Brave New World of GPS: Tracking Moving Targets

Knitting Mercer County Into Greater Philadelphia

Scams and Spams At Trenton Computer Festival

TCF: The Truth About HDTV

Making Life Hard For Counterfeiters

Corrections or additions?

These articles were prepared for the April 19, 2006 issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide: Negotiating Deals For Smart Athletes

`Dumb" has become the unfair adjective jealously attached to both

blondes and jocks. In the case of professional athletes, a myth has

sprung up that equates muscle with mental midgetry. Critics snipe that

the players could not spell the signatures on their incredibly lavish

contracts without the guiding hand of their agents to see them

through.

Their supporters rebut, asking, "How much did you know about literary

and endorsement rights at age 20?"

Yet all agree, even when representing the new Bill Bradley, the

agent’s lot is not an easy one. So many lawyers and financial pundits

would love the chance to rub up against the big leagues’ aura – with

the big league remuneration – but it takes more than desire, as will

be shown at a New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education

seminar on Thursday, April 20, at 9 a.m. at the Newark Club in Newark.

Cost: $119 (www.njicle.com).

This seminar is moderated by attorney Thomas Curtin of Graham, Curtin

& Sheridan in Morristown. Panelists include NFL agent Arthur Weiss of

the Arthur Weiss law firm in Franklin Lakes; Richard Anslow of Anslow

& Jaclin in Manalapan; Adolpho Birch, labor relations counsel for the

NFL; major league baseball and boxing agent Lee Marc Burg of Lee Marc

Burg law offices in Philadelphia; and NBA player agent Leon Rose of

Pennsauken-based Sherman, Silverstein, Khol, Rose & Podolsky.

"Athlete representation is tough, competitive work, which I fell into

rather serendipitously," says Weiss. Born in Manhattan, Weiss grew up

in Franklin Lakes, where he now practices. He confesses to not being a

great athlete himself in high school or college, but always loved

sports. Upon graduating from New York University in l972 with a

bachelor’s degree in history, and then earning his law degree, Weiss

hung out his own shingle, practicing general law. Increasingly, he

leaned toward corporate contract and business law. "I had no idea how

handy this was to come in later on," he says.

In the late l980s Weiss began doing some real estate work for New York

Giants linebacker Gary Reasons, whose career ran from l984 through

l992. Impressed by Weiss’s straightforward manner and negotiating

skills, Reasons urged him to get certified with the NFL as a

professional agent. Weiss did so, and word of mouth did the rest.

Since then he has represented many top NFL professionals, including

Wayne Chrebet of the Jets, Dan Klecko of the New England Patriots, and

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Glen Foley.

Players get savvy. "It’s not at all like it was even 10 years ago,"

says Weiss. "Athletes turning professional today are far more educated

and equipped to ask the right questions." Much of this Weiss credits

to an explosion of information available to them even before tryouts.

The Internet, countless handbooks, and player biographies all carry

tips and caveats.

It used to be that players would be greeted and hustled in hotel

lobbies by a series of slick agents. The slick agents, short on

knowledge and big on greed, still cluster, but most of the players

walk right on by. "These players come into my office, bringing their

family and their attorney," says Weiss. "And I am just one of several

agents they interview to see if I measure up."

Curtin agrees that players are becoming sharper and more cautious

about their own interests. For years Curtin was an agent for several

major league baseball professionals. He recalls one player who was

given $1 million to sign and, upon hearing that banks only insure

deposits up to $100,000, went and placed his signing bonus in 10

different banks. "I know it sounds simplistic, but this athlete was

taking care of his own funds," says Curtin.

Getting the most. When an athlete signs on, Weiss rolls up his

sleeves. He helps arrange training and other schedules. If the

football player is invited, he’ll accompany him out to the

Indianapolis Combine, where all the NFL coaches look over the new

crop. "My goal is to give my player the maximum exposure – to market

his skills to his best advantage," says Weiss. This may mean

additional trips and interviews with potential teams.

When the player is signed, Weiss really begins to earn his percentage.

He comes to the table having studied the rookie pool, the team’s

salary structure, and his man’s specific value for the upcoming

season.

Armed with this knowledge, he negotiates for the top salary – and much

more. Signing bonuses are the biggest goal. Incentive clauses for good

performance, length of contract, and trigger points for early free

agency are all part of the package. For many players, becoming free

agents may spark competitive bidding, but this is not always the case.

"There is no one single way to handle a client," says Weiss. "Each

client has different skills, which suit each team differently. You’ve

got to assess that and make the most of it."

Weiss says that no team has provided him with an enjoyable experience

during negotiations. "I’m here trying to get them to part with what

they most value – money," he says. But the teams that he has found

most professional and fair in getting the deals done are the Patriots,

the Jets, the Rams, and the 49ers.

