Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tech News from the World

CNET News - Apple

9/18/2012 12:00:58 PM
The judge in the U.S. case between Apple and Samsung says she can't dissolve a 3-month-old injunction on Samsung's tablet.
9/18/2012 9:52:55 AM
A Taiwanese news report says that assembler Pegatron scored 50 percent to 60 percent of production orders on the iPad mini, Foxconn will supposedly get the rest.
9/18/2012 4:50:19 AM
Apple and Research In Motion have a court's go-ahead to fight Kodak's appeal of an earlier ruling that dismissed its patent case against... Apple and RIM. Whew.

Originally posted at News - Politics and Law

9/18/2012 4:30:22 AM
Those are the market rates charged by people willing to wait in an iPhone 5 line for anyone who pays them. If you really want the phone and you really don't want to wait, these people will do the heavy lifting.
9/18/2012 4:09:06 AM
The company has had a strong run recently, and is now valued at nearly $655 billion.
9/18/2012 3:44:22 AM
In the wake of Apple's recent iCloud e-mail outage, a number of people are now experiencing delays and lost messages with its iMessage instant-messaging service.

Originally posted at MacFixIt

9/18/2012 2:27:59 AM
Just how many iPhones will Apple sell this weekend? One analyst says 6 million would be a worst-case scenario.
9/18/2012 1:54:50 AM
Tablet shipments will increase 56 percent this year, with help from the growing popularity of 7-inch tablets, IHS reports.

Originally posted at News - Mobile

9/17/2012 11:19:18 PM
Calculating the number of iTunes accounts projected over the next two years, analyst Horace Dediu believes Apple could hit that 1 billion threshold in device sales.
9/17/2012 10:22:51 PM
Generic versions of Apple's new 30-pin adapter, which was officially unveiled last week along with the iPhone 5 and new iPods, are already showing up online.

T3 News

9/17/2012 10:47:00 PM

Tarsier Studios helps celebrate our best year yet with portable PlayStation shrine

9/17/2012 8:05:00 PM

Gillette and Google launches a dedicated football channel on YouTube which will bring HD highlights and news from around the European leagues. Just not the Premier League...

9/17/2012 7:09:00 PM

Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has announced tha the forthcoming Surface tablet will be priced between £200 and £500

9/17/2012 6:06:00 PM

Fujifilm XF1 has revealed the XF1, a pocket-sized, compact digital camera, which is set to go on sale in November later this year

9/17/2012 5:30:00 PM

Sleeping Dogs has maintained its position for another week at the top of the UK Games Chart

9/17/2012 1:32:00 AM

Canon’s sharp new EOS 6D is set to be officially unveiled at Photokina this week. But camera fans hungry for details don’t have to wait, with a full spec sheet slipping out online.

9/17/2012 1:20:00 AM

With Photokina set to kick off, the next week is set to be a big one for camera fanatics. And ahead of the slew of upcoming official unveilings, two new Olympus cameras have appeared online.

9/16/2012 4:11:00 PM

Samsung is priming its first wave of attacks on the iPhone 5, with a newspaper ad laying into Apple’s new handset, which was revealed earlier this week. The Korean giant and Cupertino have been locked in a legal tussle surrounding their smartphones, with Apple winning a resounding victory in a California courtroom last month.

9/15/2012 8:12:00 PM

Nintendo has said it will not be releasing games for its forthcoming Wii U that make use of two gamepads until next year. The news comes just days after the gaming giant unveiled its release schedule for the new console.

9/15/2012 7:57:00 PM

Apple might be celebrating its iPhone 5 success, but Twitter was alive this week with iCloud users complaining that the service was down, with email inaccessible for a number of days.

9/15/2012 7:35:00 PM

Apple has said it has been ‘blown away’ by the response to the iPhone 5, unveiled in San Francisco at a special event last Wednesday. The new handset’s initial shipment has already sold out, with Apple fans now facing a 2-3 week wait if they preorder the new blower.

9/14/2012 10:55:00 PM

The FIFA 13 demo has sent the gaming community into overdrive, with close to 2m downloads being record three days after launch

9/14/2012 9:50:00 PM

Microsoft has announced that it will dish out Surface tablets plus a raft of other Windows 8-based devices to over 90,000 of its staff

9/14/2012 7:45:00 PM

Nintendo's Wii U is now available to pre-order through GAME

9/14/2012 7:43:00 PM

Audi has whipped the covers off the new A3, the upgraded premium compact that the Germans claim is now the 'most advanced car in its segment'

9/14/2012 7:30:00 PM

Apple iPhone 5 pre-order time arrives, UK tarrifs announced, just days after the hanset was official revealed

9/14/2012 7:07:00 PM

German car giants Audi has launched a new iPhone app to make it easier to tracking your mileage and petrol expenses on the move

9/14/2012 5:55:00 PM

The iPhone 5's RRP price was announced at launch, but what tariffs and deals are the UK networks offering? We round 'em up

9/14/2012 5:55:00 PM

The iPhone 5's RRP price was announced at launch, but what tarrifs and deals are the UK networks offering? We round 'em up

9/14/2012 5:30:00 PM

The iPhone 5 was launched this week and Apple has made sure you can get hold of one in a matter of days with a September 21 release date

9/14/2012 12:30:00 AM

Apple has confirmed social network service Ping will be omitted from iTunes following the update next month

9/13/2012 11:07:00 PM

T3 Magazine is launching a new access-all-areas subscription, giving you the latest and greatest gadget news, reviews and features each month

9/13/2012 10:45:00 PM

Nintendo's next-gen Wii U console will arrive in Europe on November 30th

9/13/2012 9:55:00 PM

Pricing details for Sony's new flagship handset have started to arrive as online retailers have begun taking pre-orders for the new phone

9/13/2012 7:25:00 PM

Intel has kicked off its Developer's Forum in San Francisco with a wide-ranging keynote detailing the company's plans for our computing future


9/18/2012 11:01:58 AM
While it's the "big" patent lawsuits that seem to get most of the attention in the press -- the Samsung/Apples and the Oracle/Googles -- those cases involve "equal" companies who can afford to throw a few million into expensive lawyers to fight the fight. But there's a growing and really dangerous aspect in the patent world these days: how patent trolls are increasingly going after startups. That's a big deal when startups are the biggest creators of new jobs (and great innovations), but the impact of patent trolls on smaller companies just doesn't get that much attention. Thankfully, law professor Colleen Chien has been doing a lot work here and has just released an excellent new paper all about how startups are hurt by patent trolls (though she now uses the latest favored term for patent trolls: PAEs or "Patent Assertion Entities").
I find that although large companies tend to dominate patent headlines, most unique defendants to troll suits are small. Companies with less than $100M annual revenue represent at least 66% of unique defendants and 55% of unique defendants in PAE suits make under $10M per year. Suing small companies appears distinguish PAEs from operating companies, who sued companies with less than $10M per year of revenue only 16% of the time, based on unique defendants. Based on survey responses, the smaller the company, the more likely it was to report a significant operational impact. A large percentage of responders reported a “significant operational impact”: delayed hiring or achievement of another milestone, change in the product, a pivot in business strategy, shutting down a business line or the entire business, and/or lost valuation. To the extent patent demands tax innovation, then, they appear to do so regressively, with small companies targeted more as unique defendants , and paying more in time, money and operational impact, relative to their size, than large firms.
The following chart from the report more or less speaks for itself: the smaller you are, the much higher the likelihood that a demand from a patent troll (even beyond just a lawsuit) had a "significant" operational impact. This may not be surprising, but it is really telling:
The whole report is a worthwhile read. One thing that I like is that it even spends a bit of time talking about the emotional impact getting sued by a patent troll. Getting sued (or even threatened with a lawsuit) is a deeply scary moment, and that kind of pressure can tear apart good startups.
Patent demands can exact a personal toll: as responders remarked, demands have “invoked rage over the waste of time,” made a target “very very angry,” “ruined family friends” and caused “stress” and “ill-will generation [sic].” As several survey respondents put it,
“It was agonizing to hand over all the money we had earned from a product we had invented and created ourselves to a firm that invents nothing and creates nothing. Our founder has since lost his house, car [sic] all his assets.”

“They sued my startup for infringement on a group of insanely broad software patents. While many much larger companies are fighting we do not have the resources to do so. It is the single most frustrating experiences I've had professionally. Extortion, pure and simple. The troll even admitted his model was to sue everyone, get settlement dollars because fighting was too expensive.”

“We wasted about 50k of hard earned money on litigations :-/ [sic]”
As defense lawyers who work with a large number of large and small companies put it, some small companies are “much more likely to take it personally” and threats can “send them over the edge,” inflicting considerable emotional distress.
That emotional impact is really really powerful and can cause otherwise good startups to completely collapse under the pressure. It's good to see that the report attempts to account for some of that, even if it's not the focus of the report.

