Sat-ND, 24.01.1998 Alexander Haig transformed into peanuts! Oh, ah.
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More Headlines From Last Week
Will Brussels stop BIB?
Even though the last Delta launch on January 9 was successful, there have been some problems. Boeing officials say they won't fly the rocket again before they know what caused the trouble.
During flight, the second stage of the Delta experienced a jolt which so far could not be explained. After separation from the rocket, the second stage was jolted again and this time even started to tumble. The satellite, the UK military satellite Skynet 4A, would have been lost if this had happened before the separation.
Boeing is currently examining the incident which could lead to a delay of the two upcoming Delta launches (January 31 and February 5.) While the preparations are still continued, Boeing spokeswoman Christine Nelson said "we would not launch if we didn't feel comfortable doing so."
USELESS FACT: The most common form of cancer is skin cancer.
The EU Commission, acting as European competition watchdog, said it was deepening its inquiry into the proposed digital TV monopoly in Germany. The Commission now has up to four months to take a final decision whether to call for changes or to block the deal completely.
The country's major TV players CLT-UFA and Kirch Group last summer agreed to pool forces in the pay-TV sector, thus creating a de-facto monopoly that hinges upon the only German pay-TV channel Premiere. Under the terms of the proposed deal, Premiere would take over Kirch's highly unsuccessful digital pay-TV bouquet DF1 and sports channel DSF.
And that's one problem: according to the EU commission, "it must be feared that after the merger Premiere could become permanently the only pay-TV broadcasting and marketing platform in Germany." The other one: the pooling will also take place on a technical level, this time even with the participation of telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom, which also is the country's largest cable TV operator.
The digital TV proponents fear that without cable, pay-TV will never come off the ground (even though Germany has by far the largest number of satellite TV households in Europe.) The EU commission said in a statement that "with regard to the market for technical services for pay-TV there is a concern that BetaDigital could attain a lasting dominant position on this market for the satellite sector in Germany." Not only on the satellite sector, though.
The EU commission also noted that "since the development of an alternative decoder infrastructure is not very likely, other service providers would have to use [Kirch's] d-box decoder and [Kirch's] Beta access technology and would depend on obtaining a licence for this technology from [Kirch's] BetaResearch," it said.
"All current providers of digital pay-TV and Telekom as the future provider of technical services in the cable sector are committed to use the Beta-access technology and the d-box decoder. BetaResearch could thus prevent through its licence policy that other service providers could enter the market."
Kirch and CLT-UFA, a joint venture between Bertelsmann and Audiofina, appear confident they can convince the EU commission that there was nothing evil to their pay-TV monopoly. While the German cartel office recently also critisised the planned deal, there are other authorities that actually favour it.
The Directors' Conference of State Media Boards (DLM) reportedly expressed concern that the deal could fall through if the EU was too tough. DLM chairman Hochstein, displaying an astonishing amount of ignorance, said that leaving the decoding technology to Kirch alone was no solution which is, of course, complete rubbish.
There are quite a lot of digital encoding/decoding systems available, including open standards that would make any discussion about encryption technology obsolete. Actually, up to now Kirch and Premiere offer rivalling digital packages utilising different systems, but it's probably not owing to that fact that both offers have so far been ignored by the public.
USELESS FACT: 15 million blood cells are produced and destroyed in the human body every second.
Software giant Microsoft may be in trouble following all that nonsensical legal action that hinges upon the question whether their Internet Explorer is a part of their operating system or not. To my knowledge, nobody has ever raised the question whether the File Manager was part of Windows 3.1. Oh, ah.
Anyway, the software business has become too small for William Henry III ("Bill") Gates who recently heavily invested in the telecommunications business. Now there are even rumours he could take over British Telecom after BT's failed merger deal with MCI Communications Corp last year. Those rumours were triggered by an astonishingly strong performance of BT shares recently, indicating somebody was especially interested in them.
Just hot air, say analysts it was just "defensive buying." In other words, investors who had enough of Asian adventures were turning back to domestic stock; especially as BT is not involved in any Asian business.
BT and Microsoft declined to comment on the rumours. Sources close to BT said the company would keep away from any prospective merger candidates this year.
Bill Gates himself denied any specific ambitions to join the telecom business recently: "All we need to do is take Windows and extend it so that it can be the base for telephony and find out what does the communications industry need in order for Windows NT to be a key building block.