Price of fame. Almost every professional player can get some kind of

endorsement side deal. The best ones can get literary rights. It all

depends on the status and value of the player. The agent tries to

craft the most advantageous endorsement deals. And if he is lucky

enough to represent an unusually talented and charismatic athlete,

this is not necessarily difficult.

"The good player can pick and choose what endorsements he wants to

make," says Weiss. Fees for a single day’s shooting may begin at

$20,000 to $100,000 and roll up to untold amounts, depending on

residuals. Here again, it is part of the agent’s job to advise his

athlete on which endorsements best fit in with the image he is trying

to project.

Awash in cash. The complaint that professional athletes make too much

money has reached the point of cliche for years now. Yet somewhere out

there is a public willing to pay to watch the best athletes compete on

a big stage – and there are television and radio stations eager to

spend tens of millions of dollars to bring the action to those who

can’t make it to the stadium. The media outlets, in turn, have a large

cadre of advertisers happy to pay astronomical sums to grab the fans’

attention.

With all this money being spent to create this entertainment, who more

deserves a major piece of it than the very individuals playing the

sport – and all too often incurring injuries that will affect them

throughout their lives?

Granted seven or eight-figure salaries and millions more in

endorsement money, it is not surprising that players, some barely out

of high school, may make a bit of financial splash. Yet Weiss says

that out-of-control spending is not the norm. "People do not realize

how smart these professional athletes are," he says. "With very few

exceptions, I have found them to be level-headed, and very bright

people who put money away and keep their name out of the papers for

negative things."

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Brave New World of GPS: Tracking Moving Targets

Americans don’t like to hear that the Europeans and Japanese are way

ahead of them in adopting a new technology. But that has been the

reality with GPS (global positioning system) applications and devices.

GPS is the system of 24 satellites developed by the U.S. Department of

Defense in the 1970s so that military units in wartime could know

their own location and those of other units. This completely free

system sends signals intercepted by GPS receivers, which determine

latitude and longitude by computing the difference in the time it

takes for signals from different satellites to reach the receiver.

Michael Goodman, product manager for ALK Technologies at 1000

Herrontown Road, talks about "GPS Navigation: From Map Databases to

the Mass Market" on Thursday, April 20, at 8 p.m. at a meeting of the

Princeton ACM and IEEE-Computer Society chapters at Sarnoff. For

information, call Rebecca Mercuri at 609-587-1886 or Dennis Mancl at

908-582-7086.

Goodman believes that the success of GPS today in Europe and Japan is

largely due to its chic as the "cool" technology, much like iPods in

the United States.

But Goodman also attributes the rapid growth in these markets to their

more flexible technology for an allied product – mobile phones.

Because many GPS applications combine the navigational capabilities of

GPS with the communications potential of wireless to create what are

dubbed "location-based services," the structure and pricing of mobile

phone service is critical for the GPS market.

In the United States mobile operators make their money on voice plans,

which for many years were tied to particular devices. As a result, for

a long time Americans did not have the kinds of phones and devices

that could accommodate GPS. They only had the phones their mobile

companies gave them free every two years.

The European technology, however, enables users to switch from device

to device with ease using a SIM card, which carries all voice plan,

data, and account information. The SIM card effectively separates the

device from the cell phone service, which in turn encourages users to

update their devices more often. Consequently, says Goodman, in Europe

consumers buy a new device every 6 to 7 months versus every 16 months

in the United States.

Nonetheless, in the last couple of years Americans have been waking up

to GPS technology, and Goodman is finding that he no longer has to

explain GPS to nearly every person he meets at a trade show. Many

consumers are beginning to realize that GPS will save them time – no

more lengthy queries about the best ways to get places – and money –

less gas wasted on getting lost.

GPS also saves enormously on frustration for those on the planet who

find themselves completely befuddled by how to get from A to B. "When

you’re on the road," says Goodman, "the problem with paper maps or

driving directions off the Web is that if you make a wrong turn or a

road is mislabeled, there is no way to recalculate." But a handy GPS

device makes wrong turns a thing of the past by always providing a new

optimized route to your destination.

Goodman talks about two categories of GPS applications:

Purely navigational GPS applications. Most of the products in this

category help people find their way around. They are popular with

drivers, hikers, and surveyors. "They are used to finding directions

and points of interest in a static map database loaded onto a device,"

says Goodman. These devices also support games such as "geocaching,"

where people find and leave rewards in hidden "caches," whose

locations are posted on the Internet.

GPS receivers can also be great for sales people. With ALK’s CoPilot,

they can enter up to 10 stops and hit an optimize button to determine

the optimal route among their customers.

Location-based services (LBS). When GPS systems are combined with

wireless communication between the GPS user and a back office or an

Internet service, a number of business possibilities arise for

location-based services (literally, services that depend on knowing a

user’s location). These opportunities exist both in the consumer and

the commercial markets.