And, of course, the damage isn't just to the companies, but to innovation itself, as people just give up due to being restricted in what they can do -- including having some companies give up on the US market entirely:
Among those who had not received a demand, some reported significant impacts from watching others receive them. Numerous respondents who had not received a demand said they used open source software in order to avoid liability. Others reported being very conscious of patent threats. Said one small software company, for example: “[w]e have limited ourselves to the UK & European markets, simply because the mere threat of Patent Litigation if we enter the US market, is a WHEN not IF question.” Another said “I used to develop software for retail and on spec for publishing by other companies. But we've quit that because the risk of patent litigation.”
Hopefully as we start to see more data like this, policymakers will realize that the system is very, very broken.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 8:00:00 AM
Humans -- not content to be stuck on this planet and itching to find alien life -- are hard at work developing better ways to send satellites and spacecraft into orbit and outer space. If we actually want to colonize Mars by 2023, then some new propulsion technologies might be in order. Here are a few examples of various efforts going on around the world. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 6:50:19 AM
The folks over at the EFF have a decent summary of the travesty that was the "stakeholder" events at the latest TPP negotiating round, in which various groups (on all sides) were supposedly given an "opportunity" to express their thoughts on the TPP. We've already discussed some other aspects of it, but the one thing that the EFF writeup makes clear, is that the whole thing is a complete joke. The text, of course, remains "secret," and negotiators flat out refuse to discuss any points raised about the various leaked texts:

The stakeholder engagement events in the morning were followed by a stakeholder briefing in the afternoon. The briefing allowed registered individuals from civil society and the public to ask questions of and make comments to eight out of the nine negotiators who represent a TPP country. The press was barred from the room. Roughly 25 people rose from the audience to ask questions to the trade delegates during the 90-minute briefing period. As predicted, they were not transparent about the talks, revealed little new information, and delegates also refused to make any comments based on leaked version of texts—the only text EFF and other public interest organizations have had access to. It is difficult for public stakeholders to ask accurate questions or receive any substantive answers when the content of the agreement continues to be shrouded in secrecy.

Rossini asked the USTR about its claims that the TPP’s intellectual property chapter will provide for fair use in its IP chapter, and how those public statements starkly contrast with the recent leaked TPP chapter that shows that the US delegation is in fact pushing for provisions that will restrict non-US countries from enacting fair use. Further, they neglected to comment on the fact that the leaked test has the potential to limit US fair use to the three-step test restrictions. In response, the lead negotiator for the USTR dodged the question and stated that they would not comment on issues raised by text EFF has “purportedly” received. The representative did acknowledge that fair use would be discussed during the week's meetings.

This is not "transparency," no matter how many times the USTR claims that they have "unprecedented" levels of transparency around the TPP negotiations. If negotiators won't share what they're even negotiating, and won't respond to any questions related to the actual text that's leaked, the only thing you can discuss are vague generalities not found in the leaked documents. That's insane. And because of that, the negotiators are focused on ridiculous ideas. For example, the EFF writeup notes that negotiators were asked how they could justify negotiating expansive copyright laws in secret after seeing what happened with SOPA and ACTA... and the response revealed just how out of touch the negotiators are. They don't even realize that the DMCA is controversial:
The last question of the briefing came from EFF’s International Intellectual Property Coordinator, Maira Sutton, who raised from the crowd and asked the lead negotiator how they justify pushing for ever more restrictive copyright laws in the agreement even though it has become clear, with the defeat of ACTA in Europe, that users are sick and tired of international agreements regulating their Internet through overprotective intellectual property provisions... In response, the lead negotiator for the US stated that the standard for copyright regulation in international agreements has been the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). They claimed that the DMCA was legislated fairly and is an effective model for copyright enforcement in the US. The representatives' answer contradicted the fact that EFF and others have been arguing for years that the DMCA is fraught with problems. Sutton responded that based upon what we saw in the recent leaked text on fair use, developing countries would not be able to implement such copyright laws as soundly given that the three-step test language restricts signatory nations from determining and establishing fair use as they see fit.
So, the end result is that we have a completely secret back-room process, where the USTR pretends to listen to the public, but won't talk to them about what's in the actual negotiations, and refuses to comment on the little we actually know is in the document thanks to leaks. And because of that, we have completely clueless negotiators pushing something they think is sensible, totally ignorant of the reality.

This could be solved pretty easily: make the US positions and negotiating documents public and allow public comment on them. The USTR still hasn't given a reason why this can't be done. Though, the answer seems kind of obvious: actually being transparent would mean having to listen to the public and various experts point out where they're completely clueless. If USTR negotiators are so insecure in their positions, they shouldn't be in that job.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 5:31:00 AM
Back in April, in writing about Union Square Ventures' Hacking Society event, I discussed the importance of measuring the unmeasurable, in noting that we all too often seem to be evaluating information-era economics using industrial-era metrics. That's a problem. Nick Grossman, who organized that Hacking Society session, has a great post discussing this same concept and highlighting Tim O'Reilly's discussion about this topic, in which he describes the clothesline paradox, which actually seems to come from a discussion in the early 1970s, and highlights how metrics can mislead. You can think of the clothesline paradox like this:
If you take down your clothes line and buy an electric clothes dryer the electric consumption of the nation rises slightly. If you go in the other direction and remove the electric clothes dryer and install a clothesline the consumption of electricity drops slightly, but there is no credit given anywhere on the charts and graphs to solar energy which is now drying the clothes.
In my mind, there are two "problems" associated with this, and while I think there is interest in attacking the first one, the second problem is often ignored. The first problem is that we notice that important information is measured with the wrong metrics. We see this all the time in the internet era. People talk about "the collapse" of the music industry, but miss the fact that more music has been produced, recorded and released in the last decade than in any previous decade. In fact, some of the evidence suggests more music was produced and recorded in the last decade than all other decades combined. Of course, that's an example of a metric that can be determined, but not all such metrics are that easy to pin down. For example, we talked about how Craigslist almost certainly helped contribute to the challenge that many newspapers are facing, because it undercut the cash cow that supported many of them: the classified advertising business. And if you used traditional metrics, you'd bizarrely and incorrectly suggest that Craigslist somehow "destroyed" value. But that's because no one takes into account all the value that Craigslist created, not for itself, but for its users. But how do you measure the fact that I can now find someone to take my old couch away for free? There's value in that transaction, but no one "measures" it. What about the fact that I can more efficiently rent out an apartment - without having to pay the local newspaper? Again, there's value, but it's not properly measured.

The second problem is a little trickier to understand. It's that when we have things that we can measure, we instinctively gravitate towards using those metrics, even if they're the wrong metrics! I was thinking about this as I read Paul Graham's excellent thoughts on "black swan farming," which is all about the counter-intuitive process involved in funding startups. There's a ton of tremendously thought-provoking lines in that piece, but I'm going to concentrate on one, which was really more of an aside, unrelated to the larger article (which you should go read), because it helped clarify my thinking on this point. Graham talks about not bothering to measure how many of the YCombinator companies he funds and trains later go on to raise more money after their initial fundraising efforts, noting:
I deliberately avoid calculating that number, because if you start measuring something you start optimizing it, and I know it's the wrong thing to optimize.
And here's where the problem of using the wrong metrics becomes compounded. Even if you know something is the wrong metric, just having the number almost forces you to optimize for it. So rather than looking at, say, what's best for the overall culture of music, we look at "revenue for the record labels" and decide we need to "fix" that. Or, we look at the patent system as a proxy number for "innovation" and then the focus becomes solely on increasing the number of patents we issue, rather than on actually maximizing innovation.

When you have the wrong metrics, not only do you have bad or incomplete information, but even when you know that it's almost impossible not to optimize for those metrics, because you don't have anything else to work towards.

There is a lot of new interest in quantifying all sorts of new data -- and one benefit of the information age is that it also helps to create new data that can be quantified. But not all quantified data is actually that useful, and unfortunately, we often get so focused on the fact that we have a number, we ignore the possibility that the number is not telling us anything useful.

I was recently reminded of Shelby Bonnie's opinion piece from three years ago about why we need to kill the CPM as a metric for advertising (for those who don't know, CPM -- or "cost per thousand" impressions -- is how most banner ads are sold). He noted, quite accurately, that even those with the best of intentions to get away from "CPM-based" advertising seem to end up there in the end anyway. Because we have that number. And it becomes what people optimize around, just because it's there.
All campaigns start with the best of intentions: “let’s do something creative, engaging, and unique!” But unless someone really senior from the agency or client side intervenes, the road for a campaign always leads to the media buyer and the dreaded spreadsheet, where the two most important columns are impressions and cost. Ironically, there’s usually some good stuff in campaigns, but they are thrown in for free as “value adds.” At some point, publishers decide that if all clients care about is impressions, then OK, we’ll give them impressions. The output is an industry that overproduces shallow, superficial, commoditized impressions. Why do we have so many bad sites that republish the same junky content–content that’s often made by machines or $1-per-post contractors? Why do sites intentionally try to get us to turn lots of pages with tons of top 10 lists, photo galleries, or single-paragraph summaries of someone else’s story?
The more I spend time thinking about these issues, the more I think these combined problems -- both not having the right data and then optimizing for the wrong data -- are the keys to many of the issues that we're regularly discussing around here. Figuring out ways to get beyond that, and to find the right data, and break our habits of relying on bad data are going to be increasingly important.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 4:33:00 AM

Police and security forces around the world -- and that includes in the West -- hate being recorded when they're overstepping the mark in the execution of their duties, since it allows the public to challenge official accounts, and even to use videos to seek redress. But there's one thing worse than being recorded, and that's being livestreamed: even the most nimble authorities can't confiscate the recording from its creator, since it's already been uploaded for the world to see.

