30 aprile 2010

Sirius XM chiude tra anni. E invece no

La stampa americana continua a interrogarsi sui potenziali di crescita del settore, oggi monopolistico, della radio satellitare. Rick Aristotle Munarriz è un bravissimo analista di Motley Fool che cito spesso nella mia cronaca delle vicende di Sirius XM, l'operatore di radio numerica via satellite negli Stati Uniti. Questa volta Rick prende in esame un intervento di un notista economico del Washington Post a Motley Fool Radio, podcast dedicato alla finanza USA (numero del 23 aprile), a proposito delle scare possibilità di durata di Sirius. Secondo Frank Ahrens, il giornalista del quotidiano di Washington, "fra tre anni Sirius XM non esisterà" più.
Per Munarriz è una buona occasione per spiegare che invece Sirius è destinata a restare con noi per lungo tempo. Nessuno mette in questione il brillante futuro delle infrastrutture Web wireless, precisa Munarriz. Ma queste buone prospettive future non equivalgono ancora a una certezza, anche considerando i costi che i consumatori potrebbero dover sostenere per poter usufruire della larghezza di banda mobile sufficiente. E poi la radio satellitare di Sirius, ritornata in Borsa oltre la soglia del dollaro di quotazion, ha ancora parecchie frecce al suo arco, inclusa una ferrea alleanza con i costruttori di automobili che partecipano alla crescita del business. Anche quando la copertura 4G sarà molto capillare, sostiene infine Munarriz, Sirius avrà dalla sua qualcosa come 19 milioni di utenti e non è mai molto facile, in questi casi, imporre una modalità di fruizione alternativa.

Sirius XM Dead in 3 Years? Pshaw!
By Rick Aristotle Munarriz
April 26, 2010

Who tossed Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) back into the death pool?

"I'm not sure there's going to be satellite radio in the next three years," Washington Post business reporter Frank Ahrens said during this weekend's Motley Fool Money Radio show.
Not again! Sirius XM is finally tasting success. Its stock has closed with a bid above $1 for eight consecutive trading days, leaving it just two days away from regaining its listing compliance with NASDAQ OMX Group.
The upbeat trading is warranted, as Sirius XM has been able to achieve positive cash flow, push back its debt repayment obligations, and has now come through with three consecutive quarters of net subscriber additions.
However, Ahrens isn't an ignorant basher. He is one of the platform's earliest adopters, stepping up as an XM subscriber more than eight years ago. He praises the product, though he's not sure of its lasting power.

Transitional radio

The crux of Ahrens' argument is that he sees satellite radio as a "transitional technology" -- basically "a bridge between where we were and your PC in the car."
In other words, just as it's hard to go back to terrestrial radio after sampling satellite radio, it will be hard to justify a premium, subscriber-based service when cars are tethered to everything that can be streamed off the Internet.
The mobile connectivity migration is happening. Automakers themselves have been slow in offering in-car wireless routers, but it's breaking through in the form of portable gadgetry. 3G and 4G smartphones can do it. The popularity of Novatel Wireless' (Nasdaq: NVTL) MiFi and Sierra Wireless' Overdrive mobile hot spots open the door for automakers and audio component manufacturers to introduce more Web-based radio.
There are a few shortcomings to the thesis that Sirius XM is on a limited lifeline, though.
For starters, it's hard to argue against an incentivized partner. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) isn't paying royalties to automakers for installing audio jacks in cars. Pandora isn't going to share its meager revenue with car manufacturers if connectivity improves on the road. Satellite radio is different. It's been striking deals with car showrooms for years, making sure that the installation rates are high and actively promoted.
Another satellite radio lifeboat comes in the form of accessibility. Radio is supposed to be a passive, yet rewarding, entertainment process. Tracking down Internet streams, podcasts, and stored MP3s can turn into a cumbersomely sophisticated process. It may also prove to be overly distractive to someone manning the wheel.

The future of radio

I'm not naive. I think it's totally feasible that the socialization of the Web transforms the way we entertain ourselves on the road. In a few years, why can't a morning commute consist of customized hyperlocal news nuggets, audio messages from Facebook friends, text-to-speech conversions of Twitter followings, favorite podcasts, and play lists pooled together by like-minded buddies?
All of this can happen, but it doesn't mean that it will happen.
Along the way, Sirius XM will evolve. After all, if rival ear magnets improve their game over time, why not Sirius XM? The next generation of satellite receivers will make it easier to engage in e-commerce, provide more interactivity, and be more customizable.
The important thing to remember in the eventual flux is that Sirius XM has a huge lead right now with more than 18.9 million subscribers. Never underestimate the advantage of having a sizable paying audience.
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) clearly won't be the only company providing unlimited movie streams in the future, but it has a base of 14 million members (and growing), which won't make it easy to overtake. Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) is still moving millions of BlackBerry handsets every passing quarter. Competition may intensify, but it's still blessed with a lead that isn't easily surmountable.

Content is kingfish

Ahrens' bearish perspective on the future of Sirius XM came up as he proposed that if Howard Stern is still on the air in three years, Sirius XM's model at that point wouldn't be able to pay for him.
It's an interesting point, but where would the more lucrative alternatives be for Stern and other high-priced talent? Terrestrial will only fade with broader choices, and free, ad-supported online content will never be caught writing big checks. Sirius XM should continue to be radio's great monetizer.
That's why I wouldn't be betting against Sirius XM right now -- or three years from now.

Texas Instruments e Fraunhofer per il car DAB

Texas Instruments e Fraunhofer Institute hanno annunciato all'ultimo NAB di Las Vegas la disponibilità della piattaforma software del Fraunhofer per la soluzione TI Jacinto rivolta in modo specifico all'industria automotive per le applicazioni di radio digitale e car entertainment. Purtroppo su Jacinto non si trova granché sul sito TI (probabilmente Texas preferisce parlare direttamente con i manifatturieri). E' una combinazione ARM più DSP dedicato al software defined radio. "Jacinto (552MHz DSP, 348MHz ARM926E-JS and OMAP5946, a cost effective media processing engine for Automotive Infotainment applications, mainly to enable head-unit, rear seat entertainment and digital radio designers to create scalable reusable hardware and software platforms." (Qui una brochure sulle applicazioni automotive, ma di tre anni fa)
Qualcosa si muove insomma sul fronte della componentistica per autoradio, una categoria di prodotto che il Digital Audio Broadcasting ha finora solo lambito, perché evidentemente i produttori di questo settore di grandissimi numeri ma molto specifico non si sono fidati. Non si può dar loro torto, ma adesso in nazioni di una certa importanza come il Regno Unito si parla di spegnimento delle frequenze analogiche dei grandi network e l'industria della car radio deve pur far qualcosa per non provocare un disastroso crollo di audience (le emittenti commerciali dovranno contare sulla pubblicità per finanziare il passaggio al digitale, ma non c'è pubblicità senza audience e non c'è audience senza ricevitori).
A quanto sembra di capire il DAB Eureka 147 è ben posizionato quando a disponibilità almeno teorica (ma non si fa una industria con i data sheet di Texas Instruments e i comunicati del Fraunhofer…) di silicio e software di base. Forse anche migliore è la situazione della radio digitale IBOC/HD Radio, che può vantare già una certa presenza sugli scaffali dei rivenditori di autoradio. Molto più incerta è la situazione della radio digitale DRM, che fatica a entrare nella finestra di percezione dell'industria di una certa dimensione.