Businesses, for example, can deliver ads to a GPS user who is passing

a billboard for a product or service, and can offer reduced rates. Or

restaurants can advertise to drivers in their vicinity and offer them

discounts. GPS devices can also provide real-time weather information,

which allows long-distance travelers to re-route and avoid bad

weather.

Another potential LBS is real-time traffic monitoring, usually a

subscription service. For the European and Australian markets, which

have real-time traffic feeds, Goodman’s company already offers this

service.

But for the U.S. market, ALK Technologies revisits the issue about

every six months because of the 30-minute delay here in reporting

traffic conditions. A route that may have been a good alternative a

half hour ago could well add commuting time if the backup has eased.

As an alternative to real-time traffic monitoring, ALK’s CoPilot has a

detour button, which blocks off the next several miles of road and

gives the user a route around the traffic jam.

One place that location-based devices have been a great business

investment for ALK Technologies has been in the area of commercial

trucking. Its Fleet Center application combines tracking of trucks or

other vehicles by dispatchers with wireless communication between

dispatchers and drivers. The dispatcher generates stops and sends them

wirelessly to the truck’s navigation system, at which point the

software optimizes the trucker’s route. The system may also include a

service called "geo-sensing," which sends a message to the client or

the dispatcher when a truck enters a designated perimeter around the

customer. The message might say, for example, "Your delivery is 10

minutes away."

The return on investment for trucking companies is substantial and

easy to quantify, says Goodman. "A truck is expensive to operate, and

any mile saved, any efficiency, means a huge amount of money." Other

potential customers for this kind of system are real estate agents,

repair services with 20 to 30 vans, taxicab companies, ambulance

services, police and fire departments, and school buses – any fleet

where location and proximity to events is important as well as

communication with a back office.

Goodman grew up in Palm Springs, California, through middle school,

and went to high school in North Rose, New York, near Rochester. His

entry into the GPS arena was serendipitous. Graduating from Princeton

University in 1999 with a degree in political economy, Goodman’s first

job was a civil service gig with the Parks Department of New York

City. When he decided that the economic possibilities afforded by the

civil service were too limiting, he thought he should get in on the

Internet boom, which was at its tail end at the time. Through a

website, he happened on a job with ALK Technologies as an Internet

marketing associate.

Although the boom didn’t last, his job did, and his responsibilities

have been growing with the company and the GPS market. Last year he

was marketing manager for North America for CoPilot products and is

now working on development and production of solutions for corporate

clients.

As with many technology-based industries, the only dependable quantity

is change. Each year ALK Technologies updates its CoPilot product

line, providing existing customers with a new version for $99. Updates

include upgraded maps as well as any new services, the most recent

being three-dimensional maps and the ability to link into Outlook

E-mail and pull-down contact information.

New technologies are also being developed. An example is storage cards

for map data, and the price for these devices has dropped

dramatically. "Soon you will be able to buy a storage card and pop it

into a phone, and it will have all the streets in the United States

and a full navigation system," says Goodman. A year ago these cards

cost $200 and now they cost $45. At first users had to use their

computers to put the maps on storage cards and devices, but soon the

storage card will be part of the product.

Costs for the data plans and Internet access, essential to

location-based systems, are also going down, from $100 per account for

unlimited data down to $20 to $30 a month.

Finally, people are simply getting more comfortable with the

technology. Earlier a company not only had to install and pay for

systems, but also train people to use them.

According to an article in the April edition of GPS World, projected

sales of in-vehicle GPS systems will grow from 4 million in 2006 to 30

million in 2020 and sales of mobile phones with GPS systems will grow

from 200 million in 2006 to 2 billion in 2020. But for the GPS cell

phone market to achieve that level of growth, it must overcome the

problems of unreliability in urban canyons, inside structures, in high

foliage areas, and in underground transportation systems.

As for the industry’s future, Goodman says, "We think it will take off

in the next couple of years – in some fashion." And as for ALK

Technologies, he says: "We’re just trying to figure out which way that

is."

– Michele Alperin

Top Of Page
Knitting Mercer County Into Greater Philadelphia

Regional marketing is one of the best ways to increase awareness of

Mercer County and package it to make it more attractive to variety of

potential customers: businesses considering a move to the area,

tourists looking for a vacation spot, or even current residents

looking for resources in the area.

The Mercer County Regional Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with

the Princeton Regional Chamber, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber, and

Wachovia bank host "Advancing the Game Plan for Growth," on Friday,

April 21, at 8 a.m. at the Nassau Inn. Call 609-924-1776.

The purpose of the event, says Thomas Moor, CEO of Select Greater

Philadelphia, is to highlight the regional collaborative effort to

transform the 11-county greater Philadelphia region into a top U.S.

business location by 2010.

