBM’s. Since I thought that learning IBM’s was simply a matter of training myself to speak in the manner of one of those VCR manuals that has been translated from the original Korean via Swahili, I was game for anything.

To be fair, IBM’s ViaVoice is said (well, said by IBM) to be better than SimplySpeaking. But in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, David Einstein reported something hauntingly similar to my experience:

“…when I said, “This is my first dictation” ViaVoice wrote “This is mild irritation.” I repeated the sentence and it came out, “This is missus sophistication’.

Why, that is much better!

My next test was with Dragon’s NaturallySpeaking. With doubt in my heart, I installed the software and went through its training session. One thing that struck me immediately was that while I was reading through the training session’s text (it gives you a choice of three, I chose Dave Barry’s Adventures in Cyberspace) it was recognizing my voice right out of the box.

But I was truly astounded when, after finishing the session, I was able to write a long letter with very few mistakes: this thing actually works! Don’t believe it? Come over to my house and I’ll show you (two of my neighbours are going out to buy it after one demo).

For example, I’m writing the following five paragraphs by speaking into my computer. It’s an absolutely joyous thing: I’m sitting here with my feet on my desk speaking absolutely normally and watching it type everything I say.

And okay, there are some drawbacks (like the fact that it just wrote “arson” instead of “all are some’, and I had to go back and correct): I sit at my desk wearing this funky headset and looking for all the world like a Time-Life operator ready to take your phone call (E’Good morning, my name is Nick, are you calling about our Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue?’).

But the fact is, I can dictate into this thing at about 100 words per minute after three days of use – and the folks at Dragon say that this will only improve over time.

I have noticed that in the last few days of using this software intensely it has made the same mistakes on a couple of occasions. But it also learns incredibly quickly. I only had to train “Minas Gerais” and “Sao Paulo” once, and never even had to tell it to recognize Rio de Janeiro. Handy, when IE’m working on Brazil (it also recognized, after training, “rodoviãria” and “real’, which are pronounced decidedly not as theyE’re written).

But you’ve got to have patience (it just wrote “patients’), and realize that it will take about a solid week before you begin to get close to 96% recognition.

The mistakes NaturallySpeaking made while I recited the last five paragraphs were “good morning, my name is neck”; “with my field on my desk”; and the aforementioned “arson” and “patientsE’. Still, that’s not so bad. Earlier OCR scanning devices made far more mistakes, and for most of the friends of mine who can’t type to save their lives, a couple of mistakes in each paragraph is a far happier situation than a blank page.

But Naturally Speaking – or its presence – did cause some problems on my machine. After running it and other programs simultaneously, my computer crashed – but it turned out to be a Microsoft problem, and I had to download a small patch to fix it. You’ll also need a relatively good machine: while Dragon says you need at least a Pentium 133 Mhz, 32MB of RAM and 65MB of hard drive space, I’d say that’s conservative.

Another good question is whether you can dictate into a tape recorder on the road – some smarter authors (and now I) use a tape recorder for mapping (“J&R Music World on the south side of Park row 200 metres south of John St”) and it would be a hoot to have the machine transcribe it. Well, short of spending upwards of $250 on a mini disk recorder, you’re out of luck: traditional minicassette and other analog recorders just don’t have the quality to work with NaturallySpeaking.

NaturallySpeaking has several models to choose from, but the recognition engine is the same on all – bells and whistles change as you spend more money. But their basic Point & Speak (US$59 RRP in the US) model allows you to do everything I did here. The Personal edition and Preferred Editions (US$99 and US$149 to US$159) have greater customization abilities, and very expensive Deluxe editions are available as well. SimplySpeaking Gold sells for US$139 in the US.

Apps Spijk Bought

I bought an iPhone on the Verizon network. I’d long held, after using an iPhone on AT&T a couple years back, that I wouldn’t get another iPhone until it was available on Verizon. In the meantime I fell in love with my Droid phone, until I saw FaceTime. My business partner David used it to video-chat with his kids while we were on a business trip. So I bought the iPhone (don’t tell me about the damn Skype video or whatever. FaceTime is better).

Then I bought Spijk an iPod touch so we could FaceTime.

Apps Spijk bought in the first two days of having his new iPod:

  • Veggie Samurai
  • Tiny Wings
  • Fruit Ninja
  • Doodle Jump
  • Froggy Jump
  • Stick Stunt Biker
  • Egg vs. Chicken
  • Fragger
  • Asphalt 5
  • Doodle Jump Christmas Special
  • Food Processing
  • Pocket God
  • Rat On A Scooter XL
  • Urban Ninja
  • Gravity Guy
  • Cave Bowling
  • Cat Physics
  • Monkey Flight
  • Crazy Chicken Deluxe – Grouse Hunting
  • Sherwood Forest Archery
  • Pig Sticker
  • Shoot or Be Shot
  • Uphill Battle
  • Sharpshooter Surprise
  • Saving My Hero
  • Battleheart
  • Volcano Escape
  • Crazy Chicken Quest
  • Burn the Rope
  • Shopping Cart Hero
  • More Crap

More crap?

Cheesy Feet & Ducks Redux

This is the result of feeding an interview into Dragon Naturally Speaking. Not a word or punctuation mark has been omitted or changed – this is the software in all its glory. The input was a good recording from a Sony ICD-SX750.

I’m still working on how it got “Saddam Hussein”.

So that it will work for just 5 pounds him and I have a small company now… I am starting to think that I am not a moment to him and on Rosenhaus and ask you a few questions are standardized so immersed in really stupid of him will not ask you if you have investigation is ongoing and occasional nasty stuff without going out of their way through it on up until the time that he got the shots were interviewed about 2008 that are possible for them have personal and you typically arrive on the scene with his or her homicidal value on called you arrive after the season closed out with and you can ride generally speaking long long time slot on its own would be dealt with promptly salt or if it’s during the shift will probably do okay at first difficult to be okay you didn’t than just the data to arrive on the scene and no I usually also the guys to do so as to have no car computers I have no car or a computer consultant of soul I don’t get it was like I was but a totally plausible to promote something ownership will call okay so far using it to direct your search for physical evidence or to somehow he even if in your mind or order me respect you a graphic WCCO okay if it’s difficult to Pacific side columns are doing something along the lines of what we’ll try and you will have wanted to go so long as R. what exactly will you stop like to use disputed to the showcase on the direct your search for people in the witnesses are… that’s a no no some threat to serve as the operating room when you let one person calls and as you’ll see shops along policy work for you kind of gauge who’s paying attention more believable claim that he was Saddam Hussein a sort of understanding the process by which interacts across as looking at a crime scene has changed the shots I have see change its enhanced and it’s given us while we…

For more transcription fun, see this article I wrote in 1997

SAP profit surges 60% as profile rises in U.S

SAP AG, the German-based business software giant, said Thursday that first-quarter net earnings rose 60 percent from a year earlier, to E298 million ($325 million), but revenue dropped 8 percent to E1.52 billion.