No wonder, then, that the livestreaming app Bambuser has become one of the most popular -- and potent -- weapons for activists to deploy against heavy-handed policing, allowing them to fight back in a non-violent way against institutional brutality around the world. But the inevitable corollary is that powerful as it is, Bambuser is now seen as a threat in itself. Last year, the Egyptian government blocked Bambuser, and this worrying tweet from the official Bambuser account, suggests that the Syrian authorities are going even further in their crackdown on the service:

We just got this: "secret police arrested a person because he had bambuser application on his mobile" Disgusting to hear! #Assad
No more is known about the fate of that activist, but it's a disturbing turn of events when just the presence of a piece of general software on your phone is grounds for arrest. Of course, it would be relatively easy to disguise that app with a fake name and icon, but it won't take police long to move on to the next stage and try opening up apps to see what they do. And in any case, anyone actually using Bambuser or similar streaming tools to record police and security force actions now knows that they are in danger.

This shows that the theory that turning everyone into citizen journalists to broadcast what's happening, as it's happening, will give activists new tools to fight against oppressive regimes is fine -- until the mere possession of those tools is enough to get you arrested.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 3:30:00 AM
It seems there's a new pattern showing itself every time I read a news report in which the FBI proudly announces it foiled a terrorist plot. That pattern goes something like this: hear that a huge explosion was averted and lives were saved, find out the plotter was an American citizen, find out he was under investigation by the FBI for several years, and then finally find out that it was the FBI that egged on the suspect and built his "bomb" for him. In other words, the only way these things could become less impressive is if the FBI actually decided to quit finding these loner folks to urge into violence and just built their own physical straw man to parade in front of the cameras.

This whole game of pretend law enforcement showed up at my doorstep this weekend, when the FBI announced yet another arrest of a potential terrorist, this time an 18 year old suburbanite whom the FBI (you guessed it) encouraged to try to bomb a downtown bar in Chicago.
Adel Daoud, 18, was arrested following a months-long FBI undercover investigation. He was taken into custody after he parked a Jeep Cherokee in front of the bar Friday night and walked into a nearby alley where he tried to detonate the device, court documents allege.

The bomb, which was inert and had been constructed by FBI technicians, didn't explode, according to federal authorities.
Oddly, the article notes that Daoud allegedly gave the FBI more than two dozen high profile Chicago targets to 'splode, but decided eventually on this unnamed bar instead, perhaps because they had, like, totally taken his fake ID that one time. Actually, I just made that up because I can't think of a single reason why a supposed terrorist would settle on a drinkery as their target.

Now, it is true that Daoud professed his wish to participate in jihad. It is true that he attempted to set off this pseudo bomb. He does indeed sound like a disturbed kid that needs to be dealt with in some fashion. But would he have participated in any of this without the urging of the FBI?

Perhaps more importantly, is foiling their own plots the best use of law enforcement in Chicago, a city that appears to be engaged in a concerted effort to have the most murders ever in a calendar year?

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 2:28:25 AM
Brent Ashley shares the absolutely crazy story of how his daughter, a student at OCAD University in Canada, is taking a class on "Global Visual and Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800" which has a textbook that is required for all students... which costs $180. Now, we all know that textbook prices are absolutely insane these days, but here's where it gets crazier. The text -- and, remember, this is an art textbook has no images because they couldn't clear the copyrights:
This year, however, the textbook for Global VISUAL and Material Culture has no pictures. Students have been told that the publisher couldn’t get the copyright permissions settled in time for the print run, so students will have to read the book, and see the pictures online by following along on their computer.

There is no discount on the $180 price for an ART textbook that has NO PICTURES. Devoid of pictures. Bereft of art. If I am going to have to pay $180 for an art history book that is of no resale value to next year’s students, it had damn well better be an excellent visual reference with hard cover and full colour plates, to keep around for years, festooning my coffee table and that of my heirs.
Students in the class have put up a petition to protest what they quite correctly call a "sham." It's even more bizarre given that recent court rulings in Canada would suggest that the images in question would be given pretty broad "fair dealing" protections for the purpose of education. But, just the threat of copyright claims, apparently, are creating an absolutely ridiculous situation.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 1:25:25 AM
A few weeks back, we wrote about a proposal by Rep. Jerry Nadler, which we referred to as the RIAA Bailout Act of 2012 because it sought to change the nature of satellite radio royalties to put them on par with the absolutely ridiculous and unsustainable royalty levels for internet radio. In case you don't know, there are basically three very different tiers for the royalties that need to be paid to musicians (separate from songwriters) for broadcasting the tracks on which those musicians played. If it's played on the radio, the stations have to pay nothing to the musicians, as Congress long ago decided that radio play was the equivalent of advertising (a viewpoint that is pretty accurate, given the decades of payola that have shown that radio play is so valuable that labels will pay stations and djs to get their songs played). Then there are the satellite radio guys (basically Sirius XM at this point). They pay a rate that they already think is too high and pass those rates directly on to consumers. In preparation for a new rate-making process, they're already seeking out legal ways to get away from having to pay statutory rates.

But what the satellite guys have to pay completely pales in comparison to what internet streaming companies like Pandora have to pay. There, the rates are so crazy that it's become clear that Pandora has little likelihood of ever being profitable unless something drastically changes. Matt Schruers, over at Project DisCo, has an absolutely fascinating look back at why these rates are so bad, and it comes down to this simple, but positively scary point:

When the Copyright Act of 1976 was passed, it was so taken over by regulatory capture by a few key industries, that they explicitly put into the Copyright Act that it should be used to stop disruptive innovation from challenging legacy businesses. I've read the Copyright Act many times, but have to admit that I'd never quite noticed this line from 17 USC 801(b)(1)(D), which explicitly states that the role of the Copyright Royalty Judges on the Copyright Royalty Board that sets the rates for internet radio are there:
To minimize any disruptive impact on the structure of the industries involved and on generally prevailing industry practices.
Yeah. Their job is to set rates that basically kill off disruptive innovation in favor of "prevailing industry practices." As Schruers notes, this goes against absolutely everything we understand about the importance of disruptive innovation in driving forward the economy:
That’s right: employees of the U.S. Government who dictate price inputs for entire industries are statutorily charged to resist change. While the CRT / CARP / CRB has always had other statutory guidance as well, for example, maximizing availability of works, affording copyright owners a “fair return” and users a “fair income under existing economic conditions”, Congress enshrined this explicit rule that no one be permitted to upset the existing players’ apple cart. There is no pretext here, no cynical appeal to some higher objective that justifies minimizing disruption of the prevailing industry — change is inherently bad. The statute gives no consideration of whether a better business model might come along, and in fact affirmatively discourages any — not only because the statute aims to minimize any “disruptive impact”, but also because this license was limited solely to “pre-existing” services by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998. New arrivals were out of luck.
How the hell did something so explicitly corrupt and so clearly a form of crony capitalism get directly into the Copyright Act? Take a wild guess:
So how did this “minimize disruption” language wind up in the Copyright Act of 1976, given that it so clearly violated the First Rule of Defending the Status Quo? The “minimize disruption” requirement is a vestige of a copyright legislative process that stretched over many years, starting in the 1960s, at a time when fewer people appreciated copyright and fewer still understood the contours of the legal system that created those rights. Much of the initial drafting of the ‘76 Act was by the Copyright Office, which chaired a series of meetings with prominent industry copyright lawyers throughout the 1960s.

Counsel for publishers, the recording industry, broadcasters, were well represented in these discussions. The future, as the saying goes, had no lobbyist. It is not surprising, therefore, that the multi-factor test that determines the rates paid by services like satellite radio under the Copyright Act’s statutory licenses would reflect the perspectives of the existing parties to the arrangement. The standard from the ‘76 Act remains today (although at the time, the statute was focused on regulating “coin-operated phonorecord players”.)
And... believe it or not, that's not even the end of the story! That part of the Copyright Act is the part that impacts the satellite guys. But the streaming internet folks? For them it's even worse, as the statute takes things even further to create even more incentives to further kill off these new innovations -- by basically saying that a "proper" license is one with which a "willing seller" is happy. In other words, it sets the statutory rates almost entirely based on the interests of... the existing, entrenched players.