Moor is one of several panelists at the meeting. Others are Helene

Garcia, director of community and strategic initiatives for Merrill

Lynch; Jim Harbaugh, senior director, corporate real estate,

Bristol-Myers Squibb; Rick Lovering, senior vice president for

operations, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton; Dr.

Eli Mordechai, CEO of Medical Diagnostics Laboratory; Katie

Rielly-Gauvin, vice president of marketing, Janssen Pharmaceutica; and

Mark Vitner, a regional economist with Wachovia.

Select Greater Philadelphia is an organization devoted to marketing

the 11-county tri-state area surrounding Philadelphia as one

metropolitan region. The counties extend from New Castle, Delaware,

through Chester, Delaware, Philadelphia, Montgomery and Bucks counties

in Pennsylvania, to Glouster, Salem, Camden, Burlington and Mercer

counties in New Jersey. The Mercer County breakfast is part of a

series of meetings held in several of the regions.

The greater Philadelphia region is a great place to do business, says

Moor. It is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the nation, with

more than 6 million residents, as well as 100 million people within a

one-day drive.

Location, location. The greater Philadelphia region is centrally

located between New York and Washington, D.C., giving business easy

access to both the financial and political capitals of the country at

a much lower cost of living. Mercer County, almost equidistant from

downtown Philadelphia and Manhattan, is an easy commute for people who

work in either area, and the cost of living throughout the 11-county

region is lower than in many other regions. "Average household

expenses are 50 percent lower than in New York, Boston, or San

Francisco says Moor.

Moor points out the greater Philadelphia region is also more

economically diverse than either Washington, D.C., or New York City.

"New York is known mostly for its financial industry, as well as for

Broadway and theater. Washington’s economic base is political."

Greater Philadelphia’s economy, however, includes pharmaceutical and

biotech industries, information technology, telecommunications,

software development, financial services, and transportation.

Transportation. "Commerce occurs where trade routes intersect," says

Moor. Whether you are commuting to work by car or train, traveling

across the country, or shipping products across the world, the region

offers easy transportation. The ports of Newark and Philadelphia are

easily accessible, rail lines and highways such as I-95 and the

Pennsylvania Turnpike make it easy to move goods throughout the

country. "Greater Philadelphia is two hours by air to 50 percent of

the U.S. population and six hours non-stop to California, Great

Britain, Europe, and Latin America."

Healthcare. "The region is home to the second largest concentration of

health resources in the country, including five medical schools and

120 hospitals. Eight leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies are

based in the region, and established tech companies make our area a

top-10 location for high-tech employment," Moor says.

Education. There are 83 colleges and universities in the region,

including two Ivy League schools. In addition to training young

people, many of the schools partner with industry and spawn new

companies – and even new industries.

Lower business costs. Along with a lower cost of living, the Business

Cost Index, which "bundles the costs of labor, energy, taxes, and

office space," explains Moor, is lower in the region than it is in New

York, San Francisco, or Boston and comparable to the business cost

index in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Seattle. Office rental rates

in greater Philadelphia are about half that of the New York City metro

area and lower than Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

Diverse talent pool. The greater Philadelphia region is the home of 17

Fortune 500 companies and 33 Fortune 1000 companies. More than 31

percent of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, and the area

also has three times the national average of engineers, architects,

scientists, and computer professionals," says Moor.

International resources. There are 33 foreign consulates located in

the greater Philadelphia area, a fact that helps to make it easier to

do business internationally. In fact, there are currently 2,000

foreign-owned companies in the area. "The greater Philadelphia region

is ideal for the operation of firms located outside the United States

or those that do business internationally," says Moor.

The diversity of the residents also makes international business

easier. "Within the Greater Philadelphia region you have a 45.3

percent probability that the next person you meet will be of a

different ethnicity," says Moor.

Many more statistics about the region can be found at the Select

Philadelphia website, www.SelectGreaterPhiladelphia.com. The website

is just one of the many tools used to help persuade businesses to

locate to the region, Moor says. He hopes that the county breakfasts

will promote greater cooperation between the various counties in the

area, making it even easier for companies to do business in Greater

Philadelphia or consider relocating here.

"In today’s global economy we need to compete as an economic region.

If you leave the area, people do not know where Cherry Hill or New

Hope are. In Europe they have heard of Princeton University, but they

don’t know in which state it is located. But they have heard of

Philadelphia."

– Karen Hodges Miller

Top Of Page
Scams and Spams At Trenton Computer Festival

The loan officer leaned back in disbelief. "You want this bank to give

you good money so you can put movies on tape and rent them to people

to watch on their little TV screens at home with this new VCR thing?"

he spluttered. "That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of. Why would

people do that?" Roger Amidon still remembers those words, spoken in

l974, about six months before those little movie rental kiosks began

appearing in malls.

