Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's Official: LUS Apps

Emailed Announcement
This morning LUS officially announced its newly implemented TV Apps in an emailed publicity release.  (see PDF)

Lafayette Pro Fiber reported this development on December 30th shortly after an alert user posted the appearance of a new "Extras" button in the menu bar on a local tech talk board. A more extensive review, replete with pictures, an alternate method of access, and hints at further services can be found in that day's post.

The significance of this announcement lies less in the apps we see today—they're pretty mundane for anyone using a smart phone—than what they offer for the future and the promise the keep in the present. LUS opted for an IPTV-based system rather than run its new video service using more traditional technologies. IP based systems are much more flexible and extensible. The internet functions as an IP based framework that supports a fantastic range of functions. The appearance of apps on the system shortly after the completion of the network makes good on the promise that LUS Fiber's IPTV will offer its users new and excitingly different ways of using their TV. It also validates the choice of Microsofts' MediaRoom as an interface platform. MediaRoom provides a layer that allows the apps to coexist with the video stream and provides developers with a relatively comfortable environment that does NOT require that they learn arcane set top box commands or limited-only-to-cable development environments. The developer interface is a minor variant on the familiar .Net framework.

It is easy to imagine chat apps that float over popular "event" shows like the Saints or Ragin Cajun games, or scrabble games played between different family households or...(your favorite idea here). LUS' system will allow users to link video, phone, and data functions. Almost anything you can imagine could conceivably be presented on the TV screen and manipulated there. The MediaRoom layer makes it much easier to get between here and there without depending upon extreme specialists that, frankly, a smaller city like Lafayette simply cannot afford on its own. We've already got a (small) .Net community. And the developer base worldwide is simply huge.

We live in interesting times.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

You Know You're In Lafayette When?

You know you're in Lafayette when the story on local music legend D. L. Menard contains the following color quote:
Menard doesn’t remember the Grammy-nomination night as a big night, though later it hit him. “It was (producer and musician) Terry Huval who told me. He found out on the Internet.”
Oh, producer and musician Mr. Huval found it on the internet did he? (There's important things and then there are really important things.)

"LUS Fiber now available to most of city"

Regardless of the title "LUS Fiber now available to most of city" the real story is that LUS Fiber has officially finished its build out.
"We were planning initially to have the build out finished by March or April, but we completed it ahead of time and on budget," said Terry Huval, LUS Director. "We're on every public street now."
Mayor-President Durel added his remarks to the occasion:

Durel described the technology as "the infrastructure of the 21st century," and said most of the country won't have comparable services in 15 years.

"In 1896 the people of Lafayette voted to bring electricity here," Durel said. "Where would we be if we didn't have the leadership and community support we had back then? What we're doing today, we're doing for Lafayette 50 years from now."

Now the build is essentially complete; further expansion of the system to some larger buildings and apartment complexes will look more like retail installs than full-scale infrastructure construction.

It is a pivotal moment in the project.

It is time to turn our attention to what we can do with our new network. Attention within LUS has necessarily been focused on getting the thing built. Now the focus can move to longer range questions. It's both a happy day and a day for serious reflection.

Monday, January 03, 2011

LUS' Ben Segura Goes to Google

Ben Segura, a lead engineer at LUS Fiber, has been hired away by Google. His linkedIn profile says he started January 1st. He'll be quartered in Google's Mountain View, California headquarters and manage the Technical Program (job description) for Google's widely publicized 1 Gb "Google Fiber for Communities" project. It's a considerable understatement to say that's a good job. Google has promised to install a 1 Gb fiber-to-the-home system in one or a few communities around the country and he'll head up the technical effort for one of the most watched—and most—hopeful projects around.

What that program offers is truly impressive, which accounts for the more than 1,100 communities (including eight in Louisiana alone) that have applied for the very few places that will be available. About the extent of the program, Google sez:
We're planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We'll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people



It's a testament to the prestige of Lafayette's experiment that Google finds Segura's experience compelling. Segura's only related work experience is at LUS (and his degree is from ULL.) As I understand it, a standout item on his resume was developing a way to make our 100 Mb intranet work. The LUS intranet—100 megs between all citizen-subscribers, regardless of the speed of the tier of service they purchase—has been a bragging point for Lafayette and is widely recognized as LUS' most unique feature. Google makes a point in their project overview of saying: "Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone."

An LUS-style intranet certainly fills that bill and maximizing intranet service will be one way that Google can begin to meet the implied promise it makes by touting a 1 Gig connection. —In most networks in this country the speed of the last mile is the main constraint on your experience but on a 1 gig local network the constraints will be out in the larger internet and users will seldom experience the full power of their enormous pipe. As we've discovered in Lafayette having a fast local connection is great, but it does not mean that your internet connection will be able to keep up. Google can, and surely will, put its own services on the local network. (My own suggestion to Google is that it do the same in Lafayette--and in any other muni network that will guarantee the full-bore speed to all its users that Lafayette does. That would expand its support of high-speed networks beyond its few sites and make a larger market for innovation.) Google will, as well, make sure that the connection to the backbone is always 1 gig (that can be an issue in Lafayette); what it can't do is make the link up and down from the target server to the backbone is any faster; typically that link will not support 1 gig.

Segura's first project site will likely be the exploratory project Google is putting together in Stanford (where Google's first server was located back in the day when the founders were doctoral candidates.) The first site or sites in the large-scale project will be announced early this year and Segura will have a huge influence on the technologies they use to accomplish the communities and Google's goals. It's a job where a person can make a difference.

Congratulations to Ben; its a great thing for him and his family and a good thing for Lafayette to have a native son heading up a project of this nature at the world's most influential internet company.