And that's why Pandora may never be profitable if nothing changes. Because we've actually built into copyright law that disruptive innovation is bad and should be minimized at the interests of the legacy players.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/18/2012 12:22:25 AM
Last week, we were among many who discussed the so-called "Nipplegate" scandal, in which overly prudish (or overly busy) Facebook moderators decided that a pair of dots representing nipples in a comic drawing of Adam and Eve constituted a "female nipple bulge". Such bulges have been deemed scandalous to society (or something like that) and banned from Facebook. Again, for reference, this is the comic strip we're discussing:
The story at the New Yorker, in which they humorously discuss "Nipplegate", got tons of attention, of course. And lots of other publications (like ours) wrote about it -- nearly all of whom also showed the comic in question. Its kind of difficult to discuss the story without showing the comic so that people can understand it. In our case, we encouraged people to read the full article at The New Yorker, which is rather entertaining.

Either way, the reposting of the image in other articles discussing it seems like a rather classic case of fair use. Paul Levy, over at Public Citizen, has a writeup about the incident, in which he echoes the point I tried to make, concerning the danger of becoming too reliant on a platform like Facebook as your way of expressing yourself, when it's subject to the random moderation whims of staffers who think that a pair of dot nipples might arouse prurient interests.

However, Levy, in an aside, mentioned this:
Although the New Yorker demanded a license fee if I published the image on my own Facebook page, which I had in mind to do just to be in Facebook's face, I don't see how you can understand this controversy without seeing the image.
Levy was kind enough to share with me the email exchange about the "demand" for a license fee. A "Sr. Manager" for "Content Sales & Licensing" told him that Conde Nast has "license fees for all of our cartoons to be posted online" and offered to create an invoice for him. He responded by pointing out that he's not interested in paying a fee, but suggesting (correctly) that Conde Nast/The New Yorker's interests are clearly best served by having that image go viral, especially on Facebook, given the earlier ridiculous moderation.

The licensing woman would not budge:
Yes unfortunately there will be a cost. Sorry about that
Now, what Paul was asking for is slightly different than the news fair use case. He's talking about encouraging fans to repost the image on Facebook, in part to "be in Facebook's face," about the stupidity of banning that comic, and in part (I would assume) to test the consistency of Facebook's "review" process. Of course, Facebook has since apologized and admitted this was a mistake -- but you could see how it would be beneficial to have the image spread widely, not just in terms of general publicity, but also to make a larger point about Facebook's arbitrary moderation practices.

Admittedly, the person he was talking to is a "content sales & licensing" person -- so you could make the argument that her role is solely to focus on, you know, licensing and selling Conde Nast's content, and not to consider other things like the beneficial statement that could be made by having Facebook flooded with people reposting that comic, or even the fair use argument for reposting such an image. Unfortunately, this is actually a symptom of a larger problem. We've so "asset-ized" content (thanks to copyright) that people only view it through a single framework -- "what can we license" -- rather than looking at the reality of the situation and determining what's actually best for the company (possibility of making a viral statement) or the legal realities (like fair use). To its credit, I don't believe Conde Nast has reached out to anyone who actually posted the comic to get them to stop, but Paul's point is a good one: the company could have made an even bigger statement by encouraging people to share the comic -- but its natural reaction was merely to go straight to figuring out how much money it could extract from him.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/17/2012 11:21:25 PM
Update: Good points made in the comments that suggest that the graph below is actually more about the original news coming out in the evening, and the national UK press running the story in the morning -- rather than in response to the threat to sue. While the legal action certainly didn't help push the story under the rug (it's the only way I heard about it, for instance), it looks like we (picking up on the Forbes piece) went too far in assuming that the threat to sue is what resulted in the attention. The original story remains below.

I don't tend to follow news like this, so there could be plenty of reasons why I missed the report that the wife of Prince William, Kate Middleton, had been photographed topless while on vacation with William in France. Of course, it could also be because almost no one paid attention to the story... until the royal family decided to sue. As Kash Hill correctly notes, this seems like yet another perfect example of the Streisand Effect in action. The story got very little attention... until legal action was threatened.
It may be upsetting and embarrassing, but it's difficult to see how suing makes things better. All it did was get a lot more people looking for the photos and put a lot more attention on the story itself. I know that, at times when someone is wronged, there's a feeling that they must do something, but does it really make sense to "do something" if it also makes you much worse off?

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/17/2012 10:19:25 PM
Publishers are at it again, levying what amount to economic sanctions against that infamous freeloader hangout, The Library. In a move that will endear it to exactly no one, Hachette is increasing its back catalog prices 220% for ebooks, sticking it to the cherished public institutions whose shelves (including the digital ones) are lined with nothing but Lost Sales (apparently).

Hachette has been hard at work dragging its reputation through the mud. You may remember it from a few weeks ago, when it greeted Tor's announcement that it was going DRM-free with "HAHAHA but no, seriously, there will be DRM." This move seems ill-advised at best, what with some authors banding together to offer their titles to libraries for $dirt cheap, a price that falls more in line with the economic realities of the average library.

Hachette isn't the only publishing fish in the sea (and not even the only fish to jack up its prices -- Random House dialed its prices up 300% in March). Hachette is one of several publishers, many of whom haven't increased prices (or at least, not as severely). Of course, other publishers have gone other routes, including limiting the number of lends on their ebooks, making their digital offerings the equivalent of poorly manufactured physical books (Falls Apart After 26 Uses!). As a whole, the Big Six treat libraries like an intrusive vagrant.
So the current state of the library ebook market is this:
  • 2 major publishers which charge high prices (Hachette, Random House)
  • 2 major publishers which won’t sell at all (Macmillan, Simon & Schuster)
  • Penguin, which is only selling ebooks to libraries grudgingly and with support for the Kindle explicitly blocked
  • HarperCollins, which imposed a 26 checkout limit for library ebooks
I realize the publishers are running businesses, not charities, but those on the end of these price hikes are running something much closer to a charity than a business, relying on late fees, used book sales and donations to keep their shelves stocked. Considering many potential customers use libraries as tools for discovery, it would seem to be in their best interest to get as many of their titles in front of readers as possible, rather than price themselves out of a well-respected lending system.

Hachette's pricing "strategy" is doubly disappointing, considering it was once one of the "good guys:"
Hachette used to be one of the bright lights in library ebooks because they charged the regular retail price for their ebooks. And even though they wouldn’t sell their front list titles to libraries, at least we knew the titles would eventually be available. Only now those titles will be terribly expensive.
Christopher Harris, writing for the American Library Association, wonders if Hachette has forgotten how to publish.
Hachette is increasing backlist prices by 220% and … what? And we get ownership? And we get increased simultaneous lending? And we get anything other than another price gouge from a publisher that seems to not comprehend the basic fundamentals of publishing?

Let’s make this really easy to understand. Publishers publish content. Libraries buy content. As long as publishers keep publishing content, libraries will keep buying content. Why? Because libraries buy content. Only we buy it from a relatively fixed budget.

By drastically increasing the price of backlist titles, all Hachette is doing is reducing the funding that can go towards purchasing its new titles.
Harris points out that libraries aren't looking for handouts. They're looking for a mutually beneficial relationship, one that rewards publishers, readers and writers. But trying to turn a back catalog into a cash cow on the back of the library system helps no one.
That is why I cannot begin to comprehend this move by Hachette. Increasing backlist prices must either reduce the available budget for new titles or reduce acquisition of backlist titles—lost sales for Hachette either way. Furthermore, it reveals a lack of focus on the part of Hachette; instead of building profits on releasing the best possible titles every year, the company is stuck looking backwards. Finally, it shows a lack of understanding about the benefit of having more open access to backlist titles as additional entry points into new book purchases.
This short-sightedness seems to be more and more commonplace, especially in industries affected by digital disruption. The focus has shifted from building a sustainable business to concentrating on quarterly reports. Concentrating on immediate results tends to lead toward efforts that do far more long-term damage than any short-term gains can hope to balance out.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/17/2012 8:14:25 PM
Recently, we learned that Canadian musician Dave Gunning ran into some copyright troubles regarding his latest album, No More Pennies. No, he did not use music or lyrics from any other artist without permission. What he did was something far worse, at least in the eyes of one organization. What he had the audacity to do was include images of the soon-to-be-retired Canadian penny.
When the Royal Canadian Mint caught wind of Dave's tribute album and the timely use of the penny in its artwork, it sent a legal threat to Dave stating that he was infringing the copyright of the Mint and that he must pay a royalty on each album sold. Of course, the Mint did decide to give him a break on this royalty by waving the fees on the first 2000 albums sold, but said he had to pay after that. That was quite generous, or so the Mint was quick to claim.
“We have helped this guy out by giving him a break,” Alex Reeves, communications manager for the Royal Canadian Mint, said Tuesday.