There were just a handful of the pioneers back then – the

techno-revolutionaries of the 1960s. Tinkering in their basements,

guys like Gates, Wozniak, and Amidon built their own computers and

envisioned the day that the little machines would be standard in every

home. Gates and Wozniak became iconic American business titans as

their prediction came true. Amidon’s success is not quite on that

level, but he has spent the last 35 years designing platform after

platform at his Hopewell-based DX Computer Company.

Amidon speaks on "Spams and Scams" – and other online nuisances – at

the Trenton Computer Festival on Saturday, April 22, at 1:30 p.m. The

two-day computer festival, the first and largest in the country, takes

place at the College of New Jersey. It begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday,

and continues on Sunday, April 23, when the kick-off time is also 9

a.m. Cost: $17 for two days. Visit www.tcf-nj.org for complete

information.

Talks range from the "The Apollo Guidance Computer" to "Buying a

Digital Camera." This is one of the rare shows with equal offerings

for the professional designer and the novice. Allen Katz, a founder of

the computer festival, says that the novelty of the computer itself

has worn off, but that applications – including downloading music,

making movies, organizing photos, and instant messaging – are hotter

than ever. This year’s computer festival, he says, revolves around

those applications. In addition to scores of speakers, the event

features an expansive flea market full of computers and every

imaginable peripheral.

No, Amidon is not a household name, but industry experts estimate that

his top 10 inventions alone have made several billions for his

employers. He is credited with a variety of breakthroughs, including

one of the first liquid crystal displays for watches, the Zapple

monitor, smart terminals, home and portable video game cartridges, and

the Z 80 CPU board.

Amidon grew up in Verona. His father was a banker who taught him to

look toward the latest innovations for the greatest profits. Halfway

through his studies at Upsala College, Amidon took his father’s

advice. He realized he was making way too much money in electronics

repair to continue in college. A ham radio operator since age 12, he

was soon running a successful TV repair shop in Kearny.

By the end of the 1960s, he had become intrigued by the possibilities

of the brand new digital world. In l970 he was part of the team at

Optel Corporation in Princeton that designed the first digital liquid

crystal display (LCD) wristwatch utilizing a dynamic scattering

display.

Meanwhile, literally in his basement, he built a TTL computer, which

was heralded on the cover of fledgling "Byte" magazine. In l976,

working for Princeton’s Technology Design Labs, he designed the Z 80

circuit board for the Atari computer, which increased the computer’s

power five times over. In l981, after a brief stint with IBM, Amidon

formed Rising Star Industries, where he designed the Epson QX 10, a

user-friendly computer. He now works at his own company, DX Computers,

which is located in Hopewell.

In on the computer revolution from the beginning, Amidon nevertheless

views some of functions the machines have made possible with a

slightly jaundiced eye. "Be a little suspicious," he warns. "E-mails

should not make you paranoid or overburdened. But a little wariness

and a few tools can help."

An old scam made new again. Older than the bank passbook, this scam

still flourishes. An individual phones or E-mails you that your

account information needs updating. It may be your bank, or a service

you use, perhaps a utility or a credit card company. Often a little

enticement is thrown in such as "we fear a security breech," or "we

must terminate your service if you do not respond." So, dutifully, the

recipient types in information ranging from his password, bank

balance, credit and Social Security card numbers, and medical history.

Then boom.

The drawbridge is lowered. An attachment automatically sends your

private information to the dummy site indicated on the E-mail, and

your identity is no longer yours alone.

The solution is simple: call and check before giving out any

information. Get your past bill from the retailer, credit card, or

utility company and report such requests to them. The E-mail could be

from a retailer with whom you deal constantly. Regardless of the

claim, this info seeker is a stranger knocking at your door. Beware.

Debit card woes. "Debit cards are the sirloin of the bad guys," says

Amidon. Not only are they easier than standard credit cards to steal

and scalp, but the issuing bank typically offers no aid or protection

to the victim.

After a lovely meal, the host whips out his debit card to settle up.

At some point during the transaction, the owner’s pin code is

demanded. He has been assured that this information is sent encrypted.

But in the back room, while the merchant is sending the details,

another machine copies them down prior to encryption and sends the

information to a flat in Moscow, where his identity is stolen and his

bank account cleaned out.

Anyone can make a phony ATM card with your information on it.

Quietly, every year, these scams rake in billions, with most of the

losses borne by customers. Amidon suggests two ways to prevent this

theft. First, never purchase online with a debit card. Use a credit

card instead.