Texas Instruments Selects Fraunhofer IIS to Deliver Software Defined Radio Platform to Automotive Industry

New TI Software Defined Radio for Digital Audio Broadcasting DAB to Reduce Design Time and Overall Cost for Automobile Radio Manufacturers


ERLANGEN, Germany & LAS VEGAS, Apr 12, 2010 -- Fraunhofer IIS, the leading innovator of technologies for audio and multimedia systems, has been selected by Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) to provide its DAB/DAB+/T-DMB software solution for TI's software defined radio (SDR) platform for the automotive industry.
TI's Jacinto-based platform delivers a unique approach for the automotive market, implementing a worldwide radio design concept that allows a single design to be used with multiple radio standards around the world, reducing design time and cost.
Fraunhofer's DAB receiver kit is licensed and optimized for TI's Jacinto processor, which is based on an ARM + DSP architecture. The DAB receiver kit takes advantage of Jacinto's C64x+(TM) DSP core to implement a software defined radio, specifically for the digital audio broadcasting standard DAB. The Jacinto-based platform delivers a unique approach for the automotive market, implementing a worldwide radio design concept that allows a single design to be used with multiple radio standards around the world, reducing design time and cost. In addition, as a software library, DAB can combine with other features required in automotive head units. Jacinto's ARM + DSP core combination provides enough performance to efficiently execute SDR functions while leaving headroom for other differentiation.
"We are happy that TI selected our Fraunhofer DAB Receiver Kit for its Jacinto platform," said Michael Schlicht, head of Department Integrated Digital Terminals of Fraunhofer IIS. "Fraunhofer optimized the Receiver Kit for TI's platform in terms of memory and processing consumption. This flexibility and expertise allows Fraunhofer to lead the industry, offering complete systems and individual components for digital radio technology while delivering unsurpassed R&D services."
Developed for high quality DAB radio reception and fully validated for the automotive and consumer market, the Fraunhofer DAB Receiver Kit is a reference design for efficient implementation of DAB, DAB+ or T-DMB radio receivers. The innovative software radio approach and flexible software options allow TI to efficiently enhance its radio platform with the full range of DAB/DAB+/T-DMB feature set. Fully compliant with ETSI EN300 401, the basic feature set includes baseband processing as well as high quality audio and data decoding. Optional features such as 5.1 MPEG Surround sound or conditional access are available on request.
"We selected Fraunhofer for this SDR reference design because of its well-known reputation in the automotive market and demonstrated leadership in design, integration and implementation of digital radio technologies," said Matthew Watson, business unit manager, Digital Radio and Infotainment unit of Texas Instruments. "This technology expertise is complemented by Fraunhofer's strong affiliations and connection in the WorldDMB community, allowing TI to better understand and meet our customers' needs."

29 aprile 2010

I pizzini via etere di Radio Olimpia, Rosarno

Diversi anni fa, pieni Ottanta, nell'estesa regione tra Peru e Bolivia esplose il fenomeno delle emittenti andine. Operavano con trasmettitori di recupero, navali o aeronautici, e trasmettevano ottima musica e "peticiones", annunci scambiati tra persone che abitavano in luoghi distanti e non possedevano telefono. Almeno così sembrava, perché si diceva anche che quelle emittenti fossero collegate ai narcos che si servivano di quei messaggi per controllare coltivazione e traffico della cocaina.
Nella storia della radiofonia non è certo un episodio unico, ma fa un certo effetto pensare che certe cose, una radio apparentemente normalissima utilizzata da qualcuno per diffondere messaggi in codice, succeda ancora. E molto vicino a noi. Precisamente a Rosarno in Calabria, la località degli attacchi razzistici anti-immigrati di gennaio scorso, dove l'operazione anti 'ndrangheta condotta in questi giorni contro la cosca della famigla Pesce ha portato al sequestro di un'intera stazione in FM, Radio Olimpia (Medma), con sede in via Ospizio n. 14, priva di regolare autorizzazione a trasmetter. Secondo gli inquirenti veniva utilizzata per comunicare con i detenuti in isolamento. «Dall'indagine è emerso, infatti, - scrivono le agenzie - che l'emittente radiofonica veniva utilizzata per mandare messaggi in codice ai boss della cosca Pesce rinchiusi in carcere. "Si trattava - hanno detto il Procuratore della Repubblica di Reggio Calabria, Giuseppe Pignatone, ed il procuratore aggiunto, Michele Prestipino - di uno strumento di comunicazione importante nell'ambito delle strategie della cosca".» I pizzini via etere venivano scambiati sottoforma di titoli musicali e dediche.
La notizia ha fatto il giro del mondo, persino il Guardian oggi ha fatto un lungo pezzo che apre con la citazione di un blues di Chuck Berry "I'm gonna write a little letter, Gonna mail it to my local DJ"
Radio Olimpia località Medma (sede di un importante scavo archeologico, non dimentichiamo che siamo nella locride colonizzata dai Greci 27 secoli fa), è un nome che ritroviamo anche nei documenti relativi alle emittenti calabresi storiche. Secondo FMDXlist operava su 107,7 MHz, ma ho scoperto addirittura delle citazioni di nomi di artisti che trasmettevano dai suoi microfoni, come Franco "Fifio" Gambino. Il documento più inquietante di tutti l'ho trovato tra i filmati di Google Video, gli inquietanti fotogrammi di Roccu "i Parmi", di Palmi. Rocco "u Massaru" viene ripreso con il telefonino in piazza Primo Maggio a Palmi, località costiera non lontana da Rosarno. La didascalia la dice tutta:


Rocco u Massaru i Parmi… lo trovate tutte le sere (CASCASSE IL MONDO) in Piazza I° Maggio a Palmi arrivando dal monumento F.Cilea sulla sinistra, esattamente all' angolo, non vi potete ASSOLUTAMENTE SBAGLIARE è sempre seduto nella sua moto ape di colore sempre diverso, (verniciata a bomboletta) ad ascoltare la sua radio preferita RADIO OLIMPIA MEDMA STEREO , che da Rosarno Trasmette sui 101.1

Il video sarebbe stato caricato tre anni fa e riprende Rocco mentre seduto a bordo del suo motoape ascolta, "cascasse il mondo", la sua emittente preferita. Radio Olimpia Medma Stereo. Sì. Ma che cosa ascoltava?

Socillo, presto 2 Web radio RAI con materiali d'archivio

Diecimila download nel primo giorno, primo posto in classifica tra la app italiane scaricate da iTunes Store. Il player per iPhone di RadioRAI realizzato dalla milanese Neo Network (società Magnolia e dunque controllata oggi da De Agostini Group attraverso la divisione Zodiak Entertainment), anche se è sicuramente perfettibile e priva delle estensioni previste per il futuro. Oggi TGR Neapolis ha trasmesso questa intervista con Bruno Socillo, il responsabile della radiofonia Rai. Che annuncia, a proposito dei ricchi archivi storici della nostra emittente, il prossimo lancio di due Web radio tematiche basate appunto su contenuti del passato.



video

28 aprile 2010

Play it again, Mobile TV

La tv digitale mobile terrestre ci riprova. Al NAB di Las Vegas un nuovo consorzio di broadcaster americani, tra cui NBC, COx, Hearst TV, la Open Mobile Video Coalition, ha presentato i suoi piani per la diffusione di programmi con sistema ATSC M/H, omologo del nostro DVB-H. Secondo la coalizione ci saranno 800 emittenti locali e si parte da inizio maggio a Washington DC e Detroit. Offerta che va a scontrarsi con FLO TV di Qualcomm e che utilizzerà in parte i canali lasciati liberi dalla transizione al digitale che ha riguardato anche gli USA. Tra i primi annunci di apparati il Tivizen (presentato all'ultimo CES di Las Vegas come Tivit) della coreana Valups. Tivizen/Tivit è un ricevitore ATSC M/H che ritrasmette la tv digitale "mobile" via wi-fi verso laptop, iPhone e altri dispositivi. Bella idea, ma alla faccia della mobilità!
L'istituto di ricerche TDG sta per pubblicare lo studio intitolato “Assessing Consumer Interest in New Mobile Video Services” e si dice molto scettico sui livelli di accettazione da parte del pubblico. A parte la questione della concorrenza con l'incompatibile FLO TV (anche per la radio digitale satellitare c'erano due concorrenti che sono stati costretti a fondersi), l'analista di TDG Brian Platts osserva giustamente che finora la tv mobile è stata un flop. Anche l'idea che l'uso di una piattaforma di distribuzione di tipo broadcast separata rispetto alle infrastrutture telefoniche mobili di terza e quarta generazione possa funzionare è molto in forse. Finora i consumatori non hanno affatto dimostrato di apprezzare la tv mobile ricevuta con chiavette e moduli aggiuntivi per pc, preferendo semmai accedere ai contenuti video degli operatori mobili (con buona pace di chi pensa di "alleggerire" le loro infrastrutture con il DVB-H o l'ATSC M/H). Anche per la TV si sta affermando il principio "ostativo" della molteplicità di dispositivi. Nessuno vuole mettersi in tasca una moltitudine di scatolette e appendici varie quando può disporre di un unico dispositivo convergente, il telefonino. L'insuccesso abbastanza clamoroso ottenuto dai telefonini che integrano stadi di ricezione DVB-H aggiunge un ulteriore elemento di analisi. Anche avendo un solo dispositivo la gente non è interessata, almeno in mobilità, a un consumo televisivo di tipo convenzionale, lineare, ma preferisce lo stile on-demand che si è affermato con Internet. E' una riproposizione dello scontro ormai epocale tra broadcast e punto-punto.



