A recent comment on my blog (there's only two right now) kind of got me thinking about the purpose of protocol wars. The commenter was a 6LowPAN backer and was taking a lot of jabs at Zigbee. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm  not a diehard fan of anything. I never really subscribed to the whole "whose side are you on" type of thing, not even for presidential elections (go Obama). However I did point out some holes in his arguments.

Protocol wars are basically stupid. They are part of the same genus as format wars. So as an overplayed example, lets take Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD. Toshiba was touting the benefits of HD-DVD and preaching to all that would listen that the world would be a better place if we adopted it as the standard. Sony was preaching the same message, except about Blu-Ray. They both were one-upping each other on specs:

HD-DVD - Backwards compatibility with DVD players

Blu-Ray - Higher storage capacities

HD-DVD - Lower manufacturing cost

Blu-Ray - More DRM options

Yada yada...

However the consumer doesn't give a shit about the storage density of the disc or compatibility with DVD players. What they wanted was a disc that they can watch HD content on. Could Blu-Ray do it? Yes. Could HD-DVD do it? Yes. Does the consumer care if Blu-Ray or HD-DVD wins? I'm pretty sure the answer was no. The whole consumer market just wanted a decision made. That was it. However the whole time the format wars were going on, damage was being done to the entire industry. The consumer didn't know which player to buy or to even buy one at all. The studios couldn't decide if they should release HD content. The manufacturer's had to make expensive players that were compatible with both. And finally, how did Sony win the format war? Was it by having a better spec? No. They paid off Warner . There you go folks.

I just got the RSS feed working for those of you that are interested. It should be on the right. Feel free to email me with any suggestions for improving the site.

Thanks! 

Yes you heard right. My water broke.

I woke up this morning and had absolutely no running water. I'm not the most hygienic person in the world, but I do like to brush my teeth and take a shower in the mornings. For some reason, this has totally messed up my schedule and I can't even concentrate on writing any code because of it. So if anyone wants to foil my plans for the day and screw up my productivity, you can just sneak up to my apartment and turn off the water main.

Anyways, it should be on in a few hours. Ahhh...the fun of not being able to wash your hands after taking the dump that you wish you could if you had running water. 

Slightly off topic, but...
Man. What crazy weather out here in Tokyo. There's gale force winds outside my window and a brown/grey/orange haze produced (I assume) by all the dust and other crap thats being blown up. It looks like the end of the world. I wish I had my digital camera.

Hello and welcome.

This is my very first post to my website and blog, FreakLabs,  and I just wanted to say....Whew!!! My background is in electronics and software so I figured it would be a breeze to set up a website. Boy...was I wrong. I didn't realize that the technology was so complex, and there were so many idiosyncrasies that had to be dealt with...databases, IE, Firefox, Content Management, PHP, SQL, Photoshop, Fireworks... my God... After I finally got things working (took over a week and a half) I felt like I would just crawl back into my embedded hole and stay there. 

 The main thing however was that I've been wanting to have my own site for a long time, not only to post my blog (which I am doubtful how regularly I can maintain posting), but also articles, interesting news, and of course my project status for the open source Zigbee project that I am working on.

It looks like the post about the Japanese guy that discovered a woman in his closet made it on to my "Most Popular Recent" list which just goes to show you...sometimes posting things when you're drunk turns out to be a good thing.

Well, there I am hanging out at the Linux Cafe in Akihabara when suddenly there was a big commotion on the main street and a bunch of police and ambulance sirens went roaring by. I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it since I figured there was probably some kind of fire happening elsewhere. Apparently, I was wrong. There was a huge stabbing spree in Akihabara on the main intersection. I didn't really find out until later, but as I walked by, I could tell something went pretty wrong. Luckily, the Linux Cafe is off of the main stretch so I didn't have to see any of the gore. But I wish this death and destruction stuff would stop following me around. It seems like it casts a bad omen for this project...

Man, and I just put up a post on how much I loved Akihabara.  

The RF 4 Consumer Electronics Consortium (RF4CE) was recently announced with many large manufacturing players involved. A good portion of the players are TV manufacturers and one of the main goals of RF4CE is to develop a standards-based RF protocol for remote controls. That's all fine and dandy, but this effort begs the question "Do we really need another protocol standard?".

Most likely, the RF4CE protocol won't stop on controlling just home electronics such as TVs and stereos. If that were the case, then they would just continue to use infrared since universal remotes already achieve the same functionality and they're damn cheap. I suspect that they are looking to integrate home automation functions which is a juicy market to CE companies.