Second, call a representative of your debit card issuer and tell him

not just when you do plan to travel, but when you do not. If you have

told the bank that you intend to remain in the tri-state area for the

next month (preferably in writing), it will be able to red flag

purchases from outside that area. Unfortunately, banks are not always

set up to handle this information, but even if they do not, your

warning does give you legal leverage if theft occurs.

Nigerian scam. Under the category of "you cannot cheat an honest man,"

Amidon offers a warning on the many variations of an old money

laundering scam. The thief sends an E-mail asking to borrow your bank

account so that he can temporarily store some politically stranded

soul’s untold riches in it. The greedy victim gives out his bank

number, and again, down goes the drawbridge.

Spam squelchers. The best protection against invasive spam is that

which is installed by your Internet service provider. The easiest way

to get it is to phone, rather than E-mail, the company and discuss the

options available. Amidon boasts that he went from 120 spam messages a

day to six by having his provider install the Wildcat system. Most

Internet providers provide spam protection. If yours doesn’t Amidon’s

advice is: get another provider – quickly.

Souped-up filters. A variety of mail filters can prowl your E-mail for

taboo words. They keep out any E-mail containing them in the title or

address. Frequently these are employed to protect youngsters from what

parents deem as profanity. But many of these software packages allow

you to insert your own list of taboo words. Think how much less spam

you would be receiving if missives with words such as "home mortgage,"

"pharmaceuticals," "generic," and "dysfunction" were deleted from your

daily mail.

Cut rate deals. "If you receive an E-mail offering the entire

Microsoft office software package, normally retailing for $300, for a

mere $40, think a moment. The odds are high that something other than

a discount is going on here. First, it is possible that the sender may

take your offer and send you his bootleg knock-off version of the

software, akin more in labeling than performance to the original.

A worse possibility is that the sender is luring you into giving him

your credit card information. Down drawbridge. One basic defense

against this scam is to install, via E-mail server or through your own

computer, a guard that accepts no E-mails without a specifically

verifiable address.

Amidon admits that our computers are under siege. But he insists that

we need not take up a siege mentality. Says he, "If you verify

accounts, look for company logos, and beware of uncommon deals, you

can remain fairly scam-free online."

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
TCF: The Truth About HDTV

So how is a computer like a high definition television set (HDTV)? One

possible way is suggested by Alfred Poor, HDTV expert: "Any HDTV you

go out and buy has more processing power than the Apple II did."

That’s true, but it’s not his real answer to this question. What is

virtually identical about the two, he claims, is that the buying

dilemma of today’s HDTV buyers is nearly the same as that experienced

by PC buyers two decades ago.

Twenty years ago a PC cost $3,000. "It was a big investment," says

Poor. "It would have to last five years or more, and you didn’t want

to make a stupid mistake." But consumers were bewildered by the

jargon, the acronyms, the unfamiliar terms – ROM, RAM, and CPU, to

name just three. Then there was the variety of brands, both

recognizable and unfamiliar. "They would go to stores and get

conflicting information, if any at all," he says, "and there was no

easy way to know what was good."

Fast forward 20 years and the same descriptions apply to first-time

HDTV buyers. Says Poor, "now technological bewilderment has settled on

the HDTV market."

Poor tries to end HDTV confusion when he speaks at the Trenton

Computer Festival on Saturday, April 22, at 11:20 a.m. See the article

above for full information about the festival.

According to Poor, there is little dependable help for the HDTV buyer.

"Today product reviews are useless," he says, admitting to the irony

of slamming the very source of his own livelihood for the past 20

years – writing technology product reviews. Writing a good technology

evaluation requires equipment as well as standardized protocols and

procedures for comparing products – but resources are extremely

scarce. Also, because the pay is often quite low for such reviews,

magazines and web publications sometimes turn to people without the

necessary breadth of industry understanding. Finally, even with the

right people available, it is nearly impossible for the consumer to

stay on top of so much product. In 2005 manufacturers released 850 new

plasma and LCD models, and that doesn’t include rear or

front-projection models.

Although product reviews may be useless, it is certainly helpful to

understand the basic terminology and concepts of HDTV technology.

First and foremost is the difference between digital (and its

subtypes) and analog television. A standard television receives

approximately 300,000 dots 24 times per second, and it translates the

signal into a format that will fit on screen, says Poor, by "streaming

electrons across the inside like a fire hose," creating dots that

light up.

An LCD or plasma screen, on the other hand, has a direct address

display where each dot is a physical structure – with three little

dots for each dot in a color TV – and has a transistor associated with

it that will turn a dot on or off. "There are about 1 million switches

switching on and off all the time," says Poor. Rear projection

displays use a format called DLP, in which microscopic mirrors wiggle

and bounce light back and forth, with tiny circuitry operating each of

the tiny dots

Not only are product reviews not dependable, but there is a lot of

actual misinformation out there for the millions of people planning to

buy an HDTV in 2006. The truth, according to Poor, includes the

following premises:

Your set will stay on when analog signals stop. Televisions won’t stop

working in February 2009, which is the proposed shutoff date for

over-the-air analog broadcasts. For years now, stations have been

broadcasting both digital and analog signals.