“Now that we have explained the rules and the policy, it’s very clear what the implications are for using the penny’s image. And we’re certainly being consistent in the applications of our policy for any for-profit use,” he said.
Dave, however, saw things a bit differently.
“It is pennies to them but is pretty substantial for me,” said Gunning, who won two East Coast Music Awards in 2011, adding “we really had no idea” the ode to the penny was going to land him in hot water.
I had to scratch my head for a bit on this little dispute. Here in the US, works of the government are automatically in the public domain and can be freely used by the public. In regards to currency, while it is illegal to create counterfeit currency, it is legal to duplicate the images of currency as long as it is clearly a fake. Things are not quite so clear cut in Canada. 

For the Canadian government, works it produces are covered by a Crown Copyright in which the government retains some control over the use. However, even this explanation might not be quite so cut and dry. As Canadian lawyer Howard Knopf explains:
To be clear, the album cover shown above does not infringe any so-called intellectual property rights of the mint because:
  • If there ever was copyright in the Canadian penny, which is doubtful, it has long since expired and the above album cover would not be infringing copyright in any event
  • The above album cover does not "use" or "adopt" the Canadian penny in any technical sense covered by the Trade-marks Act.
Someone over at the Mint should learn some basic facts about intellectual property law, This kind of thing makes people lose respect for IP law and for the credibility of government institutions. There’s nothing funny about that.
Knopf points out that the Mint has even attempted similar actions before, when the city of Toronto created an ad campaign which featured an image of the penny. Just as it was then, it is now: the penny, if it was ever covered by copyright, has long since entered the public domain. This is because Crown Copyright only lasts 50 years. This fact, and plenty of negative publicity, lead the Mint to drop its action against Toronto. 

Now, we learn that the Mint has turned tail and dropped its action against Dave too:
The mint did not only waive the fee for Mr. Gunning, but said it would also review its intellectual property policy to ensure that it’s fair.

“We recognize our policy as it is today may not consider the individual needs and circumstances of those who request the use of our images,” spokeswoman Christine Aquino said from Ottawa.

“We’re allowing [Gunning] to do this and we truly wish him well in his career.”
Perhaps this change of heart came about because those running the legal offices of the Mint were reminded that they don't have a solid claim on the copyright of the penny. Even if they did, as Knopf clearly pointed out, Dave's use of the penny in his album work is transformative and as such covered by fair dealing. Either way, Dave is happy to have this saga ended.
“Everything’s gonna taste better now. I’m gonna sleep better,” laughed Mr. Gunning, who said he was overwhelmed by the attention his story had generated across Canada and the United States.

“This all started very simply from the fact that I’ve got a wife and three kids and just want to be able to make a living, and felt that I had to stand up for that.”
All of this raises the question of why a government has any claim of copyright on its currency to begin with. In reality, to claim such a copyright makes no sense. If the concern is that people would attempt to print their own currency, that is what counterfeit laws are for. Otherwise, it seems to be an unneeded burden on the freedom of Canadians. 

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/17/2012 6:08:25 PM
Last week, we reported on Google's decision to block access in Egypt and Libya to the controversial, hate-mongering video that's been cited as leading to the violent reactions in the Middle East. We wondered if this was the right move, noting the seriousness of the violence and the ridiculousness of the video. However, Paul Levy's thoughts on this make sense. While we may worry about what line Google may draw, it is a private company and it's not doing this due to government pressure, but as part of it's own decision:
Its removal is not the same as deferring to government censorship, and as much as I hate to give mob violence the satisfaction of an effective heckler’s veto, we cannot expect that online service providers will never remove material simply because it is deemed offensive by wide swaths of the population. Moreover, I can’t help but wondering if the violent response isn’t just what the film-makers were hoping for. So by leaving the image on its site so that we can understand the controversy, while taking it down where broad access to the material is likely to cause the greatest harm, Google has made a comprehensible judgment.
As such, even if we disagree with the choice, it's a defensible choice.

However, things may have crossed the line late last week. There were reports that the White House strongly suggested that YouTube pull the video entirely. Of course, they didn't come out and say that exactly, but rather suggested that YouTube "review the video to see if it was in compliance with their terms of use."

But when it's the White House suggesting that, it's a pretty clear situation in which the President is applying pressure on a private company to censor speech. Of course, we've seen this before, though not with the White House directly. Four years ago, we saw Senator Joe Lieberman similarly pressure YouTube to start blocking "terrorist" videos on YouTube. Lieberman, of course, loves to pressure private companies into blocking speech. He did similar things to try to censor Wikileaks and even pushed some bad legislation to try to increase censorship powers of the federal government.

Either way, the White House putting pressure on Google has troubling implications, even if we agree that the video in question is a hate-mongering disgrace. As various free speech activists told Politico (link above) there are some troubling implications here:
"There's no indication that the government is questioning the right of these idiots to make that repellent film. On the other hand, it does make us nervous when the government throws its weight behind any requests for censorship," the American Civil Liberties Union's Ben Wizner said in an interview Friday.

"I am actually kind of distressed by this," said Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Even though there are all these great quotes from inside the White House saying they support free speech....by calling YouTube from the White House, they were sending a message no matter how much they say we don't want them to take it down, when the White House calls and asks you to review it, it sends a message and has a certain chilling effect."
Google, for its part, has actually stood up to the White House on this one, and said that it won't pull the clip, though it had begun blocking the video in India and Indonesia, where they determined the video itself was illegal, and the company needed to comply with local laws.

Of course, all of this is unlikely to have much, if any, impact on the violence and anger. And that's part of the problem and the ridiculousness with arguing for censorship. It seems quite likely that a very large percentage of those involved in the mob violence to this haven't even seen the video themselves. Caving in to censorship "hints" from government doesn't actually hide the content or calm much anger. In fact, it's likely to just draw more attention to it. The video is despicable and the reaction to it is horrifying on a number of levels. The loss of life is massively upsetting, especially over something so stupid. So I can certainly understand the instinct to try to "do something," and to reach for the easiest target: censoring the video. But not only would it be completely ineffectual, it opens up a whole host of other problems. Dealing with hate speech by seeking to censor it almost always just encourages more hate speech (and even more idiotic violent reactions). It may be an "easy" thing to do, but it's no solution to deep-seeded problems. It just creates new problems.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/17/2012 3:00:00 AM

Last week, I noted that the winner's roster was dominated by replies to one of our resident dissenters. Not to be outdone, one of the other more disruptive presences here ignited a firestorm of nearly 500 comments, largely by asking the same question over and over again and rejecting all answers that didn't satisfy his mysterious and ever-shifting requirements. The end result? This week's post is pretty meta, because both of the Most Insightful winners are comments responding to a troll responding to a post about winning comments in response to trolls. Got that? Let's get started with Chrono S. Trigger, who refuted both the moral argument and the assertion that it's wrong to call these commenters trolls:

Economically speaking, it doesn't matter if it's moral or amoral. Morally speaking, it doesn't matter if it's legal or not. Legally speaking, it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong. Realistically speaking, it doesn't matter if it's moral, legal, or right. You see how nothing actually relates in this situation? The fact that you won't acknowledge the fact that reality does not line up with the law any more speaks volumes about you.

Here's where you may be getting confused. Copyright isn't actually a right, it's a privilege granted to you for a limited time by the people who copyright is suppose to benefit, us, the public. So when you start talking morality, you're already off track when talking about copyright. If you want to talk morality, then it's moral to ignore copyright because copyright itself has become amoral (wasn't when it was created, now it is).

As for trolls, while you may bring an argument or two to the table, the people you chose to defend demonize and dehumanize themselves. They chose to come here, insult everyone indiscriminately, ignore any logic, and then leave without providing responses, logic, or evidence of their own. We don't do that to them, we just follow the path they laid out for themselves.

Then, an anonymous commenter took second place with a reply to Chrono, expanding on his point to note that the deeper moral right is on the side of the public:

Personally, I would take this a step further back and point out that copyright is a suspension of everyone else's right to do as they please with elements of culture, that there is no inherent exclusive natural right to exclude others from copying your book or song or whatever. It is, instead, an artificial marketplace convenience founded on suspending everyone else's natural rights.

If you want to get moral about it, copyright is a slight immorality that we all tolerate so long as copyright results in a net benefit to society.

For Editor's Choice on the insightful side, first up we've got dennis deems on our post about Disney's misrepresentation of the secret of its success. Dennis laid out some specifics about how Disney's current copyright philosophy clashes with the original roots of its creativity:

The seventh edition of Grimms' fairy tales, source of Snow White, was published in 1857. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865. Collodi's Pinocchio was published in 1883. Kipling's The Jungle Book was published in 1894. If these works had been subject to Disney's hypocritical 100 year copyright prison, Disney would have had to pay for the privilege of making its feature films based on them, to say nothing of the corresponding merchandising. One wonders whether Snow White or Pinocchio would have been made at all. These are the works on which Disney built its empire, and it was able to use them because they were not subject to preposterous copyright claims. Under the terms that were in effect when Disney's version of Snow White was made, the film, its score, and all the characters and visuals associated with it, ought to have entered public domain DECADES ago. This is the point. Disney drinks deep from the well of public domain but contrives to prevent that well ever from being replenished.

