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back to article British, Belgian boffins battle buffering bandwidth bogeyman

International boffins have been enlisted to stop that most annoying of internet snafus, the buffering circle of doom right in the middle of your kitten video. The European Commission will splaff €3,569,000 over three years in an effort to reduce internet transport latency (the RITE project) without a requirement for new and …

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Linux

"This isn’t something that companies like Microsoft and Apple will undertake lightly,..."

What a scary world it'd be if we only had two choices. That is, those two choices.

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Okay, I'm a right good socialist. I believe in centralised health care, employment insurance, emergency services, education and so forth. I even believe that certain things should be nationalised (like telecommunications infrastructure) because they are "natural monopolies." In addition, I - sin of sins - believe that governments should fund primary research (a-la NASA) because there are no private entities that are capable of long term thinking or willing to invest in raw R&D anymore. (R.I.P. Xerox PARC from the era of not sucking.)

But government money to develop new networking protocols/algorithms to reduce latency? What the twentyfold detonated hells? This is exactly the sort of thing we have a private sector (and free - if preferably regulated - markets) for! This is something with a clearly defined return on investment and a very short horizon on return. If this could be done for such a paltry sum of money, why aren't we leaving this up to the private sector to solve?

"This isn’t something that companies like Microsoft and Apple will undertake lightly,..."

Like hell.

If Apple or Microsoft - especially Apple - thought for an instant they could solve this problem in a way that could be realistically implemented, they'd be all over that like white on rice. Microsoft would want the licenceing and Apple would find a way to sue someone with it.

To say nothing of how desperately Cisco would love to own something like that. (What with Software Defined Networking rendering the bulk of their business model irrelevant and all…) I am willing to bet you couldn't throw a rock in the valley without hitting some dude working on exactly this problem at some stealth-mode startup. Hell, I met a few of them last time I was there!

So what gives? What the heck am I missing here? How is this something any government at any level should be involved in? I am legitimately confused as to how this came about.

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> certain things should be nationalised (like telecommunications infrastructure)

Trevor, grow the fuck up. I have worked in a nationalised telecom infrastructure provider exploiting its telecom infrastructure "natural monopoly". Yeah no. Enjoy your soviet-era mindset and permanent fixation on finding the next justification to not change anything and destroy any stirrings of progress. "Somebody wants a modem? Can't we make this illegal??"

Another problem entirely is that natural monopolies are about as real as pink unicorns and there is no reason to make a fantasm actual by then granting actual monopolies. This is the mindset that tries to "create jobs" by increase of the monetary mass.

And if you want that, I don't see why you would roll over some protocol research.

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"Grow the fuck up" = "agree with my antiquated view of the world based not on provable facts and figures, but the fairy tales I was taught about economics as a child." Nice. Glad to see you are at least internally consistent with the stereotype.

The private sector is fucking pants at investing in primary research. That's something governments do well...or did. until the private sector became a "person" in some backwater stinkholes and started changing the direction of the large research institutions every two years via the application of ridiculous amounts of lobbying. Rapidly decaying clusterfucks that were once proud nations aside, there are plenty of examples where government funded primary research with long time horizons produces results that simply would never be funded by the private sector today.

That is where this money should be going. Not into items with definable markets and a describable, positive ROI. If you can build a near-term business case for it, then the government doesn't have any business poking it's head into it.

Which is exactly why nationalised – or at the very least regulated-to-be-shared telecommunications and power infrastructure is better. I'm sorry you had a shitty experience, but fuck your anecdotes with a lacquered bus. I've had a shitty experience: it is called "privatisation." The privatisation of our power and telecommunications industries have been horrible for the consumer…and worse for businesses!

Competition never emerged, and investment only occurred when backs were against the wall. Specifically, advancements only happen when enough citizens get together and threaten to create collectively-owned telecommunciations or power infrastructure and start banging on the regulator's door. At that point, the existing monopoly/duopoly providers will have an aneurism and send in a fleet of lawyers. Two years later an agreement will be reached to slowly advance the state of infrastructure (or drop rates) to the minimum possible level required to stop the citizenry from phoning the politicians.

It was a hell of a lot more efficient when this was more or less directly controlled by the politicians; when shit didn't move fast enough, we screamed like banshees and shit got done.

We could go toe to toe with anecdotes all day long, but since there seems to be a reasonable amount of evidence that backs up my personal anecdotes, I'll stick with my outlook on the world, thank you.

I'd much rather have the UK's telecommunications infrastructure than Canada's, or (heaven forbid) most of the US. That whole "being forced to sell bandwidth wholesale" thing sure worked out better there than privatisation did for us.

And don't get me started on North American cellular rates…

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Facepalm

D-A-M, this is how we know we're getting old.