The reason that Congress wants to stop analog, says Poor, is a matter

of money. Congress wants to squeeze TV broadcasts into a smaller band

of frequencies so they can sell underused analog frequencies for

things like emergency response and pull in revenue by doing so.

Digital television does not necessarily mean high definition. HDTV

means more dots in an image, and you would need a digital signal to

get HDTV, but not all digital signals are high definition. Most sets

are in standard definition, and with a box that costs $50 or less

sitting on your old TV, it will still work when analog stops – even if

it doesn’t give the most wonderful picture available.

Most people use cable or satellite, so over-the-air signals are mostly

irrelevant. "More than three-quarters of the country doesn’t need to

know about this," says Poor. "Because they get TV programs not over

the air, but from cable and satellite, they will be totally

unaffected." Anyone with digital cable can get HDTV. Satellite is

already all digital, and the box is taking the digital signal and

converting into a signal a standard television can use.

If you do use over-the-air signals, lots of high-definition

programming is available right from your roof – and it’s all free. In

contrast to analog TV, where a weak signal will produce snow and

distortion, the high-definition signal will either work or it won’t.

Even if you are on the fringe with an analog signal, you may be able

to pull in a digital signal.

Prices for new sets aren’t too bad. "If you are looking for a diagonal

length of less than 40 inches," advises Poor, "the best buy is an

LCD." Televisions with picture tubes are still being made, but their

images will not be as good. High-definition televisions with a

diagonal in the 19 to 20 inch range cost about $500, and those with

32-inch diagonals are under $1,000. Poor characterizes prices as

stable for the past month or two, but trending downward. Over the past

year, for example, the price for a 40-inch diagonal LCD TV has dropped

in half.

Poor grew up north of Belair, Maryland, and went to Harvard College,

graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology. "I was going to be a

marine biologist and then discovered the vagaries of funding for

science," he says. So he went into teaching, explaining, "Teachers

didn’t eat well, but they ate regularly."

He learned a thing or two about himself during a three-year teaching

stint at the Germantown Friends School, and he went off in yet another

direction. First, he realized that he wasn’t well suited to preparing

45-minute class segments, because he works best in fits and starts.

Second, he realized that he had a knack for taking complex concepts

and making them accessible.

Then he happened into the computer field. While doing public relations

for a public school district in Connecticut and working on a Ph.D. in

school/community relations, which he received in 1982 from Union

Graduate School, he started working with computers. After getting a PC

for himself, he was invited to set one up for the superintendent and

then went on to design the middle school computer lab. From there he

moved to consulting and freelance writing magazines, including PC

Magazine. He adds that he has had a Q&A column for 12 years in

Computer Shopper, quipping, "I’m the Anne Landers of the computer

industry."

Now his focus is on HDTV. He does less freelancing, but has started

his own self-publishing operation on the issue of HDTV with a partner

who is savvy about web marketing. His website, www.Hdtvprofessor.com,

includes a daily almanac on HDTV, consumer electronics, and home

entertainment, as well as a "truth patrol," where readers send in

examples of questionable claims and explanations they’ve come across.

He also offers an E-book, the first in a series, called Professor

Poor’s Guide to Buying HDTV. He is senior editor and a senior research

associate with Pacific Media Associates, a market research firm in the

large screen display market.

Despite the misinformation, the confusing terminology, and the variety

of equipment available, Poor claims it’s not quite as difficult as it

sounds for typical consumers to choose an HDTV. They will first decide

upon a size and then add technological preferences. Most will be

constrained by a budget. Then, in local stores, they will find only a

handful of products. With 10 to 15 minutes in the showroom, especially

with some research behind them, consumers can review products for

themselves and make a decision.

But be careful and don’t be fooled by the "information" available,

advises Poor. "There is lots on the web, both free and for sale, and

it is inconsistent in quality. Some is good and some is appallingly

bad."

– Michele Alperin

Top Of Page
Making Life Hard For Counterfeiters

Counterfeiters are getting much better. In l948 a quiet retired

printer/junk dealer, Emerlich Juettner, living in Brooklyn, was

quietly arrested by the FBI for whipping up a batch of ones, fives,

and tens to pay his rent. Despite the fact that he occasionally

misspelled "Washington," it was years before anyone caught on.

Today, with over 60 percent of America’s hard currency located in

foreign nations at a given time, literally everybody has a chance to

imitate the almighty dollar with the most sophisticated equipment.

Even easier, but no less lucrative, is providing passports, ID papers,

product labels, pirated film and music labels, and sensitive

documents.