Up next we've got an anonymous comment (which also holds a close third place in the voting) that puts HBO's refusal to go direct in some comparative context:

Blockbuster didn't want to cannibalize their video sales with streaming options

Kodak didn't want to cannibalize their film products with digital

HBO didn't want to cannibalize their cable products with standalone internet offerings

On the Funny side, the winner is MrWilson on our post about EU Commission VP Neelie Kroes explaining how copyright was built for a world of gatekeepers. MrWilson parodied the fundamental argument of many copyright maximalists:

In my day, young people respected gates. They knew who kept the gates and they knew that they had to pay the toll if they wanted in. They didn't just jump over the gates like kids these days. They didn't have the technology to get over the gates. They had to go through them! They never questioned why we put the gates up either. I tell you, we need to do away with this new technology that allows gate-jumping or else things won't remain exactly the same as when I was making all that money off of charging a toll for use of the gate. I even put up a gate around my yard, but the kids just jump that gate too. Now I have to go outside and yell at them, "hey kids, stay off my lawn!" No respect, I tell you.

/dinosaur rant

I am inadvertently and indirectly responsible for the second-place comment, by way of something I mentioned (about carrots not actually being good for your eyesight) in the Insider Chat, which made its way into our post about first-person shooters actually being good for your eyesight, which in turn inspired Beech to parody the typical troll response:

Leave it to Mike "pants on fire" masnick to once again post his opinions as irrefutable fact! I happen to know, for a fact, from first hand experience, that carrots are yucky! I think it is time for both Mike and my mommy to come out and admit that they're in the pockets of Big Vegetable.

For the first Editor's Choice, we've got an anonymous comment on our post about the MPAA's propagan-tastic facts for politicians. This AC noted that they may be selling themselves short:

$42.1 billion in wages from direct industry jobs and distributing $37.4 billion in payments to nearly 278,000 businesses around the country in 2010.

These numbers are most likely low. They don't even mention how much they spend buying politicians.

Finally, because it's a pet peeve of all the editors, we've got a response to a commenter (who obviously hasn't spent much time here) complaining that the subject of dead authors' estates does not belong on a blog called Techdirt. An anonymous commenter wholeheartedly agreed:

Yeah, precisely. What does this have to do with Dirt?

Indeed. That's all for this week—join us tomorrow when we get back to our roots with an exposé on keyboard gunk and a feature about VCR head-cleaning tapes, the Boston Strangler's washcloth of the film industry.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/16/2012 3:00:00 AM

Reading through the menagerie of Techdirt posts this week led me to develop a better understanding of how some of these media companies work as well as to increase my disdain for Hollywood and their view of the consumer.

First up, we have the article regarding HBO's lack of foresight:

It's awesome to run a business; I don't attempt to run a business because pop music already gives me high blood pressure. I do understand certain fundamentals though, like planning for the long-term. HBO apparently doesn't understand this, and as bob so brilliantly brought out (Black Swan wins again!), the industry has set itself up into a position where it has to maintain revenues at a specific level or it will collapse. Because of this, the consumer suffers because HBO expects us to adapt to their needs.

Second, we have the article about Disney's presentation on copyright and creativity:

The pattern of shortsightedness continues, though here we have a company that built itself on two things: copyright and public domain, but seems to be very focused on the copyright aspect. I haven't seen the presentation, but if I were the gambling type, I'd place my bets on the fact that it will be geared towards stronger copyright law and it's relation to creativity. If this proves true, then it just adds insult to injury with Disney's already stellar record of denying the public domain, and by extension creators everywhere, the content it needs.

My third favorite was Zach Knight's (vampire detective?) article on focusing on why people don't buy:

To me, this article focuses on two things: foresight and analysis. These two aspects are key to marketing effectively, but yet Hollywood is focused on preventing stage six, which basically means their time and effort is spent trying to prevent people from taking things for free instead of nipping the process in the bud by seeing what they can change earlier on to make people want to buy. Frankly, the latter seems like it has a more sustainable, long-term effect while the former just sustains the current model. This is, once again, an example of why Steve Jobs was an awesome businessman, and Hollywood is a terrible child.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/15/2012 11:23:44 AM
Earlier this week, we wrote about how the White House was working on an executive order to act as a "stand in" for cybersecurity legislation that has so far failed to pass Congress (CISPA passed in the House, but a different effort, the Cybersecurity Act, failed in the Senate, and it would have been difficult to get the two houses aligned anyway). Last weekend Jason Miller from Federal News Radio wrote about a draft he saw... but failed to share the actual draft. We got our hands on a draft (and confirmed what it was with multiple sources) and wanted to share it, as these kinds of things deserve public scrutiny and discussion. It's embedded below. As expected, it does have elements of the Lieberman/Collins bill (to the extent that the White House actually can do things without legislation). It's also incredibly vague. The specific requirements for government agencies are left wide open to interpretation. For example, the State Dept. should engage other governments about protecting infrastructure. Well, duh. As expected, most stuff focuses on Homeland Security and its responsibilities to investigate a variety of different cybersecurity issues -- but, again, it's left pretty vague.

There is, as expected, plans concerning information sharing -- but again, they're left pretty empty on specifics. It talks about an "information exchange framework." Unfortunately, it does not appear to highlight privacy or civil liberties concerns in discussing the information sharing stuff. That seems like a pretty big problem. Homeland Security is tasked with coming up with a way to share information, pulling on some existing efforts, but nowhere do they call out how to make sure these information exchange programs don't lead to massive privacy violations, despite the President's earlier promises that any cybersecurity efforts would take into account privacy and civil liberties.

Separately, it lists out 16 critical infrastructure "sectors," but those can be interpreted really broadly, which is dangerous. We all understand how things like the electric grid, nuclear power plants, water facilities and such can be seen as critical infrastructure. But does "communications" include things like social networking? It's important that any plan be very, very specific about what sorts of things are critical infrastructure, so as to avoid sweeping up all sorts of things like internet services and opening them up to information "sharing" abuse efforts by the government. We all know there's plenty of evidence that when the government is given a loophole to spy on private communications, it figures out ways to drive fleets of trucks through that hole. Unfortunately, there's little indication that any of that has really been taken into consideration.

All that said, it is important to recognize that this is a draft, and it is not only subject to change, but there are indications that it is likely to change. But, seeing as this could have significant impact, it should be something that the public has a chance to weigh in on.

Honestly, looking this over, you get the sense that it's really designed to do one thing: scare those who fought against the various bills back to the table to compromise and get a bill out. It's no secret that the administration's overall preference is to get a law in place, rather than this executive order. That's been a failed effort so far, but you have to wonder if this is a ploy to scare those who opposed the Cybersecurity Act into thinking that if they don't approve some legislation, the exec order might be a bigger problem. There are way too many things left open ended in this draft, and while the administration can't go as far as Congress on many things, the open-ended nature of this order could certainly lead to problems for the industries who opposed previous efforts.

Either way, we'll have some more on this next week, but since we just got this and want to get it out there for comment, hopefully folks can spend some time this weekend discussing the (yes, once again, vague) particulars...

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/15/2012 10:39:00 AM
There are many who argue, despite historical and ongoing evidence to the contrary, that creativity will die out if creators cannot be guaranteed some sort of livable wage. It's almost as if any creator who creates as a hobby or potential second job either a) is being shortchanged by disruption, piracy, etc., or b) shouldn't be taken seriously because they haven't abandoned their day job.

It's an odd assertion. Most groundbreaking creative efforts were conceived and carried out while the creators worked in a variety of other non-creative jobs. It was only after these breakthroughs that these artists went on to live solely on the earnings of their creative works. Somehow, we're now expected to believe that without piracy and other disruptions, creators would be making better, livable wages, possibly right out of the gate.

That whole thought process ignores the reality. Not having a paycheck tied to your creative endeavors means being able to fail more often and experiment more freely, without having to worry about hurting your current source of income. Case in point: three developers who solved a problem most companies didn't know they had, all without having to "give up the day job."
For the past two years, Brandon Medenwald, Justin Kalvoda, and Bill Burgess have held down full-time jobs while also launching their company, Simply Made Apps.

Their only product is an app called Simple In/Out, which solves a problem that drove Brandon crazy. He explains, “In my fulltime job as a web programmer, we had an old magnetic in/out board like they use in sales offices to keep track of who is in the office and who isn’t. Five or six years ago, they transitioned to a Web-based version.

“I was constantly frustrated with it, because some of the roughly 40 people in our firm wouldn’t use it. The board became extremely out of date. For years, I was joking that I could write a better piece of software in a weekend, but then over beers in a bar with two friends, it dawned on me we could solve this problem by using the GPS chips in cell phones.”
On it's face, it seems terribly simple: build something better. And yet, no one had really tackled it before. So they took a weekend off to knock out the framework early last year and since then have been refining it based on customer feedback.
For the first four months, the app was free. Last September, they introduced pricing that was based on the number of people being tracked on the company’s board. Prices start at $5 per month for 4 to 10 users, and gradually step up to $160 a month for 250 to 1,000 users.