Those who weren't around at the time believe the socialist claptrap and start talking about how wonderful BT and British Rail were in comparison to what we have now. I'm sure that the only reason that they're not regaling us with how wonderful British Leyland was is that enough of their products survive to remind us how godawfully shite they were.

Those who refuse to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

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"But government money to develop new networking protocols/algorithms to reduce latency? What the twentyfold detonated hells? This is exactly the sort of thing we have a private sector (and free - if preferably regulated - markets) for! This is something with a clearly defined return on investment and a very short horizon on return. If this could be done for such a paltry sum of money, why aren't we leaving this up to the private sector to solve?"

Err, the core TCP/IP protocols were developed under DARPA funding from the US Govt for military research needs. It's not exactly a novel funding model.

Let me suggest that companies (tend) to build point solutions to benefit themselves (anyone remember networking SNA style?).

Vendor lockin is still a popular strategy and Microsoft (to name one major but not sole culprit) record has not been impressive.

So yes chipping in some funding solely to develop a compatible protocol that can go to the IETF for adoption as an internet wide standard is not a bad idea. The real question will be wheather it will be too skewed to the telcos in the group and wheather this many partners will get bogged down in co-ordination issues.

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The point about leaving this up to companies like Apple, Microsoft or Google to research and patent the buggery out of and then stifle development and improvement just seems to prove itself. If a government were to research and do this then the results should be given out free and therefore benefitting all, not just a few corporations.

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@John Smith 19

I consider the development of TCP/IP to have been essentially primary research. Beyond that, there was a legitimate military requirement. There were all sorts of reasons that it made sense for that to be developed on the public dime.

In this instance, I can't really come up with a good argument why this should be developed by a government. There are lots of good market reasons for people to develop this technology in the private sector and make it interoperable.

The Storage Networking Industry Association's plugfests server to me as an example of how the private sector can even work together when there is a business case to be made for interoperability. I guess I just can't find a way to classify this as anything close to "primary research." It seems like this is exactly the sort of thing that we should have coming out of Cisco's R&D, proposed to a central standards authority, then pay Cisco the FRAND tithe on their patent for 10 years.

My gripe here isn't about spending a few million. We piss away more than that on those pointless perv scanners. My gripe here is that we have a government undertaking to develop a technology that there is no requirement for a government to develop, seemingly for no reason other than to prevent private industry from being able to milk it for patents.

I am no big fan of large corporations…but this strikes me as a terrible plan. If governments are going to run around and stat picking off the low-hanging IP fruit, then it strikes me that corporations are going to start reconsidering even the pittance they spend on R&D now.

Thus it seems to me that the narrow benefit to the people – dodging one round of patent payments that will probably add a buck tops to any new device – has the potential to be dramatically overshadowed by the chilling effect such efforts could very well have on private sector R&D spend. R&D spend which is – quite frankly – piss poor as it is.

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FAIL

I agree with some of what you said, Trevor, until you got to this:

"The privatisation of our power and telecommunications industries have been horrible for the consumer…and worse for businesses!"

I simply do not see how anyone can make that claim with a straight face. I worked for BT for several years on either side of privatisation. Privatisation of telecomms infrastructure is the only reason we aren't still sitting with a rented POTS phone on our desk, and paying through the nose for 56K dialup. Suggesting that it was better when it was controlled by the politicians sounds like that old saw about how Mussolini got the trains to run on time, it isn't exactly a point in his favour.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @John Smith 19

"The Storage Networking Industry Association's plugfests server to me as an example of how the private sector can even work together when there is a business case to be made for interoperability. "

Until someone notices that interoperability also means "the customer can swap our kit out for some cheap stuff", at which point SNIA discussions start to look very like the decision-making process in the EU. Manufacturer "X" fully supports the idea of the new protocol, but would just like to propose this tiny amendment which will make it sooo much better. Oh dear, yes, I suppose that will mean another few months of approvals rounds, but it will be worth it in the end. How many years has SMI-S been going round for, and how many manufacturers actually support enough of it to be interoperable? The company I worked for when it started gave up waiting years ago and cancelled the project that was going to use it.

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@TeeCee

I'm old enough to remember maybe 30 years or so of British Rail, and it wasn't nice. Same with the other huge nationalized monopolies - anyone who has to deal with BT today has some inkling of their attitude to consumers.

So naturally when Mrs Thatcher discovered Adam Smith and David Ricardo and started promoting the free market and private enterprise, I was all for it. Let's get some efficiency and profit motivation!