These illegal counterfeiting profits can fund anything from a furtive

competitor to a terrorist cell.

Our current security answer? Implanting holograms – little traces or

designs that identify the item’s true source and are virtually

impossible to emulate. The technology behind holograms is on display

at the annual Mid-Atlantic Homeland Security & Defense Expo on

Tuesday, April 25, at 2 p.m. at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab in

Princeton. Cost: $40. Visit www.njtc.org. Sponsored by the New Jersey

Technology Counsel, this expo features 35 special exhibitors, poster

presentations, and a panel discussion of our region’s "Future

Military/Homeland Security Opportunities."

Panelists include Bill Evanina, an FBI agent assigned to Trenton;

Timothy Teen, CEO of InSitech; and Ken Traub, CEO of American Bank

Note Holographics.

Traub took the reins of American Bank Note Holographics in l999. Since

then he has ridden America’s security explosion and guided this

Robbinsville-based corporation to the top of the holographics heap.

Grossing over $30 million in 2005, American Bank is the major supplier

of security strips and holographics for Visa, MasterCard, Discover,

and most of the country’s other major credit cards.

Evaluating our responses, Traub feels that America is neither too lax

nor too paranoid about its security and potential invasions.

"Consumers are not, for the most part, vigilant, and we must now

recognize the new range of threats to IDs and so forth," he says. "But

I think generally institutions and individuals are becoming aware of

what they need to do."

Traub graduated from Emory University in l983 with a degree in

psychology – a discipline he claims to use every day. After gaining

his Harvard University MBA, he went to work in corporate America. He

was vice-president of the giant Manhattan holding company Trans

Resources before co-founding Voxware, a voice recognition and speech

processing company with offices at 168 Franklin Corner Road.

As head of American Bank Note Holographics, Traub says that his firm’s

goal is to raise the bar and make counterfeiting or tampering

expensive beyond the resources of the bad guys. At the same time, he

strives to keep his product so minimally invasive and so inexpensive

that it is cheap enough for mass application.

Card subtleties. Don’t you just love those picturesque little

butterflies on your credit card? They seem to appear and vanish.

Pretty as they are, they may be art for security’s sake. The

fluttering beauties are just one of the many other hologram features

American Bank Note provides on its clients’ cards to drive

counterfeiters wild.

An array of other holographic features can be placed on a card to make

it truly original. Animation may be included to give an image the

illusion of movement. Faces may appear in tri-dimensional modeling or

be set to changing color schemes from various angles. Diffractive

mercurial coloring can emblazon colors bolder than life, while a dot

matrix pattern can hide certain images.

And, of course, if all this obvious display isn’t enough to ensure

authentication, the company can move to nano imagery in which a

microscopic logo can be specifically placed, making counterfeiter

detection, let alone imitation, nearly impossible.

A security holostripe, about two to five millimeters wide, is

typically placed on the back of the card. This stamped foil strip can

also be configured with a host of individual features.

Paper and notes. The surest way to secure the authenticity of any

paper is at the paper mill. Working with established paper maker Crane

& Co., American Bank Note Holographic can embed a holographic thread

as the pulp is turned into paper. Coded like DNA, it is virtually

impossible to emulate. Holographic patches and stripes may be hot-foil

pressed into the document to blend or even enhance letterheads and

logos.

Probably the thriftiest way to make your mark on an ordinary paper

document is to embed a standard hologram, which remains hidden until

read with a handheld HoloScan reader. A quick click assures the viewer

it is yours. Micro and even nano images may also be embedded on paper

documents and bank note-style blends of cotton, linen and paper.

Product protection. We live in the age of the knockoff. Computer

software, auto parts, and especially pharmaceuticals are subject to

brand piracy from all over the globe. "For the pharmaceutical

companies, this has become a real horror," says Traub. "Under the

guise of false labels, people are taking `medicines’ that at best

provide no cure, and at worst may poison them."

Obviously, with physical products, the holographic security approach

must come up with new configurations. Currently the solutions are

solid, and for mass marketers, like drug companies, becoming less

expensive. Most common is the nonmetallic pressure sensitive label

that identifies the manufacturer or vendor, and may even contain a

hidden bar code. American Bank Note also offers a line of transparent

covers and shrink sleeves, which serve the dual role of verification

and tamper-discovery.

"There is great evidence of terrorists using counterfeiting to spread

their destruction and to fund their activities," says Traub. "But it

goes deeper. For our society to function, we have to be able to trust

our documents and trust our products." At the same time, Americans

will not be lured into a siege mentality, either by powers within or

abroad. With technological advances like those of American Bank Note

Holographics, security can be as it should: a noninvasive, relatively

inexpensive aspect of our lives.

We don’t need fear, we need answers.

– Bart Jackson

Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Facebook Comments