"We are working more with communications companies. But we will not be in the communications business. We won't run cable or fibre in the same way that we didn't build chips and we didn't build PCs," Gates told a London financial conference.
USELESS FACT: The can-can was originally performed by French prostitutes. The idea was that they danced with no underwear on, thereby displaying their "wares" for potential customers.
Efforts by French lawmakers to keep English-language songs from national radio have turned out to be quite ineffective, according to a report by French news agency AFP.
Reportedly, Californian rock group No Doubt topped French radio's most-played hitlist last year with their hit single "Don't Speak." Number two on the charts was American rapper Puff Daddy and his hit "I'll Be Missing You." A "French rap star" called M.C. Solaar came in third with "Les Temps Changent" [wonder whether Bob "The times they are-a-changin'" Dylan would have to comment on that.]
In fact, American or British groups did well on French radio stations last year, according to figures released at a music industry forum here, making up seven of the top 10 most-played groups.
Apart from M.C. Solaar in third place, techno group Daft Punk and Tribal Jam took the sixth and ninth places respectively. The other groups in the top 10 were Will Smith and Hanson from the United States and British groups White Town, Texas and Jamiroquai.
Songs by English-singing groups were played more often (51 percent) than those by "Francophone" artists (43 percent). The remaining six percent were either instrumentals or in other languages.
French law requires domestic radio programmes to carry at least 40 percent of indigenous songs.
USELESS FACT: In ancient Egypt, when a cat died, it was mandatory for its owner to shave off his eyebrows to show his grief.
John Birt, the BBC's Director-General, pledged that the BBC will hold fast to the public service principles of BBC founder John Reith as Britain moves forward into the new era of digital technology.
Speaking at the Institution of Electrical Engineers in London's Strand the site of the meeting of wireless manufacturers which established the BBC in 1922 he promised that the BBC would continue to set the standards of public service in the new technologies as it had in radio and television over 75 years.
"In the digital age, the BBC will safeguard national culture; encourage diversity and extend choice; and strive to bring the benefits of the new technologies universally to every home in the land."
He said that the BBC will be as needed in the digital age as it was in the analogue age.
"The digital age brings with it risks as well as opportunities -- the risk that the globalisation of culture will threaten national identities; that the powerful gateway controllers will restrain rather than promote diversity; the risk of a two-class society, the information rich, ready and able to pay for their increasingly expensive media, and the information poor who cannot.
"We shall take the BBC John Reith founded forward into a new era, maintaining its ethos, principles and purposes. We shall aim to remain a licence funded service, universally present in every home in the land, satisfying every kind of licence payer with a unique, distinctive and innovative mix of programmes and services not available elsewhere."
Oh yeah, Mr Birt said the BBC already offers Europe's largest website. Among its features were
a constantly updated BBC News site, drawing on the most powerful newsgathering capability in the world
a BBC Education website where, for example, teachers can exchange ideas and pupils can seek help with revision
a BBC Natural History site, encouraging participation in the full of wonders of the natural world
He explained the new online services the BBC plans to provide. The BBC would offer a "trusted guide" to the Internet as well as a "Web Educator" service.
"The BBC will act as a trusted guide to the Internet, helping users to find information of real value. We want to become the nation's leading Web Educator, helping individuals bewildered by the world of online services to take full advantage of them in their day-to-day worklife -- and to extract the maximum pleasure and convenience from them in their personal lives," he said.
"We will design and promote BBC Communities of Interest on the Internet, helping people who have a common passion or concern to share information and communicate with each other -- perhaps about being a parent, or an enthusiast for the great outdoors, or gardening, or politics. We want to form a partnership of the people."
USELESS FACT: According to a british law passed in 1845, attempting to commit suicide was a capital offence. Offenders could be hanged for trying.
Usually, I don't care too much for reception equipment. This time, it's a bit different because Philips Semiconductors says it has developed a satellite receiver that can do without an Intermediate Frequency (IF) stage.
Introduced in the 1920's, IF stages have subsequently been part of every radio, TV and satellite receiver simply because it made any kind of receiver easier to operate and improved reception. I'll spare you the technical details, as always. But the digital age seems to change everything according to Philips, a new integrated circuit (IC) called TDA8060 eliminates the need for an IF stage in digital satellite receivers.
First of all, the new technology reduces the manufacturing cost of such a set-top box by almost a third because the IF stage as well as all related alignment problems become obsolete. Eliminating the IF stage also means there is no possibility of interference with other signals in the receiver.