The company makes software that businesses use for accounting, supply-chain management and customer relationship management. Headquartered in Walldorf, Germany, SAP is the largest business application vendor in the United States and has nearly 20,000 corporate customers worldwide.

SAP said it expanded its U.S. market share in the first quarter, without specifying figures, and cut its operating costs substantially without cutting jobs.

But analysts pointed out that certain sources of revenue, such as those for software maintenance and for consulting services, were down, as were earnings overall in Europe.

SAP said that while the number of European sales contracts increased, companies bought less. Because of a weak European economy, it said, revenue in Europe, the Middle East and Africa dipped 4 percent to E854 million.

First-quarter Asia-Pacific revenue increased 7 percent to E198 million.

In the Americas, where SAP has recently reorganized its U.S. sales force and implemented cost-cutting measures, revenue was down 20 percent at E468 million. When measured in constant currency rates, however, there was a 1 percent increase.

Maintenance revenues – fees the company charges to maintain software it has already sold – increased by 1.8 percent to E608 million but fell short of the company’s own forecasts.

Consulting revenue fell 12 percent to E476 million.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Frankfurt downgraded the stock to “hold” from “buy.” But Morgan Stanley said that SAP performed well in view of the global economic situation.

“As a trajectory, those revenues are a bit of a concern,” said Ross MacMillan, vice president at Morgan Stanley. “But the company is doing a phenomenal job of controlling costs. They’ve ratcheted costs down almost E140 million by cutting variable costs and without layoffs.”

The stock closed up E4.85 at E94.10 in Frankfurt.

The results are the last to be reported before Hasso Plattner, an SAP co-founder, steps down as chief executive next month.

Hats Off: An E-Tailer Who’s Doing It Right

When each of your 200,000 customers gets a hand-signed “thank-you” note in every order box, you’d think they’d notice. Sadly, according to Darryl Collins, CEO of Belfast, Ireland-based online video retailer, “People don’t really realize how good we are until something goes wrong.”

That’s certainly true of this reporter, who called to say that a video had arrived that wasn’t working. In an hour I got an e-mail apologizing rather profusely. The next day I got a phone call, saying, “We’re very sorry, but we’ve had to special order the replacement, it should be here tomorrow.” And a while later, an impossibly indecipherably Irish accented voice called to tell me that they’d express-mailed the replacement.

“Let me get this straight,” I said, “you’re saying that this problem, which you had nothing to do with, rates one e-mail, two long-distance phone calls and free upgraded shipping?”

Yup. And another e-mail followed, confirming that the order had been shipped.

Now that’s customer service, and it might be the reason that in the crazy, mixed-up, topsy-turvy world that was the e-commerce private equity market this June, BlackStar wrapped up a second round of financing to the tune of €6.2 million.

This is a company to watch.

BlackStar took on a niche in what may have seemed to others to be an impossible-to-conquer market, competing against a certain e- commerce giant named after a swath of Brazil, Columbia and Peru. BlackStar moved on the fact that an online source of PAL-formatted videotapes was lacking in the UK.’s primary market, the US, sold tapes formatted in the US NTSC standard.

That was back in early 1998. And in the same fashion as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the team that would become BlackStar had been working to figure out something web-related to do since well before then. When Collins, a former film producer, along with a pre-Netscape era web developer Tony Bowden and former ad-man Jeremy Glover, saw their chance, they pounced, launching the primordial BlackStar site in March 1998.

The corporate history says that they slapped up the first website in just seven days (they make a joke about one of the team having a theology background, but others have run with that so we won’t stoop so low) and within the month they had £2,000 worth of sales. Although Collins refuses to say anything about revenues other than that they’re “substantial, ” sources close to the company confirmed that monthly revenues by this November are in excess of £1.25 million and growing.

In August 1999, BlackStar finally got around to their first venture capital investment, raising £3.8 million from Atlas Venture and Tarrant Venture (an arm of David Bonderman’s Texas Pacific Group). This June, they raised that £6.2 million through IBI Corporate Finance, Dublin, which is planning to fund the business to profitability in 2001. Backers of that second round included Atlas Ventures, Tarrant Venture, Goodbody’s Stockbrokers and a range of private investors through Davy’s Stockbrokers in Dublin.

The stats are impressive: With 100 employees in Belfast and in London, BlackStar claims well over a half million unique visits and more than 6 million page impressions a month and more than 200,000 customers.

Collins credits much of this to the aforementioned customer service, in addition to the fact that worldwide postage is included in the price. “In the beginning, we didn’t have any money and had to be different, and we reckoned that the attraction of buying online was superb,” he said.

“But when you got to the end and someone slapped on $10 for shipping it gave the customers one final ‘do-I-really-want-this’ hurdle before they clicked the ‘buy’ button. So we said, ‘let’s be a bit smarter.’ The price on the site is the one on your credit card, and psychologically it works very well.”

That great customer service platform, by the way, was developed in house, and is constantly under refinement. But the company doesn’t plan to re-license the software it created, effectively cutting off a large potential revenue stream. They fear that licensing software would put them in the position of making it look pretty and dealing with customers who won’t be as forgiving of the system’s bugs as are BlackStar employees, who put up with the constant tweaking and the prioritized bug fixes as a matter of course.

BlackStar said that it will continue doing what it does best: making money by passing on good deals it negotiates with the studios, offering good value (its mainstay offer is a 20% discount on pre- orders, which are delivered on the day of release; others include two-for- one and three-for-£20) and especially keeping up standards of customer service.

Customers seem to notice. BlackStar has added 50,000 customers since July, and people seem to notice the good service. As e-tailers spend hundreds to earn tens, and burn through cash like, well, like e-tailers burning through cash, it’s highly refreshing to see a company paying attention to the basics.