Broadcasters To Create National Mobile TV Network
Brian Platts, Contributing Analyst
April 23, 2010

In a press release last week at the NAB convention in Las Vegas, Belo Corp., Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps Co., Fox, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television Inc., ION Television, Media General Inc., Meredith Corp., NBC, Post-Newsweek Stations Inc., and Raycom Media announced plans to form a new U.S. mobile video service. Using existing broadcast spectrum, the service would allow member companies to provide a full range of video content to mobile devices. These broadcasters are also members of the Open Mobile Video Coalition, which includes more than 800 TV stations and has been working for years to establish a single national mobile TV standard.
But delivering broadcast TV programs to handsets is already being done in the U.S. and with very limited success. Is there reason to believe this new approach will be more successful?
Mobile DTV is delivered via the same infrastructure as digital over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts to home TVs but with special enhancements for viewing on mobile devices. So far, 45 U.S. broadcast stations are sending test mobile DTV signals using the ATSC-M/H standard, with mobile DTV service featuring similar broadcasting to fixed DTV. This will kick off in Washington D.C. on May 3, 2010, shortly after which two stations in Detroit will follow.
This is all good news for consumers, though not so good for FLO TV, Qualcomm’s own branded mobile TV service, which recently launched to supplement its resale by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Neither carrier has seen much success with the service, primarily because it is currently available on a just a few phones. And therein lies the problem.
For mobile TV to gain wide acceptance, it must be available on a wide range of popular devices such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android-based phones. Instead, Qualcomm and DTV broadcasters are relying on the sale of dongles and other after-market accessories that plug into mobile devices to enable their mobile TV capability and allow consumers to receive the broadcast signals.
The first available mobile DTV consumer device is the “Tivizen,” which receives mobile ATSC-M/H TV signals and then re-transmits them to Wi-Fi devices, such as a laptop or mobile phone – effective, no doubt, but hardly an elegant solution. To make matters worse, users must fork out about $150 for the device and remember to take it with them. Qualcomm is expected to introduce similar solutions by mid-2010.
Apple proved with the iPhone that, in order for mobile services to be successful, it must be simple, intuitive, and convenient. That maxim applies to the mobile TV experience just as it does to mobile Internet access. For broadcast mobile TV to flourish, there must be widespread diffusion of handsets capable of supporting the service natively, a feat not at all difficult given today’s miniaturization technology. The challenge is identifying a truly compelling business case for doing so. Manufacturers have no interest in adding capabilities that (a) are unlikely to be used, and (b) unnecessarily drive up costs. Then again, without a variety of appropriately equipped handsets available to consumers, it is self-fulfilling that subscriptions to mobile TV will remain low. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Furthermore, when the time comes to change handsets (at contract termination time, for example) customers typically select a new handset based on price, fashion, and overall appeal rather than for a particular feature of the device that may require an additional subscription (in this case, mobile TV). While dongles and accessories may help indirectly promote the use mobile TV among early-adopters, they will not drive large-scale growth.
Neither DTV nor FLO TV will initially serve rural communities, meaning mobile TV will remain an urban offering for years to come. Furthermore, although the performance of mobile TV service in moving vehicles (think trains and autos) is decent, TDG believes the application will appeal to a very limited market. The result, in our opinion, is that, until native reception becomes a standard feature on most mobile phones, mobile TV uptake will remain sluggish.
Separately, any claims that DTV will somehow provide relief to congested wireless data networks are premature at best. In fact, the reverse could end up being true. If mobile TV remains an “after-market” phenomena—requiring dongles and other appendages—and is embedded in only a few devices, most consumers will reject it out of hand and instead rely on cellular service for mobile video content. As use of the mobile Internet to access “free” online TV websites grows, data usage will accelerate and, in turn, impose increased loads on existing cell networks. It is thus in the interest of mobile operators and device vendors alike to push for embedded support of digital mobile TV solutions.
These and other issues are discussed in detail in TDG’s soon to be published report “Assessing Consumer Interest in New Mobile Video Services”.

SDO, il sole fa spettacolo in HD


Gli scienziati della NASA osservano con stupore immagini e filmati ad alta risoluzione che il Solar Dynamics Observatory ci restituiscono del nostro sole, spiegando misteri finori irrisolti come la "pioggia coronale", la ricaduta di materiale plasmatico dopo le eruzioni nell'atmosfera solare.

SDO Observes Massive Eruption, Scorching Rain

April 27, 2010: Just last week, scientists working with NASA's new Solar Dynamics
Observatory (SDO) released the most astonishing movies of the sun anyone had ever seen. Now, they're doing it again.
"SDO has just observed a massive eruption on the sun—one of the biggest in years," says Lika Guhathakurta of NASA headquarters in Washington DC. "The footage is not only dramatic, but also could solve a longstanding mystery of solar physics."
Karel Schrijver of Lockheed Martin's Solar and Astrophysics Lab is leading the analysis. "We can see a billion tons of magnetized plasma blasting into space while debris from the explosion falls back onto the sun surface. These may be our best data yet."
Astronomers have seen eruptions like this before, but rarely so large and never in such fluid detail. As science team member Alan Title of Lockheed Martin pointed out at last week's press conference, "no other telescope comes close to the combined spatial, temporal and spectral resolution of SDO."
Schrijver says his favorite part of the movie is the coronal rain. "Blobs of plasma are falling back to the surface of the sun, making bright splashes where they hit," he explains. "This is a phenomenon I've been studying for years."
Coronal rain has long been a mystery. It's not surprising that plasma should fall back to the sun. After all, the sun's gravity is powerful. The puzzle of coronal rain is how slowly it seems to fall. "The sun's gravity should be pulling the material down much faster than it actually moves. What's slowing the descent?" he wonders.
For the first time, SDO provides an answer. "The rain appears to be buoyed by a 'cushion' of hot gas," says Schrijver. "Previous observatories couldn't see it, but it is there."
One of SDO's game-changing capabilities is temperature sensing. Using an array of ultraviolet telescopes called the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), the observatory can remotely measure the temperature of gas in the sun's atmosphere. Coronal rain turns out to be relatively cool—"only" 60,000 K. When the rains falls, it is supported, in part, by an underlying cushion of much hotter material, between 1,000,000 and 2,200,000 K. "You can see the hot gas in the color-coded temperature movie," says Schrijver. "Cool material is red, hotter material is blue-green. The hot gas effectively slows the descent of the coronal rain."
Dick Fisher, the head of NASA's Heliophysics Division in Washington DC, has been working in solar physics for nearly forty years. "In all that time," he says, "I've never seen images like this."
"I wonder, what will next week bring?"

Radio RAI in tasca: dirette e podcast su Apple iPhone

Grande attesa questa mattina in viale Mazzini per il lancio della applicazione iPhone (scaricabile qui) di Radio RAI, anticipata sulle pagine di questi giornali. Tutti i palinsesti della radio, l'ascolto dei canali in diretta, le schede dei programmi e naturalmente l'accesso alla radio on demand, "non lineare" come si dice dei podcast. Alla piattaforma Apple faranno seguito altri sistemi operativi mobili "smart".
La popolarità dei podcast RAI sfiora il milione e mezzo di download mensili (marzo 2010) ma la gestione di questo aspetto del sito RAI (ecco per esempio la nuova pagina dei podcast di Radio 3) lascia spazio ad ampi margini di miglioramento. Il podcast di diverse trasmissioni non viene aggiornato con regolarità, per programmi molto popolari (un nome tra tutti, Ad Alta Voce, la lettura di grandi romanzi affidata a grandi attori, così apprezzata dagli ascoltatori di Radio 3 e dai non vedenti) ci sono anche problemi di diritti che nessuno ancora ha risolto definitivamente (non è facile, lo ammetto) ma che ostacolano la libera fruizione di questa essenziale modalità alternativa di ascolto. Chissà che questo non sia un primo passo per una definitiva soluzione al problema. E chissà che iPhone, la radiolina a transistor delle nuove generazioni - con buona pace dei fan della radio numerica DRM+ che si ostinano a considerarlo "un telefono" - non possa diventare il grimaldello per accedere all'infinito scrigno dei tesori d'archivio della nostra radiofonia.