According top Philips, the result is a reduction in the number of errors that occur in the MPEG digital video and audio information extracted from the broadcast signal, particularly under poor signal conditions, thus providing the viewer with the added benefit of better picture and sound quality. [And they always keep telling you it was perfect CD quality anyway. Oh, ah.]
The absence of IF signals in a TDA8060-based receiver also makes it easier for set-top box manufacturers to meet the stringent EMC requirements that apply in many parts of the world. IF frequencies are a common source of radiated interference that can adversely affect nearby equipment such as telephones, radios and TV sets, requiring conventional receivers to incorporate 'tin-box' screening around their IF stages. The Zero-IF TDA8060 simplifies screening requirements considerably, further reducing manufacturing cost and complexity.
The TDA8060 covers all the frequency bands in use for both digital video broadcasting and direct broadcast satellite systems (950 MHz to 2200 MHz,) allowing manufacturers to produce a single printed circuit board design that can be customised to any of the existing digital satellite broadcast standards.
The TDA8060 costs approximately US$2 in high volume quantities. The IC is manufactured in Philips Semiconductors' facility in Caen, France, where it was also designed.
USELESS FACT: Flush toilets date back to 2000 B.C.
by Dr Sarmaz
As Asian economies keep crumbling, analysts are increasingly worried about Rupert Murdoch's Star TV venture.
Originally, Star TV was expected to break even by 2000, and company officials see no reasons to change that forecast. They claim that the service's main target areas were rather unaffected by the current crisis.
Said Star TV spokeswoman Susan Williams, "While there is currently some turmoil and anyone with business in the region will feel some effect, Star's largest markets are India, Taiwan and China which are also some of the strongest economies."
Independent media analysts have reportedly changed their minds, though. Australian news agency AAP quoted an unnamed analyst who said he expected a US$80 million loss in 1998, from a previous forecast of a US$30 million loss before, to be repeated again in 1999. In 2000, there would still be a loss of US$40 million instead of break-even of even profits.
All that is not expected to affect News Corp's overall performance as Star accounts for just two per cent or so of the media and entertainment giant operations. For the last fiscal year ending June 30, Star TV was believed to have generated a loss of US$100 million. (News Corp. does not publish separate figures for its Star TV operation.)
USELESS FACT: The
The European Union's competition chief Karel van Miert said he was concerned about the British Interactive Broadcasting (BIB) digital TV venture, especially because two "dominant" companies were involved: British Telecom and Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB.
Van Miert told a news conference he had received many complaints from competitors about BIB. "We have some concerns," he said. "It is being discussed mainly with British Telecom and BSkyB. Don't forget, both companies are dominant in their specific sectors."
Van Miert also said he did not want to "prejudge" the final outcome of the European Commission's investigation. Earlier, EU sources indicated that the EU Commission was concerned BIB might hamper competition through its control of the set-top boxes needed to decode digital signals. It was also concerned BSkyB, Britain's largest pay-TV operator, would benefit from BIB's subsidised decoders when it launched its own 200-channel digital TV service.
USELESS FACT: Groundhog's day comes from a German legend but the animal was a porcupine.
BSkyB had to reduce its digital ambitions in the UK to the satellite sector. The company's attempt to get a stronghold in the terrestrial digital TV venture BDB failed.
BSkyB had to withdraw from the BDB consortium that also included (and still includes) Carlton Communications Plc and Granada Group Plc. when regulatory concerns appeared that indicated it might be wise to do so. Nonetheless, BSkyB will supply one channel of sports programming and two film channels to the 15-channel service BDB plans to offer in the second half of 1998.
Anyway, BSkyB was to be paid UKP75 million as compensation for not being a shareholder but says it has so far received only UKP14 million from BDB.
BSkyB confirmed that that it had prepared a writ as it seeks payment of the balance but also said that the issue was expected to be settled amicably. The company has set a deadline until the end of this month by which payment is expected.
While may favourite news agency said that "Extra piquancy is added to the dispute as Gerry Robinson is chairman of both BSkyB and Granada," The Times reported that Robinson "was not involved in the negotiations because of the potential conflict of interest." (The Times is, of course, owned by Mr Murdoch's News International.)
The Times also reported that BDB was contesting some elements of the original agreement with BSkyB, "including the fact that the satellite group has still not managed to get agreement on the digital terrestrial rights for the Sky Sports and Sky Screen channels which will be part of the BDB package."
USELESS FACT: In the 1700's you could purchase insurance against going to hell in London, England.
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