The natural question, then, is when is the company going public? It had planned initial pubic offering on the London Stock Exchange for late this year, but announced in July that it would postpone until market conditions improved. And at the same time it touted the fact that it managed to raise more than £6 million at a time when vultures were circling a bloodbath of tech stocks.

In the past BlackStar has shown another encouraging sign – patience. It waited for a first round of funding until revenues were solidified and for a second round funding until expansion was justified. So there’s reason to suspect that postponing the IPO wasn’t cowardice, but rather cunning.

Stay tuned.

Phoenix Struts Its Wireless Stuff

scared audienceI’m watching on a wide-screen television the most painfully revolting thing I’ve ever seen, and Mikael Hällström is gleefully pointing at the screen.

“This is almost…almost…broadcast quality, and there’s no delay at all,” he said proudly. Hällström’s biggest problem in the coming months is whether to stay at Ericsson, where he has been for four years, or to head out with the spin-off he helped create.

These are good problems to have.

Truth be told, the resolution is more than “almost broadcast” – in fact it’s clear enough to give me nightmares for weeks and ponder each future meal carefully. We’re in Ericsson’s Stockholm headquarters, in a conference room that has been temporarily turned into both a highly impressive display of very cool technology and a chamber of horrors.

Here’s the story: Malmö University Hospital in southern Sweden wished to demonstrate to a hotel conference center packed with leading international medical observers a controversial, highly unorthodox and possibly revolutionary approach to an operation to remove a cancer in a patient’s rectum – going in from the top.

I’m watching the “highlights.”

I’m watching this to see a clear end-use example of the types of networks Ericsson believes will be prevalent in the very near future. And Ericsson Business Innovations (EBI), the “incubator” arm of Ericsson, is looking into using technology like this to create a number of businesses.

For example, EBI has also been working on something it calls the Phoenix Project, based around Ericsson’s Open Service Gateway Initiative (OSGi) protocol. Phoenix was set up to establish a solution for home health care, security and safety products, and EBI is looking internally at Ericsson, as well as at third parties, to develop other OSGi applications.

Now, that horrible tele-operation challenge I am trying not to remember was not part of Phoenix, but with it Phoenix saw a chance to strut its technological stuff. To this end it established a 24-megabit-per-second (MB/s) upstream and downstream connection between the hospital and the conference center (which are meters from one another) by way of a 750km loop through public networks using existing technology and infrastructure.

The setup included two cameras in the operating theatre – one on the surgeons and the other on the action – that broadcast to two projection devices in the conference center, both producing crystal clear 20 and 35 square-meter images. Real-time voice communication between the center and the theatre was a key element, allowing the surgeon to converse with the observers.

“You can’t have voice delays,” said Hällström, the simultaneously mild-mannered and intense architect of Phoenix, “and we did this without compression or echo canceling – if we used those, we could have gone several times farther.”

With traditional broadcasts, such as television, a gap between the time of broadcast and arrival at the user’s device doesn’t matter as it’s a one-way signal. But anyone who’s watched the poor CNN reporter, listening to a question by satellite and standing clueless, staring blankly at the camera for two to six seconds, can understand why a satellite hookup would be unacceptable in a tele-medical situation, where seconds count.

You might well wonder why Ericsson is in the television business, and the answer is that it’s not. It’s in the business of building up teams that will form the core of new units within Ericsson or of new companies that will be spun off.

The broadband system above grew out of research by Ericsson Media Lab and the work of Hällström and others in Ericsson working on telemedicine applications.

Phoenix To Be Spun Off

The goal is to have Phoenix, now still part of Ericsson, build up its system around OSGi, establish and maintain its standards and protocols, license users of the system from health care, security and other industries, and then eventually remove itself from the fray, licensing third party operators who will pay Phoenix for the right to operate the slice of the network in their special fields. Phoenix, of course, would then sit back and count its royalty and licensing income.

Phoenix’s E-Box is an OSGi-based system. It’s a home-running device that brays at you if you leave the iron on and potentially allows you to, for example, let your kids in before you’re home but deny them access to the garage, oven and VCR. The box controls safety issues like those, security (locks and alarms), as well as health-monitoring systems. EBI announced in October that it began an E-box trial run in 3,000 homes in Sweden.

“The Phoenix group deals with infrastructure and we need to have a network,” Hällström said. “We don’t want to operate the network, but we need to make sure that it is, in fact, a network, and it will be maintained and operated in the proper way.”

Working with partners in those related industries (they’ve embargoed us from saying even which space within the industries), other groups deal with the health care and security aspects of the applications, and another deals with the construction and installation aspects.

“We will start to roll this out in new houses initially,” Hällström said, “because then the costs of building the infrastructure in the house is near zero when looked at in context of the building costs. And we want to have a large base of customers.”

Opportunity for VCs

That’s an opportunity for VCs looking to back products in the related industries. EBI is actively seeking venture partners and offering support and resources for venture-funded companies who develop related technologies or end-user applications that would use the OSGi protocol.

“We believe a very strong part of Phoenix is the partner program, which is mainly venture-funded companies – and it’s not just the money, it’s the knowledge the VCs and third-party companies bring to the table,” Hällström said.

If the demonstration I saw is any indication, EBI has a lock on the networking part. Observers interviewed afterward said on camera that the setup was incredibly valuable and remarked that it could have an untold number of applications in medicine.

And, of course, they mentioned the vivacity of the colors. “I’ve seen lots of these types of presentations,” said one doctor. “Many times the details are fuzzy, and the colors are often washed. But here the colors were perfect, the resolution and clarity better than I’ve ever seen.”


Smart money would say that, at least technologically speaking, Phoenix should make the cut as a spin-off.

Euronerds Have It…When Will You Get Broadband?

A paltry 362,000 predominantly young, white and male Euronerds–about 0.2% of all European households–currently have broadband Internet access [1999]. Broadband, which enables super-fast, always-on Internet connections, allows users to download and upload data substantially faster than with traditional dial-in modems.

But a new report by Forrester Research (NASDAQ: FORR) said that broadband usage in Europe will explode to a whopping 18% of the European population, or around 27 million users by 2005.

Internet use in Europe is nowhere near US levels, where 43% of the population had gone online from home by the end of 1999. The number in Europe was 13%. And in Europe, homes technically broadband-capable amount to less than 8%–so people who might want it couldn’t get it. Even if they could, high entry and monthly fees might keep users loyal to ol’ 56K.