Tutta la radio in tasca: l’applicazione Iphone di RadioRai

La direzione Radio Rai in collaborazione con Raitrade ha sviluppato e lanciato un applicazione Iphone che permette a tutti i possessori dello smartphone Apple di poter ascoltare e interagire con i programma di RadioRai. Questa iniziativa viene presentata nel corso di una conferenza stampa alle ore 10 nella sede Rai di Via Asiago dal direttore di RadioRai Bruno Socillo e dall’amministratore delegato di Raitrade Carlo Nardello alla presenza dell’onorevole Paolo Romani viceministro allo Sviluppo economico con delega alle Comunicazioni.
L’applicazione, denominata “Tutta la radio in tasca”, è disponibile gratuitamente e dà la possibilità di far accedere agli utenti a tutti i contenuti di Radio1, Radio2, Radio3 e Isoradio in completa mobilità. Questa applicazione, disponibile ora solo per la piattaforma Apple e a breve anche per gli altri smartphones, permette di raggiungere un nuovo pubblico, sia in Italia che all’estero, abituato ad utilizzare questi terminali evoluti che permettono di rimanere connessi ad internet e poter ascoltare il proprio canale di RadioRai preferito in piena libertà di movimento e creandosi, utilizzando il podcast, il proprio palinsesto personalizzato. E’ infatti possibile ascoltare i canali radio in diretta streaming, consultare il palinsesto e le schede di ogni singolo programma e visualizzare video e immagini relative al mondo di RadioRai e scaricare le proprie trasmissioni preferite in podcast. Inoltre attraverso l’applicazione è possibile interagire direttamente con i programmi inviando messaggi ai conduttori utilizzando il proprio smartphone e ascoltare in anteprima la playlist musicale dei tre canali radio delle Rai.
Con questa applicazione il servizio pubblico di RadioRai offre i suoi contenuti nel mondo delle applicazioni smartphone attraendo un nuovo pubblico che usa sempre di più questi terminali per ascoltare la radio o per cercare notizie e approfondimenti.
Quest’iniziativa si va ad inserire nella complessa offerta multimediale di Radio Rai costituita dal portale Internet www.radio.rai.it e da otto sottoportali che permettono di fruire online i contenuti dei nostri canali che generano un traffico di oltre tredici milioni di pagine viste al mese (dato di Marzo 2010 – Fonte Site Census Nielsen). Tutti i programmi delle tre reti e di Gr Parlamento sono disponibili anche in podcast per l’ascolto su lettori portatili mp3 o sul computer e la fruizione di questa tipologia di radio “on demand” ha superato ampiamente il milione di download al mese (1.453.000 download nel mese di Marzo 2010).

Il film delle Number Stations


Altra segnalazione dall'amico Benn Kobb: si tratta di "Clandestine" un suggestivo documentario di 30 minuti realizzato da Gideon Kennedy e Marcus Rosentrater con materiale d'archivio americano sulla storia delle Number Stations, le misteriose emittenti che ancora adesso vengono utilizzate dai servizi di intelligence per gestire le reti di agenti sul campo, con lunghi messaggi in forma criptata. La colonna sonora del documentario è costituita dall'inconfondibile sound di queste stazioni, nella famosa antologia del Conet Project.
Di seguito il trailer su YouTube e una breve intervista ai registi proposta dall'Atlanta Film Festival. Clandestine ha anche una pagina Facebook molto attiva.

10 Questions with Gideon Kennedy & Marcus Rosentrater of CLANDESTINE (with Code!)

In the early days of film the norm was to store a print for a few years after an initial run and when space was needed, to burn it. Studios would keep the hits they knew they could re-release every few years, but Hollywood had no problem destroying hundreds of films they no longer had any financial use for--to be fair, they did keep the scripts around so they could remake them. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the 1960s that film preservation really started in earnest and it really wasn't till the 1980s there were enough techniques developed to salvage the large number films that were literally crumbling. One hundred plus years of filmmaking has disappeared, and is disappearing, and no one will see it.

What directors Kennedy and Rosentrater have done is to go beyond preservation and have, in the tradition of oral storytelling, reordered the familiar to craft a new narrative that's grounded in reality, tinged in paranoia and intimately personal.

CLANDESTINE
Gideon Kennedy & Marcus Rosentrater - Directors
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If you could describe your film using only 3 words, what would they be?

ECHO HOTEL PAPA (that's also a clue!)

Is there a character or subject in your film you most identify with? Would you switch places with them just for a day?

Can't really say without generating unwanted suspicion.

What's the one thing about your film you're most proud of?

The fact that we were able to weave sounds and images from hundreds of sources into one seamless film that tells two stories, is really something to be proud of. That, and a genuine paranoia of the FBI.

When you first screened your film, was there a moment, scene or character the audience reacted to, that surprised you?

Because our film is half non-fiction and half narrative fiction, many people assume that the narrative half is documentary and therefore autobiographical. It is not. However, it is based on research around the thoughts, feelings and reactions people have towards an adulterous parent or role model.

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

We've found that many viewers leave reflecting on a parent or role model who has let them down, or somehow grew out of favor. On the documentary side, it's been fun to see people's reaction to Numbers Stations; their surprise that governments are still br [transmission cut off]

Who are the directors, filmmakers and artists that most influenced your film or yourself?

Hopefully a viewer, watching our film, would see the influences of Chris Marker, Craig Baldwin, Rick Prelinger, Laura Kissel, Bill Morrison, Peter Watkins and perhaps even Jay Rosenblatt.

Who is the unsung hero of your film and why?

Adolf Tolkachev. In addition to being one of the most productive spies in history, his story and personal life are the most reminiscent of the story told in the narrative segments. His greatness is relative to which side you are on.

Where do you see your film in 5 years?

Gathering dust on archive.org, from which most of it came.

Someone has to go to the bathroom during your film, and they have to miss part of your film. Do they miss the beginning, the middle or the end?

Leave at the beginning, and don't come back. In a word, ABORT!



27 aprile 2010

La Cina è vicina. A Houston

Bellissimo l'articolo del Washington Post che mi ha segnalato l'amico Benn. Si parla della strategia di China Radio International, la vecchia Radio Pechino, che sta finanziando (si parla di oltre sei miliardi di dollari) un ambizioso piano di ritrasmissione dei suoi contenuti all'estero. Nel caso del WP lo spunto è una piccola stazione in onde medie di Galveston, non lontano da Houston (ma abbastanza da non coprire la città di giorno, mentre CRI, rivela il giornale, crede di sì…) nel Texas.
In Europa questa strategia - che risale all'epoca del relay da Radio Tirana, ben prima della caduta del muro - ha già portato CRI a occupare la frequenza di 702 kHz di Radio Montecarlo (tre ore ogni giorno in lingua italiana).
Da qualche tempo, invece, la frequenza di 963 kHz prima occupata dalla radio nazionale finnica YLE serve per ritrasmettere (credo proprio con la collaborazione di CRI) programmi multilingue, tra cui il cinese, di Radio 86, una iniziativa di FutuVision, una società di Tampere che agisce per la promozione degli scambi culturali e commerciali con la Cina.