I think we can all see how that turned out. So the sad conclusion is that we have two extremes, public ownership and private ownership, and both stink considerably - although for different reasons. Nationalized industries don't tend to give their employees (or managers) any strong reason to do better or try harder (except for the milk of human kindness, which I have noticed does not flow strongly in everyone's veins). But privatization is just a way of handing the profits of arguably increased efficiency to executives and shareholders.

The first step is to understand that life is not a test. Trying to find the best way of running a country is not like Sudoku, where there is one correct answer and you can find it with enough skill and persistence. We need to recall Abraham Lincoln's very deep remark that "statesmanship is the art of exploiting individual meannesses for the general good". And then we need to find some people who can actually do that - a very difficult trick, as mean people are very ingenious in finding ways to avoid contributing to the general good. (Hello Amazon, Google, Vodafone, Starbucks, and the rest of you!)

Public projects of any kind need to be undertaken from an engineering systems perspective, and one of the ground rules must be that human material is specified and tested just as rigorously as concrete or steel. There are decent honest hard-working people out there with the necessary skills and experience, but you won't find them by interviewing, competitive tender (what a joke), or choosing "people like us" as in "Yes, Minister". Instead, "by their fruits shall ye know them". Go by performance and objectively documented results.

Now you could have a fine long argument about whether the Internet itself was the result of a government project. It was sponsored by ARPA, but much of the most important work was done by private firms. Perhaps the most important point is that it never had a high political profile, so the scientists and engineers were allowed to work in peace.

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Your straw man is coming apart

>Those who refuse to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.

And those who don't know their history never know what hit them.

For all the faults of BT - and they were many - it was a nationalised BT who paid for the digital investment which later, private companies were able to enjoy, and which enabled the huge increase in services (and reliability) we now associate with telecoms.

Would a private corporation have done that? Maybe - about now, probably, not in the early 80s.

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>Privatisation of telecomms infrastructure is the only reason we aren't still sitting with a rented POTS phone on our desk, and paying through the nose for 56K dialup.

Bollocks. The reason you aren't lumbered with that analog equipment is because of the money a nationalised BT spent on digital 60% of which was installed before privatisation.

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@Phil O'Sophical Well, I guess it's different here. Canada still HAS a few government-run telecoms companies, and they provide as-good-or-better service to their customers at lower prices. And they do so in the places that have far lower population density and more hurdles to overcome than private offerings.

Privatisation simply did not spur innovation here. All it did was drive up prices. It sure as shit didn't spur any new investment in infrastructure.

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Paradox detected @TeeCee!

"I'm sure that the only reason that they're not regaling us with how wonderful British Leyland was is that enough of their products survive to remind us how godawfully shite they were."

If they were that shite, how come so many of them survive?

My parents owned a Morris Marina. In winter, they would park it on a hill top, half a mile from our house so they could push start it when the battery would inevitably fail. Thirty years later I saw a similar vintage marina being driven in Malta. BL cars were very popular there at the time because they were cheap, spares were plentiful and they were surprisingly reliable in the dry climate. British Leyland didn't make shite cars, they just weren't suited to the British climate!

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Linux

I really do not see what relevance Microsoft and Apple have in this scenario. Presumably, the problem lies in the routing that takes place between the server you are streaming from and your own internet connection.

As most of these servers run some flavor of unix or linux, most of the routers do the same, Microsoft and Apple are totally irrelevant here.

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Bufferbloat?

That sounds like "bufferbloat" - something Robert Cringely has been writing about for years.

See:

http://www.cringely.com/2011-predictions-one-word-bufferbloat-or-is-that-two-words-2286/

http://www.cringely.com/2011-prediction-4-bufferbloat-may-be-terrible-but-your-cable-isp-wont-fix-it-2318/

http://www.cringely.com/beginning-of-the-end-for-bufferbloat-4087/

etc. etc

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Alien

Not: Bufferbloat, but regulatory bloat

"“It’s a problem we all notice when you’re using a program like Skype. If anyone else in the house is watching a video at the same time – your video connection becomes jerky and often crashes," professor Gorry Fairhurst, internet engineer at Aberdeen, said"

One solution is called QoS. Prioritise delay sensitive traffic, buffer less time critical traffic. Already standardised, widely used on private internets.So funding is presumably a way to re-invent that particular wheel without getting the Net Neutrality fanatics excited,

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Re: Not: Bufferbloat, but regulatory bloat

Not so practical on the internet though. For one thing, everyone would decide that their packets are by far the most important.

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Re: Not: Bufferbloat, but regulatory bloat

"One solution is called QoS. Prioritise delay sensitive traffic, buffer less time critical traffic. Already standardised, widely used on private internets.So funding is presumably a way to re-invent that particular wheel without getting the Net Neutrality fanatics excited,"

I know this is an option for some internet protocols but IRL is it actually used?