“Europe lags somewhat behind the USA in terms of implementation,” said Lars Godell, analyst for European corporate technologies at Forrester Research and the lead author of the report, “but it’s growing quickly. Right now Sweden is the hottest broadband market in Europe, but it’s not the hottest end-market–it’s only one-ninth the size of Germany in terms of population.”

The report concludes that the reason this will change, and change fast, is that there’s boatloads of money to be made. “European providers,” said Godell, “see that US telcos aim to increase their average annual Revenue Per Subscriber from $480 to a potential $2,100 for a rich bundle of services.”

What’s The Holdup, And Where’s The Pipe?
The American market has been faster to adapt to broadband, with the proliferation of cable to such a large percentage of homes, and reduced copper-wire leasing rates. “Trying to break the last-mile bottleneck, AT&T gobbled up cablecos TCI and MediaOne to gain broadband access to more than 17 million homes,” said Maribel Lopez, a Forrester analyst and lead author of the March 2000 Forrester report Beyond Broadband. “Similarly, Sprint and MCI WorldCom paid fire-sale prices for multi-point, multi-channel distribution services (MMDS) licenses, hoping to redeploy this wireless technology for high-speed access in 60 million homes.”

Europe, on the other hand, has no such universal “last mile” solution, and companies are gearing up to actually bring the pipes to the users. They’re catching up, but as of yet telecoms and cable providers do not have the framework in place for an industry agreement on that subject. This will change within the next year.

Investors should look for tremendous opportunities in buying companies who will be actually bringing broadband to customers–such as Swedish competitors Bredbandsbolaget and Telia, as well as Nokia, Alcatel, Siemens, Austrian cableco Telekabel, Belgian telcom Belgacom and Italian entry Fastweb–which are pouring resources into creating new networks. Telcos and cablecos Chello and Deutsche Telekom, as well as optics and box makers such as Lucent and KPNQwest, are also well worth watching.

Europe vs. US
It is interesting to note that according to Forrester projections, the US will have 33% of households subscribing to broadband by 2005, versus 18% in Europe. However, when one takes into account the population of Europe (at around 385 million) versus the US (260 million) the percentages don’t necessarily mean significantly fewer subscribers. And in hot spots like Sweden, broadband penetration will surpass that of the US, with 40% of households signed on.

Barriers Remain
The remaining barriers to broadband taking off in Europe, said the report, should be gone by 2003. These include rapidly expanding the miles of fiber, copper and coaxial cable throughout Europe. Belgian telco Belgacom plans to cover 75% of Belgian homes with ADSL by the end of this year to try and compete with the widespread proliferation in Belgian cable coverage.

Forrester predicts that 50% of European households north of the Alps will have broadband coverage by the end of 2001, which is 10 times the number today. This kind of competitive climate, when looked at on a pan-European basis, will increase coverage while simultaneously offering a competitive advantage that will lower entry and monthly access fees: Forrester predicts that access prices will sink below €30 per month in 10 out of 17 European countries by the end of 2002.

“That’s a level well within the 2% of disposable income that European industry forecasters hold as a price ceiling in a 1997 expert survey for the European Union,” said the report.

Announcing Police-Led

Hi, everyone,

This is to announce the formation and “soft launch” of a new, non-commercial blog and podcast called Police-Led Intelligence. There’s only a handful of postings up now, but it’s growing. It covers issues of cyber intelligence, intelligence and law enforcement technology.

We hope to make the topics beefy and pragmatic enough to give analysts a source of ideas and discussion fodder, and interesting enough to draw the attention of command staff and even some cops – we’re involving cops and ex-cops/current researchers and analysts from day one.

It’s at:

I’m an IACA member (speaking at the conference in Vancouver), an analyst and rookie, just-sworn officer in the Dallas Fort Worth area; my partner in the blog is Dave, a 15-year veteran sergeant and detective in the same region. We’re trying to blend our two worlds through topics of mutual interest (the About page on the site tells the story).

The site is advertiser-free. We do exchange links, but not money, with other similarly themed sites. Guests are not permitted to sell anything on the podcast, and must disclose when they have commercial interest in a method or product (it hasn’t happened yet, and we’ve recorded eight).

In the first podcasts, up now, we talk with:

  • Andy Ellis, chief security architect at Akamai Technologies (which handles about 20% of the Internet’s traffic each day) about ways the private sector works to share intelligence and threat information with law enforcement and other private organizations, and the challenges of deciding what to share;
  • Eric Olson, vice president of commercial intelligence firm Cyveillance to discuss ways in which analysts can seek at low cost to reduce the volume of data they consider for analysis by considering new ways to sort out the data they can NOT look at;

And (we hope) to interest cops and non-technical staff:

  • Rik Ferguson, director of security research for anti-virus firm Trend Micro, who gives us a Cyber Crime 101 primer: how do criminals make money with malicious software, how does malicious software work, and what does it target? And if someone were to launch a cyber attack against a police officer or agency, how would a criminal go about it – step by step.
  • Already recorded and rolling out in the coming weeks are more podcast episodes including:

  • Ex-cop Michael Vallez and ex-Microsoft and US DOE researcher Aaron Turner on mobile security for police agencies and the top five mobile apps every cop should have;
  • Ex-cop and current security researcher Alex Cox on gathering digital forensics at companies which have been the targets of a computer breach;
  • White hat social engineer Mike Murray on phishing, spear-phishing and other con-games, and how to defend against and investigate them;
  • Former US Marine intelligence analyst, co-author of “Cybercrime and Espionage: An Analysis of Subversive Multi-Vector Threats” and current HP-TippingPoint executive Will Gragido on intelligence and information management strategy; and
  • Dave and me talking about why people think that cops hate technology when what they really mean is that cops hate technology that looks to solve problems they didn92t know they had, as opposed to processes which drive them crazy.

    We’re seeking contributors and people to interview for the podcast. We pay what it costs you to read and listen: nothing!

    Let us know what you think!

    Nick Selby

  • Partial Bibliography

    I’ve written a whole lot of stuff. At some point I made a partial bibliography of the technology stuff.

    Cyber Crime

    Gragido, W; Molina, D; Pirc, J; Selby, N (2012) Blackhatonomics: An Inside Look At The Economics of Cybercrime Syngress, Boston.

    Data Loss Prevention

    Selby, Nick. 2008. Mind The Data Gap. New York: The 451 Group. Print.