Home automation comprises things such as lighting controls, thermostats, electronics, security, and also user profiles. Currently, Z-Wave is probably the one to watch for RF home automation and they probably have a large portion of the small market. It seems that RF4CE is trying to compete directly with Z-Wave as well as Zigbee which has a home automation profile. Zigbee's home automation is still in a fairly early stage of adoption (if it gets adopted). Z-Wave has much more to lose if the RF4CE group takes off. Z-Wave's protocol is based on remote controls as the central node of a Z-Wave network and even has a special device class for it: the Portable Controller. Since RF4CE is aiming at remote controls, it looks like both groups will be battling it out head to head.

The disadvantage that Z-Wave has is that it's basically a proprietary protocol and the source code is controlled by Zensys. Although Zensys formed the Z-Wave alliance, it could only loosely be called an industry alliance. This is because at the center of it, Zensys still controls the radio and the protocol. Members are forced to use both in order to implement a Z-Wave device.

On the other hand, RF4CE is looking to standardize on 802.15.4. This would take the proprietary radio out of the equation since IEEE 802.15.4 radios are now fairly common and supported by many different manufacturers. I'm interested in checking out the protocol though. Freescale is pushing to get it's Synkro protocol adopted by the consortium. It's a gracious effort to donate it to an industry alliance in the hopes of benefitting gadget geeks everywhere.

I always get a twinge of suspicion when companies generously commit proprietary material to be integrated into a standard. I guess it's because I grew up in the Rambus generation. That company donated their IP to JEDEC, but didn't disclose the patents that the IP relies on. They then sued all the manufacturers for royalties.

Currently, the Synkro protocol is nowhere to be found on the Freescale site so I believe that it's only handed out under NDA to large manufacturers. Additionally, I would suspect that the protocol IP and stack is currently tied to Freescale hardware so a manufacturer can't use it without committing to using a Freescale chip. I would estimate that not too many companies are using the Synkro protocol, since it requires both the consumer electronics device and the remote control to be using a Freescale chip and have the protocol implemented. It's tough to lock vendors into a single supplier situation like that since manufacturer's lose their leverage once production starts. However it is a good move for Freescale to donate their spec to the consortium. That way, they might get a 6-12 month advantage over other suppliers since they already have the protocol stack up and running.

However, just out of morbid curiousity, I did a patent search on Freescale. It's now ridiculously easy with Google Patent Search and you can search by Assignee (company). I didn't come up with much, but there are some little gems that people should take note of, lest they appear in the spec:

Method of communicating with a network device  
A method is provided for operating a network device (340) in a wireless network (100). This method includes: joining the wireless network; transmitting a probe command (600) after joining the wireless network, the probe command being addressed to a reserved device identifier; listening for an acknowledgement to the probe command from an orphan device (360); sending a management transmission to a network controller (310) requesting the creation of a child network if an acknowledgement to the probe command is received; receiving a controller transmission from the network controller granting permission to create the child network; creating the child network; and allowing an outside device to join the child network.

Wireless Communication Device and Method of Setting Individual Information (Patent Application)
A wireless communication device, an individual information writing device, and an individual information setting method that efficiently write individual information, such as a unique identifier used for wireless communication, to each wireless device. An address writing device transmits a unique address setting communication request. A wireless device has a control unit that checks whether a provisional address is set in a unique address memory. When a provisional address is set, the control unit measures the signal intensity of a received unique address setting communication request with an electric field intensity measuring unit. When the electric field intensity is greater than a threshold value stored in an address setting condition memory and thereby satisfies an address setting condition, the wireless device performs a process for setting a unique address and then transmits a completion notification to the address writing device. 

This is a bit off topic, but since I'm writing in my blog, I thought I'd share an interesting thing I just discovered.

I've been having an infestation of fruit flies in my apartment lately. Is starts with one piece of fruit that has the fruit fly eggs, and once they hatch, they multiply like crazy. Since then, I've taken steps to remove their food sources, however I haven't been able to get rid of them.

Well, as I wrote my last article, they started congregating around my wine glass for a little fruit fly party. And since then, they all sipped some wine, got drunk and passed out inside my wine. I'm not sure if I should be happy I got rid of the flies, or sad that I lost my wine...

Anyways, if anyone out there needs to figure out a way to get rid of fruit flies humanely, try giving them some chianti. 

Man, I was hoping to finish up some more documentation tonight, but I ended up watching Sex and the City...the movie...by myself...At least I would have had an excuse if I went with my wife. How's that for procrastinative stress. Its like my penis just fell off. Well, at least I have to say that Carrie Bradshaw is looking good for a 40-year old. Actually, I just checked her out on Wikipedia and Sarah Jessica Parker (real name) is 43 so she looks even better.

Maybe I should just go to bed. That way, I can man up tomorrow and fill in the comments for the data structure fields...Hmmm...that doesn't sound right either.
Wow, my site's front page hit a Google PageRank of 3/10. It was only a couple of months ago that I didn't even have a page rank. It just goes to show you that hard work and perseverance makes you socially inept. Wait a second, that didn't come out right. Anyways, its cool that I have a page rank now.