Sounds a good idea in theory so thumbs up.

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Pint

Did not read the article

But epic title is epic!

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slow video has nothing to do with latency

It has more to do with ISPs like VM using Akamai caching on Youtube videos to reduce their requirement for investment in network capacity at the expense of user experience.

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Some percentages*

Gamers - 1%

Vid-oip users - 1%

Kitten Fanciers - 4%

Porn Fanciers - 93.9%

Kitten Porn Fanciers - 0.1%**

*I just made up

**A small but vocal minority.

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Re: Kitten Porn

Would this be porn for kittens, or porn involving kittens?

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Re: Kitten Porn

...or porn for kittens, involving kittens.

Hmmm...I'm sensing a market gap here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Kitten Porn

Rule 34

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Unhappy

... and kitten/porn fanciers

While I like both kittens and porn, only a perv would fancy kitten porn.

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I have noted

That often government fund the building of an infrastructure then sell it off to private companies who do nothing with it and keep it barely functional with little improvement investment, then, demand price hikes to modernize the aforementioned pre built untouched system all the while making massive profits for shareholders and board members every year, certain things need to stay in the public domain and be damned with making a profit... healthcare and public transport.

that said, I would like to see better business practices in place for government run services, we all know a contract with the government is a literal blank cheque for the contract holder.

we pay for the development of x system (fighter jet new form of energy whatever) we subsidise the company and give them breaks to develop it and it invariably goes over budget and takes a lot longer than it was originally projected, then after all is said and done we have to also buy the finished product at market price (i.e a cost analysis of how much it actually cost to develop divided by the number scheduled to be built) from the people we just gave all the breaks and help to design it.

pure government services unless it is all the black hat stuff (which costs a fortune and we have no clue what they are doing) are hard to regulate because no matter where you are, there are many layers of people who apparently do not communicate (similar things are found in huge manufacturing companies the difference is there are many interesting rules regarding who can talk to who in the government so someone gets away with fleecing the system and there is great resistance to give any one person the full detail of what is going on in order to fix it.

we are damned both ways, a good example of entirely private research patents and sales is pharmaceuticals, and we know how much brand name drugs cost

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Holmes

The answer....

I've read at least two stories in the last couple of months on this site, about improving TCP/IP latency and bandwidth, so is this just another scheme to avoid a patent encumbered solution? Alternatively, there's CSMA/BA, just decide what traffic is bloody important and what's not.

If Subject == 'Kitten Pron" then Priority = 1

There, fixed it....

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Anonymous Coward

IP? Its a matter of priorities....

When I had to deal with TCP/IP prioritisation I was appalled to discover its limitations.

In a large corporations, what they ideally want is for IP packets to be prioritised according to the status of the employee using a service. A trader shuffling zillions around should have rather more priority than a newly hired temp. They want it to reflect the political structure of the organisation.

Sadly IP prioritisation schemes do not map onto this political requirement very well. They are hard pressed to identifiy and prioritiise constant bit rate data like video and voice over data that can hang on a bit like email. Working out the the relative willy size of the end user from their IP address is a challenge too far.

Whether a bung to some public or private concern to come up with an answer is a moot point. Both are quite capable of being ineffective.

On the one hand you have the undignified corporate patent wars huge companies try to stifle the opposition by making prior claims to innovation and exact a royalty payment for each sale. On the other we have a history of public organisations trying to develop grand frameworks that were so over engineered they were impractical. IEEE had one or two successes, but largely were often victim to the standards nobbling activities of corporates.

TCP/IP was a lame duck protocol put together by underpaid graduate students and used largely by academic types up until the mid 1990s. The corporate world used a medley of protocols from the computer manufacurers. Some of which were very good. But TCP/IP was patent free and open source and therefore one of the few viable candidates for the nascent public Internet. No large public or private corporations involved there. It was a grass roots thing.

The big issue at the moment is making the Internet able to deliver video streams as well as all the other traffic. One way of doing that is to require video content to be moved closer to the end user and that is something of a premium service at the moment done by CDN companies.

If this dosh is to work on an alternative built into the IP standard, it sounds like a good investment.

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@Trevor_Pott

"So what gives? What the heck am I missing here? How is this something any government at any level should be involved in? I am legitimately confused as to how this came about."

Well, governments (and trans-governmental organisations) tend to invest public money in infrastructure projects in order to attract investment from multinationals. In the EU's case, however, I can't see how that could directly happen as any positive outcome from this project would surely be contributed back to the world in an open format. It *does* stand to benefit the involved institutions - as any advances they make might develop together might bring in R&D investment from outside the EU, leading to future intangible benefits etc.

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Childcatcher

Aargh! Alliteration Warning

Help!

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