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] Safend, building out its DLP portfolio, updates Encryptor. New York: The 451 Group. 5 Jun 09.

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] GuardianEdge, with 60% bookings growth, approaches a turning point. New York: The 451 Group. 8 May 09.

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] Fidelis announces XPS 5.2 with scanning within local network, and a granted US patent. New York: The 451 Group. 22 Jan 09.

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] Unmitigated chutzpah or the next big thing? BitArmor guarantees against breach. New York: The 451 Group. 21 Jan 09.

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] CA swoops in on Orchestria to connect the dots between data and identity. New York: The 451 Group. 6 Jan 09.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Not to be outdone by EMC/Microsoft, McAfee and Liquid Machines join forces in DLP/IRM. New York: The 451 Group. 11 Dec 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Microsoft licenses EMC data classification kit for Active Directory Rights Management. New York: The 451 Group. 5 Dec 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Code Green launches TrueDLP, an enterprise-class anti-data-leakage offering. New York: The 451 Group. 7 Nov 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] McAfee takes out Reconnex in a $46m deal that can set the DLP-acquisition bar low. New York: The 451 Group. 31 Jul 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] With good income and a pocket full of euros, Utimaco is going shopping. New York: The 451 Group. 10 Jul 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Dan Geer becomes In-Q-Tel’s CISO, will continue as Verdasys’ chief scientist emeritus. New York: The 451 Group. 29 May 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Fidelis and Verdasys team for agent- and network-based anti-data-leakage. New York: The 451 Group. 5 May 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Varonis expands its flavor of data governance to Unix systems. New York: The 451 Group. 29 Feb 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Vericept quietly builds out anti-data-leakage business after management restart. New York: The 451 Group. 4 Jan 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] Orchestria evolves into full-blown hybrid anti-data-leakage tool. New York: The 451 Group. 16 Jan 08.

    Selby, N. 2008. [Online] After the story leaks, RSA acknowledges. New York: The 451 Group. 8 Jan 08.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Symantec and Vontu finally tie the knot for $350m; who’s next to go in ADL?. New York: The 451 Group. 5 Nov 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Trend Micro continues ADL consolidation, takes out itsy-bitsy Provilla. New York: The 451 Group. 25 Oct 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Code Green Networks saws off the shotgun for bigger spread at its sweet spot. New York: The 451 Group. 10 Oct 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Raytheon could tell you what it paid for Oakley, but then it would have to kill you. New York: The 451 Group. 25 Sep 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] EMC’s RSA moves to fill anti-data-leakage gap with purchase of Tablus. New York: The 451 Group. 9 Aug 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] After years of mostly organic growth, endpoint security firm GFI takes on North America. New York: The 451 Group. 25 Jul 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Check Point’s Pointsec earns FIPS 140-2 certification for Protector, crypto module. New York: The 451 Group. 17 Jul 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Data leakage: technical or HR problem? 42 vendors think they know the answer. New York: The 451 Group. 2 Jul 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Fidelis 4.0 expands management console workflow and adds a Milter-based mail agent. New York: The 451 Group. 28 Jun 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Safend, nearing breakeven, considers a funding round in 2008 and announces Lenovo deal. New York: The 451 Group. 22 Jun 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] PatchLink goes serial with acquisition of whitelisting vendor SecureWave. New York: The 451 Group. 22 Jun 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Websense, expanding its data-leakage offering, takes out SurfControl for $400m. New York: The 451 Group. 4 May 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Chronicle’s ADL ties users to documents. New York: The 451 Group. 3 May 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Check Point earnings off 25%, but acquisitions and R&D in hot spaces show promise. New York: The 451 Group. 27 Apr 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Bluefire announces Symantec OEM deal; may seek strategic funding in 2007. New York: The 451 Group. 23 Jan 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Anti-data-leakage vendor Tablus inks VeriSign PCI deal. New York: The 451 Group. 22 Feb 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] McAfee launches anti-data-leakage product based on Onigma acquisition. New York: The 451 Group. 16 Feb 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] DB security vendor Imperva releases Scuba, a free database vulnerability scanner. New York: The 451 Group. 6 Feb 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] On the back of strong growth, anti-data-leakage vendor Vontu adds an endpoint agent. New York: The 451 Group. 31 Jan 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Guardium updates core modules, launches Change AuditGuard. New York: The 451 Group. 26 Jan 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Verdasys bolsters its application monitoring capabilities. New York: The 451 Group. 16 Jan 07.

    Selby, N. 2007. [Online] Websense solidifies its ADL play with $90m PortAuthority swoop. New York: The 451 Group. 5 Jan 07.

    Selby, N. 2006. [Online] Like McAfee, Symantec will address data leakage through acquisition. New York: The 451 Group. 27 Oct 06.

    Selby, N. 2006. [Online] McAfee fires president, and CEO quits, then it buys ADL vendor Onigma for $20m. New York: The 451 Group. 20 Oct 06.

    Selby, N. 2006. [Online] Reconnex, emerging from shakeup, prepares for a relaunch. New York: The 451 Group. 8 Sep 06.

    Selby, N. 2006. [Online] SanDisk buys msystems for $1.5bn, boosting its position in NAND flash market. New York: The 451 Group. 4 Aug 06.


    Selby, N. 2005. [Online] M-Systems’ Xkey Shield provides USB media security management. New York: The 451 Group. 23 Nov 05.


    Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Analysis

    Crawford, S. and Selby, N. 2010. [Online] It92s the Adversaries who are Advanced and Persistent. ThreatPost. January 26, 2010. [Available:]

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] The Penetration Testing Marketplace in 2010. ThreatPost. December 1, 2009. [Available:]

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] Reloading Risk Back Onto The Utilities. November 26, 2009. [Available:]

    Selby, N. 2009. [Online] Losing the Echo Chamber in the Critical Infrastructure Security Debate. ThreatPost. November 18, 2009. [Available:]

    Naraine, R & Selby, N. 2009. [Online, multimedia] Trident Risk Management’s Nick Selby on Metasploit and Rapid7. The Big Story podcast with Ryan Naraine, ThreatPost. October 22, 2009 [Available:]

    Selby, Nick. 2008. Mind The Data Gap. The 451 Security Quarterly New York: The 451 Group. Print.

    Selby, Nick. 2007. Sector View: Current Security Trends and Developments. The 451 Security Quarterly New York: The 451 Group. Print.