From China's mouth to Texans' ears: Outreach includes small station in Galveston

By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2010

GALVESTON, TEX. -- Cruise southeast out of Houston, past the NASA exits and toward the Gulf of Mexico, and you pick up something a little incongruous on the radio, amid country crooners, Rush Limbaugh, hip-hop and all the freewheeling clamor of the American airwaves. "China Radio International," a voice intones. "This is Beyond Beijing." Way, way beyond Beijing.
Sandwiched between a Spanish Christian network and a local sports station, broadcasting at 1540 on your AM dial, is KGBC of Galveston, wholly American-owned and -operated, but with content provided exclusively by a mammoth, state-owned broadcaster from the People's Republic of China. Call it KPRC. Or as the locals quip: Keep Galveston Broadcasting Chinese.
The little Texas station may be modest, but it is part of a multibillion-dollar effort by the Chinese government to expand its influence around the world. As China rises as a global force, its leaders think that their country is routinely mischaracterized and misunderstood and that China needs to spread its point of view on everything from economics to art to counter the influence of the West. Beijing's new response is typically massive and ambitious: a $6.6 billion global strategy to create media giants that will challenge agenda-setting Western behemoths such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the BBC and CNN.
At a time when the Western media are contracting, China is pushing its government-run news services to expand from America to Zimbabwe. The Chinese are creating TV networks, pouring millions into English-language newspapers, leasing radio stations on all continents and broadcasting TV news to a worldwide audience in six languages. The stations don't broadcast outright propaganda, but rather programming with a Chinese focus and flavor, tailored for local audiences. In Galveston, the format mixes China-centric international news, talk shows about the status of China's women and a healthy dose of gangsta rap -- all in English.
In New York, China's official Xinhua News Agency is moving its North American headquarters from a small building in Queens to a sprawling office complex in Times Square. It will soon have more than twice as many bureaus in the United States as any Western news agency has in China.
Xinhua plans to increase its worldwide footprint from about 130 bureaus to close to 200 and is equipping each one with a videographer. And last year it started its own television news channel -- in both English and Chinese. China Central Television, the main state broadcaster, operates its biggest overseas bureau in Washington. In a sign of its increasing ambition, CCTV will begin live financial news coverage (in English) on Monday from the New York Stock Exchange.
Behind the push is a Communist Party hierarchy that has seized upon the idea of "soft power" as China's new Holy Grail in its search for superpower status. President Hu Jintao has publicly stressed the strategy. And in 2008, Li Changchun, the party leader responsible for propaganda, summed up China's rationale: "In the modern age, whichever nation's communication methods are most advanced, whichever nation's communication capacity is strongest . . . has the most power to influence the world."

Tangled party line

But if there's a whiff of "Nineteen Eighty-Four" in China's efforts to mold minds, there's also a dollop of Rube Goldberg in its missteps.
Much of the $6.6 billion budget hasn't been allocated because Chinese media companies have come up with unworkable ideas, Chinese government sources said. For example, a scheme to place TV screens showing pro-China content in European supermarkets hasn't materialized because China is having difficulty finding a firm to downlink the satellite feeds.
Beijing bureaucrats ended a program that allowed reporters on the recently relaunched U.S. edition of the China Daily, a Chinese state-owned newspaper, to do original reporting and not simply reprint stories provided by headquarters.
But even reprinting the party line has caused problems. Chinese journalists broadcasting to overseas markets have been punished for repeating reports of state-owned media in China. Chinese diplomats complained that those reports -- in one case about China's mining disasters -- were hurting China's image abroad. "We've increased the quantity of the work we do but not the quality," said Yu Guoming, deputy head of the journalism school at People's University in Beijing. "So far, the results are lousy. We really need a new way to present our story. We can't just use the old logic and throw lots of money at it."

Not quite Houston

Then there's Galveston. China Radio International thinks that KGBC is broadcasting in Houston, as evidenced by on-air announcers saying, "You're listening to KGBC Houston." But Galveston is about 50 miles from Houston, and the station's signal fades well before it reaches Texas's No. 1 media market.
Marc Shorey, an American who advised CRI on its expansion plans last year before he was forced to resign for criticizing the plans as poorly thought out, said a Chinese middleman convinced CRI that KGBC would reach listeners in the Houston market. "Oops," he laughed. "They really haven't a clue as to how to win over the foreign market. They could use a lesson in geography as well."
Bad advice and corrupt consultants bedeviled the Chinese as they sought to increase their global heft, several consultants said. "They don't know the market so they are relying on the kindness of strangers," Shorey said.
CRI signed the Galveston deal in December; last year it replaced the country music on KHCM-AM in Hawaii with Chinese content. It also broadcasts one or two hours a day in about 20 other cities in the United States and Canada, including Washington's WUST-AM.
It has two FM stations in Australia: in the capital, Canberra, and in the western city of Perth. It runs a station in Nairobi, and it is becoming a major player in local radio throughout the South Pacific, Africa and Latin America. "Their philosophy is build it and people will tune in," Shorey said. "It's unclear whether that's happening."

After Tiananmen Square

China started its campaign to change how the world thinks after the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 when its worldwide reputation had hit rock bottom.
First it focused on the overseas Chinese because of their importance as investors to China's economy. In 1992, China Central Television launched a Chinese-language satellite TV channel called CCTV-4, on which it spends at least $5 million a year. Beijing also began a campaign to influence Chinese-language media outside China. China's state-run news media successfully bought off or competed against outlets that supported Taiwan, democracy in China or banned groups such as the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Anne-Marie Brady remembers using New Zealand's Chinese-language newspapers in the 1970s to study Chinese and being impressed by the broad array of opinions. Not anymore. "Twenty years ago Chinese-language newspapers definitely didn't have the People's Daily view of the world," said Brady, a professor in Chinese media studies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. "Now they all do."
In the United States, the Chinese-language market is more diverse because of the presence of a large number of Taiwanese. Even here, however, China's voice is rising. CCTV is now distributing its Chinese-language news and drama programs free to dozens of smaller cable and other TV stations throughout the United States in an attempt to squeeze out Taiwanese programs, industry insiders said. China first hit the U.S. airwaves in English in the summer of 1993 when Alan Pendleton, of New World Radio in Falls Church, negotiated a deal to get China Radio International on his station WUST in the District.
In the beginning the broadcasts were not only hard to hear, they were also boring, Pendleton said. "We told them we're not interested in listening to a bunch of propaganda about the five-year plan in Sichuan province for wheat production. We want you to be our window into China. And so they did it." Now, Pendleton said, "I listen to the program and I don't hear any blatant BS. What they try to do is put a human face on China."
In 2000, China started a 24-hour satellite English news channel called CCTV-9. CCTV-9 is planning to grow from 10 bureaus to about 50 worldwide, and that's just for its English-language service, said Jack Fensterstock, a Bethesda-based consultant who has worked with China's media for more than 30 years.
In October, Fensterstock's company, Tantao News, signed a contract with China's other mammoth new agency, Xinhua, under which Tantao can chose any Xinhua content for its Web site, YouTube and mobile platforms such as the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Google's Android system and the iPhone.
Fensterstock said he believes he has a viable business model because Xinhua's coverage is broader than almost any other news service in business. Xinhua has more reporters in Africa and Asia than any other news service in the world. And it is not bothered -- at least for now -- about advertising and profits. "Their primary concern is to show they are professional and not biased," he said. "They are looking for credibility."
Back in Galveston, there's befuddlement about why China chose the sleepy hurricane-ravaged island as the gateway into the American psyche. George Lee, who hosted a show on the station before CRI took over, said when he first heard about the Chinese coming he thought it was a joke. "They're taking over the world and they're starting here?" Lee said looking out at the Gulf of Mexico on a recent blustery afternoon. "I guess they just took a wrong turn."

26 aprile 2010

Good Morning, Guten Morgen, Buongiorno Afghanistan



Ha avuto una certa eco nella stampa, qualche giorno fa, la notizia della creazione nella parte occidentale dell'Afghanistan, a Herat, di una stazione radio finanziata ed equipaggiata dalle forze di intervento italiane (in particolare per iniziativa del 28esimo reggimento "Pavia", di stanza a Pesaro, specializzato appunto in propaganda mediatica ed elettronica). Ormai i lettori di RP conoscono queste operazioni di psy-op, di guerra psicologica (un termine tecnico, del tutto neutro). In questa forma di confronto gli schieramenti "combattono" attraverso i programi radiotelevisivi. Nel caso dell'Afghanistan e di teatri di questo tipo le emittenti hanno scopi di servizio, forniscono informazione, "formazione" e intrattenimento. Ma servono anche, evidentemente, a offrire alle popolazioni locali il punto di vista delle coalizioni militari che hanno ritenuto opportuno invadere, riportare l'ordine, perseguire militarmente e legalmente dittatori, guerriglieri, terroristi. In queste cose i confini sono sempre molto labili.
La notizia della "italiana" "Voce della libertà" non rappresenta uno scoop. Basta andare sui siti Web della coalizione intervenuta in Afghanistan per capire che Radio Sada-e-Azadi è già attiva su 88,5 MHz a Kabul ed era prevista l'apertura di altre sedi.
Ho trovato anche i comunicati relativi a una stazione creata per le forze militari inviate dalla Germania.
Vi suggerisco di andare su Flickr, dove troverete l'album fotografico dell'ISAF, la coalizione internazionale in Afghanistan. Ricercando per "radio" troverete molte fotografie interessanti, incluse quelle relative alla distribuzione di apparecchi radio alimentati con dinamo a manovella. Le immagini che vedete qui si riferiscono alle radio a manovella donate alla popolazione e a un operatore di Radio Gureshk (gestita da un reparto psy-op danese, per ulteriore dettagli guardate questo approfondimento trasmesso qualche mese fa dal canale televisivo del British Forces Broadcasting Service.)