Although the trio are far better programmers than they are marketers, today they have over 1,600 registered companies. More importantly, they have something they love so much that they occasionally use their vacations to devote extra time to their “nights and weekends” startup.

None of them hate their real jobs. None are eager to quit. They come across as smart, patient people who want to solve interesting problems that other companies aren’t solving.
Creativity very often springs from those tied to day jobs. These three don't sound even remotely "tied." It's not about sustaining yourself from a nights-and-weekend project. It's about being passionate about what you do with your nights and weekends. These days, anyone with a spark of creativity has hundreds of free-to-cheap tools at their disposal. The barriers to entry have been demolished, whether it's music, movies or software. It's not money that drives these creators: it's passion. And if you ignore that fact, and cling to past business models, you're going to find yourself trailing the pack very quickly.
“In a big corporation,” says Brandon, “I’d be fearful of the little people out there doing something that they are passionate about, because, passion trumps money.” He and his partners love what they do, and feel fortunate to be able to solve interesting problems.

Even though the company is turning a modest profit, he says, “Because we love what we do, we don’t have to be concerned about turning a profit, which means we are extremely dangerous people when it comes to our dedication to improving services
The three were able to get this off the ground using spare time and around $100 each, which covered "licenses, a Web domain, a 'doing business as' name, etc." From $300 and a few nights and weekends to 1,600 paid users, all without having to "quit the day job."

Those arguing that creativity is tied to a steady paycheck are relics looking back fondly at the days of gatekeeping, when competition was low because the barriers were too high. It has nothing to do with wanting future artists to be properly "protected" against disruption and everything to do with keeping more people out. That sounds more than a little like fear.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/15/2012 9:32:00 AM
Many times, when a company has an early release of their work leaked in the wild, it responds in much the same way that Fox responded when an unfinished version of the movie Wolverine was leaked. It complained about the leak. It got the FBI involved. It fired one of its own reporters who reviewed the leaked copy. Eventually all this lead to the arrest and sentencing of the man who leaked the film. Throughout the whole ordeal, we tried to explain how Fox could have turned this leak to its advantage by using the leak as a promotional opportunity.

When you compare that string of events to this latest report of an early release of Double Fine's newest mobile game, Middle Manager of Justice, you can see that Double Fine has a better grasp of reality than Fox and many other companies.
"So I was on the train heading to work this week, and I get a call from our tech director saying, 'Hey, um, so it looks the game is live in every territory.' And I just went, 'What!?'" Looking back on it, Chi laughs, but for a time he was worried about how this early launch could affect his game's reputation. 

"It wasn't what I wanted the world to see quite yet," he said. "At Double Fine, we pride ourselves on putting a solid product out there, so having something out there that was buggy and not quite ready yet was really frustrating."
At this point, Chi had a number of options. He could have followed Fox's example and complained about the early release and told all those people who downloaded the game to stop playing it because it was unfinished. He could have threatened those players if they released any video or screen shots of the game. Or he could have done what we tried to tell Fox it could do, use it as a promotional opportunity. And that is exactly what Chi did.
"I guess it kind of just turned into a beta test," Chi said. "I mean, if people find bugs that we haven't found internally, I'd love to know about them so I can fix them," Chi said.

Even just a few days later, Chi says he's received a ton of valuable feedback that's helped Double Fine eliminate bugs, and make the game's free-to-play elements less restrictive for non-paying players.

"If anything, I welcome these suggestions from people, because we're still learning and we plan to work on this well after it goes live to make the game deeper, and luckily this means we'll get an early start on that process," he said.
While the game was not meant to be in the hands of players, Chi did what he did as a way to preserve the integrity of the company as well as strengthen its relationship with its fans. He used the early release as a way to help fans become more invested in the company by becoming early testers. He didn't have to do this. He could have had Apple remove the game from those players' accounts. Yet, he didn't because having a healthy relationship with consumers is more important than a mix up in the release schedule. Hopefully, more companies will take notice of how Double Fine handled this affair and will respond in kind.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/15/2012 8:32:00 AM
Earlier this week, we talked about a ridiculous situation in NY, where Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. put Twitter in a nearly impossible position if it wanted to keep fighting for the rights of its users to keep private info private. As you may recall, the government used a non-warrant process to seek private info from Occupy Wall Street protestor Malcolm Harris' Twitter account. Earlier decisions had more or less said that Harris had no standing to block the transfer of info, and that Twitter had to hand it over. Twitter sought to appeal the ruling, but the judge announced that if Twitter didn't just hand over the info, he would charge them with contempt. Even worse, he told Twitter to disclose its earning statements from the past two quarters (which is otherwise private info) so he could figure out how much to fine them for contempt. As the EFF notes, by ordering Twitter to hand over the info, it would almost certainly kill off the appeal, since the DA would immediately argue that the appeal was moot since it already had the info.

Put in such a tough position, Twitter did what it had to do and handed over the info the government is seeking on Harris. The only concession the judge gave is that the information is filed under seal for one more week. Hopefully, Twitter can convince another court to stop this in this one short week and to allow a full appeal to be heard.

The EFF has a really good explanation for why both the DA's and the judge's actions in this case are potentially so dangerous:
If Judge Sciarrino is worried that Twitter is making a mountain out of a molehill by continuing to press its challenge to the subpoena, the same has to be asked of the prosecutors who are using a misdemeanor disorderly conduct arrest that occurred more than a year ago as a pretense to obtain a wealth of information. The attempt to obtain this information from Twitter is to prove a point not even really contested: whether Harris was on the bridge during the protest.

This case was shaping up to be a constitutional showdown on a contested and unclear area of the law. Judges much higher up the judicial chain have been wrestling with the complicated issues brought about by the explosion of information turned over to third parties. In her concurring opinion in United States v. Jones, Justice Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote that she "would not assume that all information voluntarily disclosed to some member of the public for a limited purpose is, for that reason alone, disentitled to Fourth Amendment protection." If a Supreme Court justice is thinking about the issues here, why would a state trial court force Twitter into a position where it has to abandon its court case seeking clarity or risk a massive fine in deciding to pursue its appeal? Some have already questioned whether Judge Sciarrino is the right judge to pass on this landmark case.
There are a lot of important issues brought up by everything that's led up to this situation, and it's unfortunate that the judge seems to have decided to toss all of those concerns overboard with his contempt claims against Twitter. Hopefully a higher court puts a stop to this in the next week.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

9/15/2012 8:00:00 AM
Ketchup actually started out as a fish sauce and somehow evolved into the much more widely-consumed condiment we know today. Early recipes of ketchup contained sodium benzoate -- which was banned in the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. That ban led to other formulations which contained vinegar as a preservative and used ripe tomatoes. Here are just a few more fascinating factoids about this tangy, thixotropic, tomato-based foodstuff. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.

Permalink | Comments | Email This Story


9/18/2012 6:33:11 AM

Engineers have created a prototype of a device that brings back the idea of a dedicated music-playing gadget. Of course, the twist is that it’s designed for the 21st century and online content. Instead of a boombox that plays a static list of songs, the Skube is a portable device with a built-in speaker that [...]

9/18/2012 5:45:46 AM

Portal 2 is, quite possibly, one of the most well written video games ever created. If you wanted proof of that, look no further. Tumblr user Not-quite-normal, also known as Chelsea, is an animator who’s, well, animated one of the scenes from Portal 2. It’s the iconic scene where Chell, accompanied by Wheatley, meets the [...]

9/18/2012 5:00:29 AM

Google’s been fighting an uphill battle with their social network, Google+. Despite having a captive audience, many feel like the service isn’t as functional as Facebook or Twitter. Google+ is the new kid in town, and lacks the audience that the other networks built up over time. In order to keep people using the service, [...]

9/18/2012 4:32:47 AM

Not all too long ago, when we heard of a laptop that was under $500 the first impression was usually not a good one. It usually meant a stripped down processor, minimal RAM, and probably a de-featured design. These days, under $500 (even if it’s $499.99) buys you a lot of machine. The last generation [...]

9/18/2012 4:01:03 AM

We don’t get up to change the channel on our TVs, we use remotes, so why do we still get up to switch the lights on and off? Phil Bosua makes a very good point and it seems that thousands of people agree with his Kickstarter to create smart light bulbs that you can control [...]

9/18/2012 3:28:28 AM

If you had to pick the two top tech industry whipping boys right now, there’s a decent chance you’d choose RIM and Yahoo!. Neither company has been in the headlines for something really positive in recent memory. But even the oft-maligned Yahoo! is now trying to distance itself from the Canadian smartphone maker. Yahoo! CEO [...]