    Selby, Nick. 2009. [Online] Immunity’s Canvas releases Cloudburst, allowing breakout from guest OS. New York: The 451 Group. 6/4/2009.

    — 2009. [Online] Immunity, growing fast and profitably, expands reach through partnerships. New York: The 451 Group. 3/19/2009.

    — 2009. [Online] Core Security, with Impact at version 8 and customers above 800, hits its stride. New York: The 451 Group. 2/6/2009.

    — 2009. [Online] With a longer runway than it expected, Cenzic hits rotation speed. New York: The 451 Group. 2/3/2009.

    — 2008. [Online] With new funding, Palamida moves toward vulnerabilities in open source code. New York: The 451 Group. 12/5/2008.

    — 2008. [Online] nCircle updates its approach with Suite360 and a Web app scanner. New York: The 451 Group. 11/20/2008.

    — 2008. [Online] WhiteHat builds out cross marketing with F5 and expands training. New York: The 451 Group. 11/7/2008.

    — 2008. [Online] Core, claiming profits, hires former Sophos North America president as new CEO. New York: The 451 Group. 3/12/2008.

    — 2008. [Online] Mu Security’s gains in SCADA, network equipment manufacturing push it past fuzzing. New York: The 451 Group. 3/6/2008.

    — 2007. [Online] WhiteHat Security, reporting significant growth, doubles headcount. New York: The 451 Group. 12/10/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Core’s Impact 7.5 and Grasp focus on Web application security. New York: The 451 Group. 10/16/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Legal settlement forces Cenzic and HP (SPI) to play nice and share. New York: The 451 Group. 10/3/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Cenzic looks to mold itself into an acquisition target, starting with Hailstorm 5.0. New York: The 451 Group. 7/19/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Core Security loses flash and substance 96 CEO and product manager 96 in shakeup. New York: The 451 Group. 7/18/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Gleg acquires Argeniss’ zero-day exploit update pack. New York: The 451 Group. 7/12/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] HP takes out SPI Dynamics in latest Web application security acquisition. New York: The 451 Group. 6/22/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] IBM buys Watchfire, brings Web application penetration testing to the Rational line. New York: The 451 Group. 6/8/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Profitable SPI Dynamics launches Phoenix and WebInspect 7.0. New York: The 451 Group. 2/1/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Sabre Security, with a 80100,000 tech prize, expands BinNavi and VXClass. New York: The 451 Group. 1/18/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Profitable Watchfire releases AppScan Reporting Console and AppScan 7.0. New York: The 451 Group. 1/9/2007.

    — 2007. [Online] Core 6.2 adds enhanced encryption, authentication and shell access to exploited hosts. New York: The 451 Group. ½/2007.

    — 2006. [Online] Metasploit completes license change, updates pen-test platform. New York: The 451 Group. 8/2/2006.

    — 2006. [Online] Immunity integrates Spike, launches VisualSploit and builds out its partner program. New York: The 451 Group. 7/21/2006.

    — 2006. [Online] Beyond Security launches beStorm vulnerability assessment software. New York: The 451 Group. 4/17/2006.

    — 2006. [Online] Emerging from stealth, Mu Security launches a commercial-grade fuzzing appliance. New York: The 451 Group. 4/5/2006.

    — 2005. [Online] Cenzic releases version 3.0 of its Hailstorm Web application pen tester. New York: The 451 Group. 12/15/2005.

    — 2005. [Online] Immunity takes an open source approach to penetration testing. New York: The 451 Group. 11/30/2005.

    — 2005. [Online] Core Security’s Impact brings pen testing in-house to network admins. New York: The 451 Group. 11/29/2005.

    Security Information and Event Management

    Selby, N (2009) Enterprise Security Information Management. New York: The 451 Group.

    Selby, N (2006) ESIM: Security Information Management Moves Upstream. New York: The 451 Group.

    Selby, N. (June 10, 2009) [Online]. Decurity, with some flagship accounts under its belt, branches out. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 4, 2009) [Online]. Vigilant launches Fulcrum, a config library to scale its ESIM deployment chops. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 2, 2009) [Online]. LogLogic extends its series D by $8.8m, bringing total raised to $58.8m. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 1, 2009) [Online]. ArcSight launches ArcSight Express and announces a Cisco partnership. New York: The 451 Group

    — (May 1, 2009) [Online]. New trends in enterprise security information management, 05/01/09. New York: The 451 Group

    — (April 22, 2009) [Online]. LogLogic buys Exaprotect to shore up its total ESIM/log management story. New York: The 451 Group

    — (March 13, 2009) [Online]. RSA’s enVision 4.0 targets smarter sourcing of event data and better reporting. New York: The 451 Group

    — (March 5, 2009) [Online]. ArcSight nails another quarter 96 has it yet felt the pain of recession?. New York: The 451 Group

    — (February 17, 2009) [Online]. LogLogic and Exaprotect join forces for converged ESIM and log management. New York: The 451 Group

    — (February 17, 2009) [Online]. netForensics buys High Tower assets. New York: The 451 Group

    — (January 23, 2009) [Online]. ESIM vendor eIQnetworks closes $10m series A funding from Venrock. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 12, 2008) [Online]. With one hand firmly gripping its BatBelt, Splunk markets to the C-level. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 9, 2008) [Online]. ArcSight hits profitability and positive cash flow 96 now to keep it up. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 14, 2008) [Online]. Q1 Labs, extending upselling success of SLIM, launches QRadar SLIM-Free Edition. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 7, 2008) [Online]. ArcSight Logger 3 captures faster, reports better and increases onboard storage. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 23, 2008) [Online]. eIQnetworks hires a new president, fires channel and a low-cost product line. New York: The 451 Group

    — (July 30, 2008) [Online]. Government hunting is so happy for Tier-3 that it’s breaking out its product lines. New York: The 451 Group

    — (July 11, 2008) [Online]. Inspekt Security launches behavioral and security event analysis service. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 10, 2008) [Online]. Mazu can see clearly now; 8.1 targets network ops as much as security. New York: The 451 Group

    — (April 7, 2008) [Online]. EMC and RSA integrate enVision and VoyenceControl. New York: The 451 Group

    — (February 6, 2008) [Online]. Alert Logic, in new Houston digs, launches on-demand grid-hosted log management. New York: The 451 Group