Regional Command-West Opens Radio Station in Herat
4/22/10 | ISAF Public Affairs Office

HERAT, Afghanistan (April 22) - Music, local news and in-depth discussions on important social issues and local culture are now more prevalent in western Afghanistan.
A NATO radio network station began broadcasting from Camp Arena recently, offering public-interest content to help local residents better understand the purpose of ISAF forces in Afghanistan.
Radio is the main tool to disseminate information throughout Afghanistan and can reach people even in the most remote areas, easily crossing the boundaries of literacy and distance. The radio station will provide an important contribution to the growth and social development of the country and provide immediate information in case of emergencies.
The broadcast selection is chosen by local personnel and closely connected with the target audience, the population of Regional Command-West's area of responsibility. For this reason, all of the programs are broadcast exclusively in the Pashto and Dari. Mr. Guido Crosetto, under-secretary of state for the Italian Ministry of Defence, turned on the "On Air" light and spoke over the air during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday.
"Sada and Azadi West Radio [The Voice of Freedom - West]," said Mr. Crosetto, "is a media that relies entirely upon an Afghan journalism staff and offers objective information on Afghanistan to all the citizens of the four western provinces - to city dwellers and those living in more isolated communities. The programming of Sada and Azadi Radio will pay attention to your proud traditions and prestigious culture without neglecting the specific needs of your everyday life. It is a service tool and an entertainment tool; a new voice that will increase the conscious participation in the democratic life of this country."
The Task Force Commander, Maj. Renato Rocchetti, directs and manages the new radio station, which is manned by an Italian Air Force NCO and three local journalists. Other staff members will be added soon.
The station was developed, with Italian funding, by the men and women of the Regional PSYOPS Support Element (RPSE), composed by personnel of 28th Regiment "Pavia," a unit specializing in operating communications equipment.


***

Radio Sada-e-Azadi: new look, more coverage and more programs!

KABUL, Afghanistan - Radio Sada-e-Azadi 88.5 FM, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) radio station, has revamped its programming. It will now air more news, more sport, more informational topics and it has also renewed the popular morning show.
Starting on the 13th June, the news bulletins will start at 5am and continue until 10pm each day. Due to popular demand, there will also be summaries of headlines every half-hour with weather forecasts and currency exchange rate updates on the hour. Sports will also feature more heavily, with a magazine show every morning at 8.30am.
The morning show, called “Sunrise”, is a 2 hour program with practical information for listeners on all manner of subjects which will include business news, one-hour health programs, and two nature programs a week. And now, everyday at 6.30am and 6.30pm, there will be special programming dedicated to the youth audience.
Radio Sada-e-Azadi 88.5 FM is also expanding its broadcasting area in the coming weeks. Listeners from Badghis and Takhar provinces will soon join those already listening in Herat, Farah, Kunduz, Balkh, Lowgar, Kabul, Baghlan, Maidan Wardak, Faryab, Badakhshan, Parwan and Ghor.

***

German radio provides information, entertains troops

KABUL, Afghanistan - “Good morning Vietnam!” is the title of the movie and the line Robin Williams made famous in his 1987 war movie. But for the Germans broadcasters based at Regional Command North, they begin their day by saying “Guteu Morgen Afghanistan!” That’s what you’ll hear if you set your dial to German Radio Andernach, 107.5 FM.
The radio station is part of Germany’s Federal Armed Forces Broadcast Service and provides entertainment and information to the German troops serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
The majority of the around the clock, non-stop programming may come from Andernach, Germany, but every day, the morning show originates live from the local studio in Mazar-e-Sharif. Five German soldiers here provide music, entertainment, world news and reports involving ISAF operations in Afghanistan.
“Radio Andernach is very important for the moral of German troops,” said Capt. Andreas Buss, German Radio Andernach chief and native of Andernach, Germany. “Due to the radio program, they are well informed and have a very close link home. Another aspect is that Radio Andernach can be used as an instrument for military leadership. The commander can present his guidelines via radio.”
The motto of German Radio is “Soldaten senden fuer Soldaten,” which means soldiers sent for soldiers. This motto is very important to Buss.
“It’s a very entertaining job, you get to see everything this country does in Afghanistan,” said Buss. “But we are soldiers first and secondly journalists.”
German Staff Sgt. Thomas Langer, a personnel clerk and native of Sachsen, Germany, said he enjoys listening to German Radio Andernach.
“The music is good and modern and you can request songs and they play it on the radio,” said Langer. “If you hear songs [that remind you] of home, that is a good thing to have in Afghanistan.”

23 aprile 2010

Solar Dynamics Observatory, il sole in hi-res


Pubblico da quasi cinque anni le notizie - e le immagini - relative alle ricerche nel campo della fisica solare e della sua interazione con il sistema terrestre (una interazione che abbraccia anche aspetti profondamente sociali), ma quello che comincia ad arrivare dal Solar Dynamics Observatory lanciato a febbraio dalla NASA è davvero stupefacente. Le immagini viste sono solo una frazione minima degli 1,5 terabyte di informazione giornaliera che SDO rimanda a terra. Oggi l'apertura di Repubblica.it contiene un link a una "foto navigabile" di una atmosefera solare restituita a una risoluzione mai vista, ma altre immagini e filmati raccontano episodi recenti come il brillamento del 30 marzo scorso e tanti altri. Persino l'Huffington Post ha dedicato spazio all'eruzione del 13 aprile, facendo vedere un filmato HD a dir poco spettacolare (immagini riprese in quel caso dalla missione STEREO. Nel frattempo, anche il telescopio spaziale Hubble festeggia in questi giorni il suo ventesimo compleanno.

NASA's New Eye on the Sun Delivers Stunning First Images
04.21.10

NASA's recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is returning early images that confirm an unprecedented new capability for scientists to better understand our sun’s dynamic processes. These solar activities affect everything on Earth.
Some of the images from the spacecraft show never-before-seen detail of material streaming outward and away from sunspots. Others show extreme close-ups of activity on the sun’s surface. The spacecraft also has made the first high-resolution measurements of solar flares in a broad range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths.
"These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research,” said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "SDO will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on modern astrophysics.”
Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun. During its five-year mission, it will examine the sun's magnetic field and also provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate. Since launch, engineers have been conducting testing and verification of the spacecraft’s components. Now fully operational, SDO will provide images with clarity 10 times better than high-definition television and will return more comprehensive science data faster than any other solar observing spacecraft.
SDO will determine how the sun's magnetic field is generated, structured and converted into violent solar events such as turbulent solar wind, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These immense clouds of material, when directed toward Earth, can cause large magnetic storms in our planet’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere.
SDO will provide critical data that will improve the ability to predict these space weather events. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
“I’m so proud of our brilliant work force at Goddard, which is rewriting science textbooks once again.” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA. “This time Goddard is shedding new light on our closest star, the sun, discovering new information about powerful solar flares that affect us here on Earth by damaging communication satellites and temporarily knocking out power grids. Better data means more accurate solar storm warnings.”
Space weather has been recognized as a cause of technological problems since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century. These events produce disturbances in electromagnetic fields on Earth that can induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines and causing widespread blackouts. These solar storms can interfere with communications between ground controllers, satellites and airplane pilots flying near Earth's poles. Radio noise from the storm also can disrupt cell phone service.
SDO will send 1.5 terabytes of data back to Earth each day, which is equivalent to a daily download of half a million songs onto an MP3 player. The observatory carries three state-of the-art instruments for conducting solar research.
The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager maps solar magnetic fields and looks beneath the sun’s opaque surface. The experiment will decipher the physics of the sun’s activity, taking pictures in several very narrow bands of visible light. Scientists will be able to make ultrasound images of the sun and study active regions in a way similar to watching sand shift in a desert dune. The instrument’s principal investigator is Phil Scherrer of Stanford University. HMI was built by a collaboration of Stanford University and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif.
The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly is a group of four telescopes designed to photograph the sun’s surface and atmosphere. The instrument covers 10 different wavelength bands, or colors, selected to reveal key aspects of solar activity. These types of images will show details never seen before by scientists. The principal investigator is Alan Title of the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, which built the instrument.
The Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment measures fluctuations in the sun’s radiant emissions. These emissions have a direct and powerful effect on Earth’s upper atmosphere -- heating it, puffing it up, and breaking apart atoms and molecules. Researchers don’t know how fast the sun can vary at many of these wavelengths, so they expect to make discoveries about flare events. The principal investigator is Tom Woods of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. LASP built the instrument.
"These amazing images, which show our dynamic sun in a new level of detail, are only the beginning of SDO's contribution to our understanding of the sun," said SDO Project Scientist Dean Pesnell of Goddard.
SDO is the first mission of NASA's Living with a Star Program, or LWS, and the crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions that study our sun and space environment. The goal of LWS is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.

