Monday, December 28, 2009

Terry Lake 2009

For many years I've been spending Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmases with Wendy's family in Terry Lake, Fort Collins, CO. The lake's north shore is hugely photogenic, so nice photos are easy pickings each year.

This Christmas was no exception. I zipped out at sunset one evening and shot this set:

Boat on ice

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Broncos v Raiders

While in Denver over the holidays Wendy and I went to the Broncos/Raiders game at Mile High Stadium (or "Invesco Field at Mile High"). We'd managed to get fantastic tickets for seats on the 4th row at the 40-yard line, Broncos side, and the weather turned out to be absolutely beautiful.

Tragically, and heart-breakingly, the Broncos lost to their arch-rivals in the last minute of the game—chances of reaching the playoffs diminishing accordingly. Still, I got some good photos.

East Stands

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Gifts

This year I was lucky enough to receive the most kick-ass selection of books. I can't wait to get started working my way through the pile:

I also received one of the most fantastic Christmas gifts ever: a Korg Kaossilator. Holy moly this thing is some kind of super-addictive-awesome.

Korg Kaossilator

Also: a Brookes saddle for the fixie and a two-tone chopping board. Got to love it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Day Labor

One of my recent favorites is this one.


It was taken at the same intersection as this one:

Day Labor

Round here we have very enterprising day labor crews. Within three blocks of our house you could recruit an army for contingent work, should you ever need to.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Fall In Bernal

Bernal Hill is a few blocks south of where we live in the Mission. I find the area incredibly photogenic.

Yesterday Wendy and I went on a walk up and around the hill, as we often do. In the fall afternoon sun I got a set I'm fond of, some of which are below:

Thee Cormans
Muve Dunping
Blue Paint

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Limited Unlimited

[an atypical business-related post with due credit to the Telco 2.0 Blog, an excellent resource on the modern economics of telco]

I've witnessed this point argued again and again: at my current employer, my previous employer, and the one before that. Telcos are greedy; telcos sell "unlimited data" but deliver otherwise; telcos will lose the broadband market to a player who can offer better value; and so on. Definitely I'm not defending misleading marketing of broadband services, but claiming that telcos are on a mission to exploit consumers falls short of the mark.

It's really not as simple as that.

The problem the telcos have is this: their costs building and running a packet-switched network are fundamentally a function of data volume on that network, (# of bits transported) * (cost per bit). As a first-order approximation, this linear function works pretty well; in this simplified model the cost per bit is an aggregation of OpEx and CapEx (amortized). CapEx includes licensing wireless spectrum, building out towers and backhaul and so on.

Telco costs are a function of data transport volume, more or less.

So you might be tempted to think that a "cost-plus" pricing model is the answer: charge the consumer per transported bit (ie. a metered data plan) at a rate of X * (cost per bit), where X>1. In general these pricing plans don't work well because on the consumption end what users end up paying doesn't correlate with the value they're getting. Is watching that YouTube video on my iPhone 100x more valuable to me than downloading that email from my boss? No, but it might cost me 100x more. Consumers can't make sense of that, and metered data plans haven't worked for the industry.

Consumer value is not a function of data transport volume.

So the telcos move to a subscription-based pricing model, otherwise known as flat-rate. Here they charge you a monthly fee for access to the network but typically give you "unlimited data" along with that. This is easy for consumers to understand, avoids the problem of data value being independent of data volume, and everything works just fine... EXCEPT that now the telco's revenue is a function of (# of subscribers) while their costs are a function of (# of bits transported).

In a subscription-based world, telco data costs and revenues are decoupled.

Having your revenues decoupled from your costs is a dangerous situation to be in, because you could easily find yourself paying out more money than you're taking in. So you try a few things:

  • you place a cap on the "unlimited data", to control how far revenues can deviate from costs and keep your margins positive. Providers are in general moving this way.
  • you start throttling traffic, for the same reason
  • you start looking at ad-supported models, inserting X ads per bit transported, to couple revenues to costs again
  • you start looking for a way to make your costs independent of traffic but instead a function of the number of "unlimited data" subscribers

After the launch of iPlayer in the UK (iPlayer is the BBC's streaming media product), one major ISP revealed that their costs of carrying streaming traffic trebled within weeks. Unless they can pass those costs to consumers, or fund them some other way, or prevent them entirely, they'd be in trouble. Bad news when your costs treble and your revenues don't.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Painting with light, redux

One of the most popular posts on was the one about painting with light. This was one of my favorites:
Diabolical Alexia
Of course there are other talented folks doing this stuff. If you're interested you should check out 25 Spectacular Light Painting Images. Of the angel (#10), Matt says "Looks like it was done with a sparkler" and I think he's right. Clever.