    — (January 30, 2008) [Online]. eIQnetworks, stepping up its competitive heat, launches SecureVue appliance. New York: The 451 Group

    — (January 28, 2008) [Online]. In an aggressive counter to Cisco, Q1 Labs cuts OEM deals with Nortel and Juniper. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 17, 2007) [Online]. Extending its Logger functionality, ArcSight launches Log Management Suite. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 6, 2007) [Online]. TriGeo launches Splunk integration, adds more PCI punch to its SEM. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 27, 2007) [Online]. Mazu Networks continues NOC-SOC intermediary push with Profiler 8. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 14, 2007) [Online]. To make a huge managed security play, what will Cisco buy?, 11/14/07. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 12, 2007) [Online]. eIQnetworks launches SecureVue 3.0, adding flow and GRC to its enterprise ESIM. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 5, 2007) [Online]. Q1 Labs’ SLIM gets log management foot in the door, then goes for ESIM gusto. New York: The 451 Group

    — (October 1, 2007) [Online]. ArcSight’s latest feature-based upgrade targets PCI monitoring. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 13, 2007) [Online]. After hinting for three years, ArcSight files for an IPO; uh, does it earn money?, 09/13/07. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 12, 2007) [Online]. ArcSight’s S-1 reveals big revenue, persistent losses and a compliance ding. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 28, 2007) [Online]. With Solsoft integration nearly complete, Paris-based Exaprotect moves west, 06/28/07. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 26, 2007) [Online]. With network operations in mind, Mazu Networks and eIQnetworks partner. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 7, 2007) [Online]. eIQnetworks announces SecureVue 2.5 and licensing deal with Huawei-3Com. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 4, 2007) [Online]. Tier-3’s ESIM and anomaly detection targets network threats and fraud. New York: The 451 Group

    — (May 25, 2007) [Online]. Clavister adds ESIM to its unified threat management platform. New York: The 451 Group

    — (May 21, 2007) [Online]. With 4.0, ArcSight hopes ESM will move toward enterprise-wide relevance. New York: The 451 Group

    — (May 15, 2007) [Online]. Seeking to widen its appeal outside security, LogLogic announces new features. New York: The 451 Group

    — (April 12, 2007) [Online]. With new partners and management, SenSage raises $5m in series D funding. New York: The 451 Group

    — (February 12, 2007) [Online]. TriGeo’s 4.0 combines network anomaly detection and service management. New York: The 451 Group

    — (February 8, 2007) [Online]. eIQnetworks releases SecureVue, an aggressive up-stack move toward ITSM. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 8, 2006) [Online]. IBM buys Consul Risk Management to extend Tivoli Security Operations Manager. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 8, 2006) [Online]. Seven months on, Novell readies the next generation of e-Security ESIM, 12/08/06. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 4, 2006) [Online]. ArcSight moves the goalposts with Logger and Network Configuration Manager. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 27, 2006) [Online]. Intellitactics shifts from pure security to ESIM-based risk metrics. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 21, 2006) [Online]. Cambia and ArcSight play key security roles in HP-Mercury’s Universal CMDB. New York: The 451 Group

    — (October 24, 2006) [Online]. LogRhythm 96 lean, mean and bootstrapped 96 takes new angel money, rolls out 3.5. New York: The 451 Group

    — (October 18, 2006) [Online]. NitroSecurity plans new funding, prepares to launch NBAD/IPS/ESIM hybrid. New York: The 451 Group

    — (October 13, 2006) [Online]. ExaProtect and Solsoft in an ‘acquisition by merger’. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 29, 2006) [Online]. SenSage-EMC deal brings SenSage from security into a new world of data management. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 28, 2006) [Online]. Consul morphs log collection and mining into a policy management play. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 25, 2006) [Online]. Q1 Labs upgrades device discovery, improves its UI and expands its channel. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 22, 2006) [Online]. EMC, its RSA buy approved, adds Network Intelligence for $175m. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 18, 2006) [Online]. EMC gets RSA shareholder nod, buys Network Intelligence for $175m. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 14, 2006) [Online]. TriGeo adds features, doubles customer count; can it keep that small-town charm?. New York: The 451 Group

    — (September 12, 2006) [Online]. ArcSight releases ITP to bolster insider-threat claims, proposes CEF standard. New York: The 451 Group

    — (August 25, 2006) [Online]. Will HP extend OpenView and OpenCall functionality into ESIM through M&A?, 08/25/06. New York: The 451 Group

    — (August 18, 2006) [Online]. ArcSight launches Network Response Manager, extending reach into infrastructure. New York: The 451 Group

    — (July 25, 2006) [Online]. With ESA 2.5, eIQnetworks is latest ESIM vendor to scrap relational databases. New York: The 451 Group

    — (July 13, 2006) [Online]. Securify adds identity correlation and predefined rules to version 5.2. New York: The 451 Group

    — (July 6, 2006) [Online]. Symantec shuns relational database event storage in its security event manager. New York: The 451 Group

    — (June 26, 2006) [Online]. Claiming sales and product momentum, PatchLink looks for more partners. New York: The 451 Group

    — (May 26, 2006) [Online]. ArcSight buys configuration and quarantine vendor Enira Technologies. New York: The 451 Group

    — (May 11, 2006) [Online]. Self-funded LogRhythm releases version 3.0, then cautiously considers external funding. New York: The 451 Group

    — (April 28, 2006) [Online]. AttachmateWRQ acquires NetIQ for $495m. New York: The 451 Group

    — (April 21, 2006) [Online]. Novell buys e-Security to integrate identity management and security management. New York: The 451 Group

    — (April 11, 2006) [Online]. Security information management approaches a fork in the road, 04/11/06. New York: The 451 Group

    — (March 24, 2006) [Online]. Mazu claims new partners and doubled revenue. Is it next on Symantec’s hit list?) [Online]. TDM Target IQ, 03/24/06. New York: The 451 Group

    — (March 22, 2006) [Online]. Splunk ventures into the cavernous maw of enterprise log data. New York: The 451 Group

    — (March 13, 2006) [Online]. Q1 Labs plans out-of-the-box interoperability with Packeteer. New York: The 451 Group

    — (February 6, 2006) [Online]. LogLogic releases version 3.2, beefs up compliance reporting. New York: The 451 Group

    — (February 3, 2006) [Online]. ArcSight looks for NBAD, end-point configuration and policy management functions, 02/03/06. New York: The 451 Group