video

20 aprile 2010

ECO: per ora niente switch off dell'FM analogica


Oggi il comitato tecnico FM PT45 che nello European Communications Office si sta occupando della cosiddetta digitalizzazione della radio, con particolare in riferimento alla banda VHF II della modulazione di frequenza ha pubblicato la prima bozza del suo report ufficiale. Nel sommario esecutivo possiamo leggere una serie di statement in cui si afferma che di fronte alla proposta di adozione dei sistemi di modulazione numerica DRM+ e HD Radio non si può pensare di dispiegare nessuna delle due tecnologie su vasta scala senza un profondo ripensamento delle regole di protezione stabilite per dare banda sufficiente a ogni servizio e senza una successiva revisione del piano di frequenze. Nessuna delle nazioni che partecipano al comitato tecnico vuole arrivare a una nuova conferenza regolamentativa.

· For some of the candidate systems the necessary technical planning parameters are not fully available thus making it difficult to perform a systematic comparative technical analysis at this point in time.

· A supplementary Report (to this Report) will be required to provide the technical elements and parameters needed for the introduction of digital systems in Band II.

· There are issues with spectral bandwidth of some candidate systems relative to the planning provisions of GE84 which will make their use problematic in Band II which is heavily occupied by existing services, and which could necessitate re-planning if these systems were to be widely deployed.

· Administrations do not wish to have another major planning conference to replace the GE84 Agreement for new digital services.

· Administrations do not wish to lose their existing rights under the GE84 Plan. Consequently, there is a need for any incoming system to comply with the provisions of GE84 Agreement.

· There may be program and technical licensing issues on a national basis. For example, an FM program licence may have been granted following an open competitive tender process for an individual single service, and any subsequent changes which would enable a multiplex capability to such an existing licensee could be problematic.

Il fantasma che aleggia in questo momento in Europa dopo la decisione - frettolosa - da parte del governo britannico di fissare una data di massima per un possibile spegnimento, almeno parziale, delle radio analogica in FM è che il concetto di switch off diventi universale, che tutta
Europa finisca per adottarne il principio. Ebbene il comitato FMPT45 conclude perentoriamente che: no universal switch off date for analogue services in Band II can be planned.
E' vero, la radio in modulazione di frequenza ha praticamente settant'anni di vita. Ed è vero, in molti casi offre un livello di servizi poco adeguato e apparentemente non in linea con quello che i consumatori di contenuti digitali possono aspettarsi, almeno sul piano della fedeltà sonora. Ma l'ECO ci sta dicendo - almeno così pare di capire - che le risorse di cui le nazioni europee dispongono, gli investimenti fatti, hanno un peso non trascurabile. Che cambiare radicalmente il modo di trasmettere i segnali radio broadcast comporta degli svantaggi e che per il momento i costi rischiano di essere nettamente superiori ai benefici. La radio digitale continuerà la sua duplice evoluzione in banda II analogica e in banda III, dove restano da risolvere problemi non indifferenti come la scarsa consapevolezza da parte del pubblico, la non disponibilità di sistemi di ricezione per automobile e la bassa penetrazione dei segnali VHF all'interno delle abitazioni e degli uffici (con questo non voglio dire che il DAB non avrà successo, solo che bisogna fare le cose davvero per bene per favorirne la diffusione).
Trovo molto suggestiva la coincidenza tra la data di pubblicazione del report e quella dell'uscita sul New York Times (di domenica) di un articolo dedicato a Edwin Armstrong, l'inventore della radiofonia a modulazione di frequenza. Un personaggio straordinario e decisamente trascurato, nella memoria collettiva degli americani
(figuriamoci la nostra), rispetto a figure come Thomas Alva Edison e lo stesso Guglielmo Marconi. Armstrong era un bravissimo ingegnere e fu una delle figure più brillanti nel dipartimento di ingegneria elettrica della Columbia University. L'ateneo ricevette in eredità centinaia di scatole di documenti che costituivano l'archivio personale dello scienziato della radio, ma fino al 2007 questo fondo sterminato non ha ricevuto particolari attenzioni. In quell'anno il capo del dipartimento Mischa Schwartz, facendosi aiutare dalla Fondazione IEEE, dalla Armstrong Memorial Research Foundation e da aziende come Alcatel-Lucent, riuscì a racimolare i 70 mila miseri dollari necessari per pagare una archivista della Columbia, Jennifer Comins, e mettere ordine in quel caos. Il New York Times rivela che con quei pochi soldi viene anche finanziato un blog, Armstrong Papers, dove verranno resi pubblici i ritrovamenti più significativi e dove soprattutto si tornerà a discutere di Edwin Armstrong.
I primi esperimenti sulla modulazione di frequenza risalgono, ai primi anni Trenta, negli scantinati della Columbia. Il primo brevetto è del 1933 ma Armstrong ancora non sapeva che sarebbe andato incontro a un mucchio di guai e a una lunga, estenuante battaglia legale per colpa di tecnologia che a guerra finita molti utilizzavano senza versare un solo dollaro di licenza. L'unica cosa che Armstrong proprio non riuscì a inventare fu un metodo per reggere a tutto quello stress. Convinto di essere sull'orlo del tracollo finanziario, un giorno di iinverno del 1954 saltò dalla finestra del tredicesimo piano. Proprio lui, che negli anni venti si faceva fotografare sulle cime delle antenne delle radio newyorkesi.
Chissà come avrebbe preso l'idea delle modulazioni moderne, di quella OFDM oggi alla base di
tante rivoluzioni digitali. Da bravo ingegnere sarebbe rimasto affascinato, sicuramente sarebbe il primo a voler sperimentare la nuova radio. Ma forse non gli dispiacerà neppure leggere sui documenti dell'ECO quella frasetta. No universal switch off date for analogue services in Band II can be planned.
Saving the Neglected History of FM Radio’s Unsung Pioneer
By JOSEPH PLAMBECK
Published: April 18, 2010

The questions seemed simple enough: When and how did Edwin H. Armstrong, the father of FM radio, make the discovery that led to that invention?

In 2007, Mischa Schwartz, an emeritus professor of electrical engineering at Columbia, tried to find the answer. He starting digging into some of the nearly 600 boxes of Armstrong’s archives donated to Columbia decades ago, only to find them disorganized and his quest complicated.
He also saw the condition of the archives as a deterrent to other scholars who might be interested in Armstrong, a figure who largely fell out of public awareness — his name “sliding toward oblivion,” The New York Times wrote in 1981 — just decades after he committed suicide in 1954.
Even Mr. Schwartz, who considers Armstrong the “greatest inventor in radio,” admitted to giving Armstrong short shrift in the past. In textbooks that he had written, Mr. Schwartz said he had attributed advancements to one inventor, only to later discover that Armstrong had made the same discovery and had understood it much better.
So Mr. Schwartz reached out to groups like the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Foundation and raised more than $70,000 to get an archivist at Columbia, Jennifer Comins, to organize the material.
The collection includes papers outlining his theories; photographs of Armstrong and his many inventions; to-do checklists; reel-to-reel audio; and boxes of material from the many years of litigation between Armstrong and RCA, and Armstrong and Lee De Forest, another inventor, over patent issues.
Ms. Comins, who has the help of a graduate student, Jennifer Howard, began the project last December and plans to finish by the end of November. They created a blog that would track their findings and, they hoped, renew some interest in Armstrong.
“When I was growing up I heard about Edison and Marconi, and I never heard of him,” said Ms. Comins, 37. “And now I wonder why.”