    — (January 30, 2006) [Online]. ArcSight homes in on compliance-insight marketing. New York: The 451 Group

    — (December 19, 2005) [Online]. eIQnetworks brings high-volume, low-cost ESIM to the enterprise masses. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 14, 2005) [Online]. Q1 Labs targets midrange enterprises with QRadar 5.0 release. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 11, 2005) [Online]. Intellitactics emphasizes executive reporting and horizontal scalability. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 10, 2005) [Online]. e-Security hones its workflow integration and event enrichment for ESIM. New York: The 451 Group

    — (November 1, 2005) [Online]. Network Intelligence repositions and targets ESIM big game. New York: The 451 Group

    — (October 28, 2005) [Online]. TriGeo happily targets low end and midrange of ESIM market. New York: The 451 Group

    — (October 27, 2005) [Online]. SenSage emphasizes security event analytics over incident response. New York: The 451 Group

    — (October 19, 2005) [Online]. With version 3.5, ArcSight targets insider threats, subtle attacks… and an IPO?. New York: The 451 Group

    All I Want Is A Combo WiFi/GSM/CDMA Device. In Black.

    Despite a predilection for triple-shot lattes, it wasn’t just caffeine that had me spending hours a day in coffee bars across America recently, shouting into my mobile phone above the din of the grinders. Mostly, it was the Wi-Fi connection.

    For three months I’ve lived a salesman’s life away from my Munich home. I travel by single-engine airplane across America, pitching my company’s services to airport businesses. Contact with the office (and my wife and son) is through e-mail and mobile phone calls.

    Every day I find the nearest Starbucks or Borders books, where a T-Mobile HotSpot provides a high-speed 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, Internet connection. I download dozens of e-mails and swap sales presentations with co-workers.

    There are niftier alternatives to Wi-Fi, some argue, but I hate reading e-mail on my mobile phone’s tiny screen, and I refuse to click four times for an “s” or quibble with the phone’s dictionary over whether mañana is an English word. Nor will I spend $400 for a Blackberry device that does little more than e-mail.

    Full-blown personal digital assistants permit me to open simple presentations and, with an added folding keyboard, type documents. But at their best, mobile data services in the United States merely double the dial-up speed. The average presentation is well over a megabyte; that can be a battery-sucking 20-minute download.

    PDA’s like Hewlett-Packard’s iPAQ h5500 have integrated Wi-Fi but don’t connect to mobile networks without more than $300 in add-ons.

    Most PDA-phone hybrid devices offered by U.S. mobile providers, like the Kyocera 7135, Samsung SPH-i330 and T-Mobile’s Pocket PC Phone, let you do e-mails and limited Web surfing, but they have few or no expansion capabilities.

    Geeky friends say, “Just set your PDA’s Bluetooth to use your mobile phone as a modem.” Oh, good: a new device, dependent on an existing one, to provide a mediocre connection. With all this on my belt, I’ll look like Batman. Why is this all so clunky? Where is the single handheld device that lets me connect to e-mail and voice via mobile and high-speed Internet via Wi-Fi – for under $1,000?

    While I’m at it, my device should, when connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, let me make calls using voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP. Apart from the Wi-Fi fee and perhaps a service charge to the VOIP provider, the calls would basically be free.

    Wi-Fi is here today, typically offering connection speeds faster than even the best 3G network will offer – when 3G gets here.

    It’s not just me. Mobile professionals – sales people, journalists, investment bankers and other early-adopter types – all want this $1,000 dream device. We are a clear market segment, and we’re willing to pay.

    Don’t tell me the technology isn’t here: Miami-based Calypso Wireless developed the C1250i Wi-Fi-enabled cellular phone and announced a deal for $500 million with China Telecom to begin delivering phones this year. If tiny Calypso can do it with a phone, can’t somebody do it with a PDA?

    “We know that’s the right solution,” said Brant Jones, a marketing manager for the iPAQ pocket PC at Hewlett-Packard, “but we just can’t do it yet for the technically intolerant.”

    Wi-Fi, with spotty coverage and the fact that there is no widely available way to roam between networks, is far from perfect. But Wi-Fi use is rising. Most new notebook PC’s and many new PDA’s have integrated Wi-Fi.

    Increased demand for hotspots has already initiated a fundamental shift in how operators intend to provide Wi-Fi services. Big players like AT&T, British Telecom, Virgin, IBM, Vodafone and Intel are realizing that sharing infrastructure makes more sense than having each company build its own.

    For example, T-Mobile HotSpots provides wireless Internet connections at more than 2,000 Starbucks locations. But their business model is a classic “walled garden.” To use it, you need a U.S. T-Mobile HotSpot account. A British T-Mobile account won’t work. That’s silly.

    A better way of getting more people to use more hotspots is more democratic. “Neutral hosts” let multiple providers share the same hotspots. They install hotspots in retail stores, airports and train stations. They then go to operators and say: “We’ve got 5,000 hotspots in retail stores around the country. We’ll let you use them to give your customers access; they pay you, and you pay us a percentage of the take.”

    So as an end user, you log in with your existing credentials rather than opening a new account. If you use BT Openworld for Internet access at home, you’ll use BT Openworld when you’re in Paddington Station in London.

    It’s self-propagating, too: Once a neutral host has cut deals with several operators, it can walk into a supermarket chain and say, “We’ve got 4.5 million customers who want Internet access; we can bring them into your stores if you give us permission to set up a wireless network in each one.”

    It’s an elegant solution to a big problem. “People don’t want different bills,” said Magnus Mcewen-King, chief executive of Broadreach Networks, a neutral host operating Wi-Fi hotspots for Virgin and BT Openworld. “They want one account spanning access methods – cellular, Internet and voice.”

    “Neutral hosting shows greater promise than roaming to succeed in offering end users easy access to public Wi-Fi,” said Bjorn Thorngren in a report for the wireless investment firm BrainHeart Capital. Thorngren forecast that providers that used the walled-garden approach to Wi-Fi billing will not survive: “They will have to change strategy or vanish.”

    Cometa Networks, a neutral host backed by Intel, IBM and AT&T, plans more than 20,000 hotspots across the United States by 2004. The company’s plan is to “sublet” to brand-name Internet service providers like AT&T and IBM. This approach should bring Wi-Fi coverage up to mainstream levels – within a five-minute walk or drive for most people.