19 aprile 2010

Radio Vulcano trasmette la voce dei fulmini eruttivi

Spaceweather.com parla di una missione scientifica che in Islanda sta studiando un fenomeno poco conosciuto (e dalle cause ancora misteriose) associato alle eruzioni vulcaniche: nelle nuvole incandescenti di lava, ceneri e gas si accendono le scariche di veri e propri fulmini. Considerando la difficoltà di osservare questi lampi in normali condizioni di ripresa, gli scienziati del politecnico New Mexico Tech stanno costruendo intorno all'Eyjafjallajokull (nessuna relazione con il Faiallo) una rete di sensori RF che "ascoltano" le scariche ricostruendone la mappa tridimensionale.

It is well known that volcanic eruptions produce strong lightning. Less well known is why? Ordinary lightning in thunderstorms is not fully understood; volcanic lightning is even more of a mystery.To investigate, a team of researchers from New Mexico Tech has traveled to Iceland to monitor the Eyjafjallajokull volcano--and they have found it crackling with electricity. Photography is one way to monitor volcanic lightning, but the technique has limits: Ash clouds are able to hide the flashes; lightning is not always visible in daylight; glowing lava competes for attention; and so on. Radio receivers can do a better job. Lightning emits impulsive radio bursts which can be measured and counted, day or night, even through clouds of ash. "We are deploying a six-station lightning mapping array around the Eyjafjallajokull volcano," says Harald Edens. Their analysis of the radio "crackles" could reveal much about the inner workings of volcanic lightning.

18 aprile 2010

Addio a Carlos Franqui, dissidente di Radio Rebelde

A Puerto Rico, dov'era esiliato da tempo, se n'è andato venerdì scorso, a 89 anni, il rivoluzionario cubano divenuto dissidente Carlos Franqui. Perseguitato dal regime di Batista, Carlos fu uno dei primi a mettersi a fianco di Fidel Castro, senza mai rinunciare al diritto alla critica e uno dei primi a voltargli le spalle, alla fine degli anni sessanta, approfittando del suo ruolo di ambasciatore in Italia, per protestare contro l'invasione sovietica di Praga.
Nei mesi della rivoluzione il Jefe lo rimproverò persino quando decise di tagliarsi l'onor del mento - di rigore tra i rivoluzionari barbudos - perché il figlio non lo riconosceva più. E si dice anche che un giorno ci fu un litigio violento perché Franqui aveva svelato a un giornalista americano in visita sull'isola che le numerose "truppe" che sfilavano davanti a lui erano solo un cerchio degli stessi uomini.
Fu soprattutto direttore di Radio Rebelde, che in questi giorni, sul suo sito Web, ignora completamente la notizia della sua morte. Tra i tanti interventi della stampa di tutto il mondo ecco il necrologio del Nuevo Herald, edizione ispanica del quotidiano di Miami, capitale dei contras.
Publicado el viernes 16 de abril del 2010
Muere el periodista cubano Carlos Franqui

JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ

Carlos Franqui, figura fundacional de la revolución cubana y uno de los primeros intelectuales en denunciar las políticas totalitarias de Fidel Castro, murió el viernes en Puerto Rico. Tenía 88 años.
"Como ser humano, todo lo que puedo decirle es positivo'', declaró el ex comandante Hubert Matos, cercano a Franqui tras el triunfo revolucionario en 1959. "Siempre lo consideré un buen amigo y hombre de una cultura amplísima. Fue un luchador de la izquierda cubana que se arrepintió de la filosofía marxista. Nunca le cayó bien a Fidel y tampoco fue de su completa confianza''.
Franqui murió en su hogar en San Juan debido a complicaciones por padecimientos respiratorios, afirmó a El Nuevo Herald su esposa Margarita Padrón. También le sobreviven dos hijos, Camilo y Carlos, de 54 y 49 años, respectivamente. Cumpliendo con su voluntad, no habrá servicios fúnebres y sus restos serán cremados. Deja atrás una extensa obra que abarcó los géneros de ensayo, poesía, periodismo y crítica de arte.
"Carlos era hombre con una calidad humana muy grande. Vivió muy interesado en el arte, el destino de la gente y su país, Cuba'', comentó Padrón. "Hasta el día de su muerte se mantuvo al tanto de la actualidad y siempre estuvo dispuesto a luchar en lo que pudiera''.
En los primeros años del régimen, Franqui fue un incansable animador cultural que empleó toda su influencia para darle a la prensa, las artes y la literatura un espacio de libertad y modernidad. Dirigió el periódico Revolución, donde estimuló un amplio margen de debate. Entre sus más logradas iniciativas se cuenta el Salón de Mayo de 1967, que reunió en La Habana a muchos de los principales pintores y artistas plásticos de la época.
Nacido el 4 de diciembre de 1921 en el Municipio de Cifuentes, entonces provincia de Las Villas, estuvo ligado desde joven a las luchas de los trabajadores azucareros a través del Partido Socialista Popular, de tendencia pro soviética. Sin embargo, sus discrepancias con la ortodoxia comunista de sus dirigentes lo hizo apartarse a mediados de la década de 1940.
En 1951, fundó con el músico Harold Gramatges la sociedad cultural Nuestro Tiempo, uno de los más fructíferos proyectos para potenciar la cultura nacional y abrir el país a las influencias de su tiempo. De esa época data su amistad con figuras como el escritor Guillermo Cabrera Infante y el pintor Wilfredo Lam.
Como periodista, criticó fuertemente la dictadura de Fulgencio Batista y se vio forzado al exilio en México y Estados Unidos tras sufrir prisión y tortura. Luego, participaría en labores de apoyo al Movimiento 26 de Julio hasta entrar clandestinamente a la isla y subir a la Sierra Maestra. Fundador de la emisora Radio Rebelde, su voz y sus ideas eran escuchadas en todo el país como la expresión oficial de los guerrilleros.
Sus desacuerdos con la dirección de Castro lo llevaron a la ruptura en 1968, tras condenar el apoyo cubano a la invasión soviética a Checoslovaquia. Asentado en Europa, fue un incansable crítico del castrismo y escribió páginas imprescindibles sobre la reciente historia de la isla.
"Hizo amigos para la causa de la libertad en Cuba entre figuras importantes de la disidencia de Europa Oriental, entre los demócratas latinoamericanos y en el mundo de la literatura y de las artes'', recordó Frank Calzón, director ejecutivo del Centro para una Cuba Libre, en Washington. "No pudo ver su sueño de una Cuba Libre. Hace sólo unos días conversamos sobre la racha de represión en la isla. Que descanse en paz''.
Exiliado y sin mayores presiones que las que imponía su pasión literaria y periodística, Franqui dio rienda suelta a su creatividad, ingenio y apetito por la escritura. Así, sumó obras importantes como El libro de los doce (1968) y Cuba, la revolución: mito o realidad. Memorias de un fantasma socialista (2006). También escribió una polémica biografía de Fidel Castro y un análisis sobre la enigmática muerte del comandante revolucionario Camilo Cienfuegos en octubre de 1959 (2001).
A comienzos de la década de 1990, Franqui se estableció definitivamente en Puerto Rico. Seis años después fundó la revista Carta de Cuba.
Polémico y mordaz, nunca tuvo reparos en responder a quienes lo criticaron por su pasado revolucionario y sus convicciones. De hecho, en medio de un debate con el periodista Agustín Tamargo en las páginas de El Nuevo Herald, en marzo de 1993, Franqui se calificó como "uno de los raros cubanos que reconoce y deplora sus responsabilidades'' en el triunfo de la revolución.
"Pienso que para combatir a Fidel Castro no hay que pedir permiso a nadie. Sé que de los muchos horrores sufridos por Cuba, el de Castro es el horror mayor'', puntualizó Franqui. "Sé que la historia será muy severa con esa revolución parida de otra dictadura, nacida de frustraciones, injusticias y falta de libertades, que parecía mito, sueño, y se volvió barbarie insalvable''.
El escritor y periodista Carlos Alberto Montaner destacó la importancia de Franqui en el quehacer artístico y político cubano a partir de la mitad del siglo XX.
"No se puede escribir la historia de ese período sin consultar cuidadosamente los escritos de Franqui. Cuando pasó al exilio fue fundamental para conseguir el apoyo de intelectuales europeos de alto rango contra la dictadura de los Castro'', indicó Montaner. "Así fue como vimos la firma de personalidades como [el pintor Joan] Miró y [el escultor Alexander] Calder en la lucha contra los atropellos del gobierno cubano''.