9/18/2012 3:00:45 AM

Netflix has grown rapidly in the past few years, and its subscription service has become one of the biggest chunks of the consumer bandwidth pie chart. For Netflix, growth and profit are inextricably intertwined with bandwidth — and that means with the ISPs and their pricing policies. The company has been vocal in the past [...]

9/18/2012 2:26:00 AM

There’s been a number of accusations in regard to how Google has managed to get so many people on to Google+. Every time the company posts numbers regarding a total number of active users, we are reminded that Google+ is secretly embedded into nearly every Google product. The +You button sits at the top of [...]

9/18/2012 1:58:18 AM

Qualcomm has done well for itself in the mobile sector of late, and especially when it comes to uptake of its Snapdragon family of system on chips. Now it is giving something back to the development community creating software to run on its hardware in the form of two contests and $370,000 in cash and [...]

9/18/2012 1:27:13 AM

After helping to fund independent projects like the unique e-paper Pebble watch and the Android-based Ouya video game console, Kickstarter is being used to fund another desirable project called the iControlPad2. Don’t be misled by its name, though — this is a universal remote control designed to work on everything from iPads to Windows computers. [...]

9/18/2012 12:30:47 AM

There are exactly two kinds of people when it comes to mechanical keyboards, those who own them and those who have to choose whether or not to tolerate the people who own them. The fact is, some people don’t feel at home on a computer unless the keyboard keys push back against them when they [...]

9/17/2012 11:31:47 PM

The news that Google had pressured Acer into pulling the plug on its Aliyun OS phone launch in China seemed a bit odd. Google’s mantra, after all, is don’t be evil…and it didn’t seem like the friendliest move that could’ve been made. However, Android boss Andy Rubin has now taken to the web to explain [...]

9/17/2012 10:59:20 PM

Many gamers may remain skeptical about the gaming experience Nintendo is set to offer with the launch of the Wii U. However, that doesn’t seem to have stopped people pre-ordering the new console en masse and to the point where they are now sold out at certain key locations. One example of this is GameStop, [...]

9/17/2012 10:33:17 PM

True to form iFixit has spared no time dismantling Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD as soon as it was in their possession. And unlike Apple branded tablets, they were happy to find Amazon has manufactured a tablet that for the most part is easy to repair, just like they did with the Nexus 7 . [...]

9/17/2012 9:30:39 PM

Nintendo is no stranger to shaking up the way we interact with games. I’ve seen the exact same quizzical response to Nintendo’s N64 controller, the original Wii controller, and now with the Wii U GamePad. In a world where controllers have been getting smaller and lighter, the 1.1lb GamePad with a 6.2″ screen in the [...]

9/17/2012 9:03:07 PM

On a global scale the two biggest smartphone competitors right now are, without a doubt, Samsung and Apple. As we move in to the holiday season, most of the major mobile networks will be carrying both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5. When it comes to choosing which phone is better, it will [...]

9/17/2012 8:31:13 PM

When murmurs of a $199 Surface RT tablet hit the web recently, many couldn’t believe that Microsoft would go that low. Just as many felt the tablet would sell like gangbusters even for $100 more — and it now looks like that might be where the entry-level model will sit when it arrives next month. [...]

9/17/2012 7:32:14 PM

If Nintendo needs a new idea as to how to make even more money from sales of Pokemon, they should look no further than Reddit and Redditor Ninjazzy. Ninjazzy spent his/her summer modeling Pokemon out of Sculpey clay. Managing to make one such Pokemon would be satisfying for most of us, but Ninjazzy managed to [...]

9/17/2012 12:04:41 AM

In an example of how far ahead some countries are with utilizing NFC technology, a major grocery store chain in France is set to launch what is being called the world’s first fully NFC-compatible supermarket. Customers will tap their phones next to each product they pick up, and then tap their phone at the register [...]

9/16/2012 11:02:45 PM

There probably aren’t many people who think of 3D printing as tech of the future anymore. The technology is being used for medical research, as part of a project to build scalable houses in poverty-riddled regions of the world, and to create sustainable manufacturing of basic goods. Nevertheless, it’s always cool to see it being used [...]


NewsFactor Network

9/18/2012 5:19:27 AM
Security researchers often play the role of Sherlock, but they don't always have such telling clues to sleuth. The hackers behind the Flame malware, which has been used in nation-state espionage attacks, have left a trail of hints that may help authorities tag the culprits.

The clues also point to evidence that the attack was under way and much broader than once thought.

Let's back up a minute. Known as W32.Flamer, Symantec describes this malware as a sophisticated cyber espionage tool. Flamer made headlines after cyber attacks on Middle Eastern countries earlier in 2012. Both Symantec and Kaspersky are now releasing new analyses of the command-and-control (C&C) servers used in those attacks.

"The servers were set up on March 25, 2012, and May 18, 2012, respectively. On both occasions, within only a few hours of the server being setup, the first interaction with a computer compromised with Flamer was recorded," Symantec wrote in its blog. "The servers would go on to control at least a few hundred compromised computers over the next few weeks of their existence."

No Exclusivity

Symantec goes on to reveal that the servers contained the same control framework, but were used for distinct purposes. Symantec estimates the server that was set up in March, for example, collected almost 6 GB of data from compromised computers in just over a week. By contrast, the security firm reports, the server that was set up in May 2012 received just 75 MB of data and was used solely to distribute one command module to the compromised computers.

"Command-and-control happens through a Web application called Newsforyou. The application processes the W32.Flamer client interactions and provides a simple control panel. The control panel allows the attackers to upload packages of code to deliver to compromised computers, and to download packages containing stolen client data," Symantec said....

9/18/2012 3:17:44 AM
Google is following through on its "Do Not Track," or DNT, promises for the Chrome browser. Google plans to start adding built-in DNT capabilities to the latest developer's build.

As its name suggests, Do Not Track capabilities mean Web browser users can decide whether or not they want to allow Web sites to track personal information it blocks advertisers and Web sites from collecting personal information that is typically used to target ads or otherwise learn more about their surfing habits. At least in theory. But will DNT really keep consumer Web searches private?

"We undertook to honor an agreement on DNT that the industry reached with the White House early this year," Google spokesman Rob Shiklin wrote in an e-mail to the All Things D blog. "To that end we're making this setting visible in our Chromium developer channel, so that it will be available in upcoming versions of Chrome by year's end."

Harming Anonymity?

Google is a bit behind the curve. Microsoft announced it would implement DNT in Internet Explorer 10. IE 9 already has DNT preferences, as does Firefox 4 and Safari 5.1. A developer posting in the Chrome forum says, "Chromium should be brought to feature parity with its peers."

But another commenter in the forum disagreed, arguing that Chrome should not follow its peers into DNT parity. The commenter, who goes by the handle Jochen, said Chrome's peers, i.e. Firefox, Safari and IE, are taking the wrong path.

"I don't want the Web's social norm to be somehow construed as consenting to tracking by default unless I send a special privacy requesting header. Companies will analyze the data that they receive and DNT is another bit of data that chips away at what little anonymity we have left," Jcohen said.

"It does this by both supposedly changing social expectations and actually...

9/18/2012 12:58:35 AM
Cloud storage provider Box has rolled out home-grown acceleration technology for boosting data uploads. Called Box Accelerator, the new service currently supports file uploads to the Box Web application and will extend to other Box cloud storage features in the weeks ahead.

The company's new enterprise-class global data transfer network has been designed to increase upload speeds by two to 10 times while maintaining security. The new service is available at no cost for Box's business and enterprise customers.

"A combination of new infrastructure in nine locations throughout the world and innovative network intelligence software, Box Accelerator delivers performance enhancements and a better user experience," said Box Senior Enterprise Product Marketing Manager Grant Shirk.

The company's patent-pending software monitors the speed and adapts the path of every upload that a user sends so that the fastest route is taken. What's more, the company's intelligent routing technology analyzes user traffic based on external factors that may affect transfer speeds -- including location, operating system and browser preferences -- to consistently deliver optimal transfer speeds.

"A big part of this is making sure every experience is clean, simple and fast for our users around the world," Shirk wrote in a blog post Monday. "Instead of waiting one hour for a several-hundred MB file to post, ten times faster means you get it done in under 6 minutes."

Speed Boost Depends on Location

More than 125,000 businesses and individuals at 92 percent of the Fortune 500 currently subscribe to Box. Nearly 40 percent of Box's users are based outside of the United States.

"In the last year, we've doubled our customer base in Europe as businesses of all sizes move towards cloud technologies to better manage information and improve productivity," said Box Chief Operating Officer Dan Levin.

The company looks for Box Accelerator to give it a competitive...

9/17/2012 11:50:44 PM
Much like past iPhone launches, Apple is reporting a sales record with its iPhone 5. Apple on Monday announced pre-orders of its iPhone 5 topped 2 million in just 24 hours. That pace more than doubles Apple's old record of 1 million pre-orders in 24 hours. The iPhone 4S held that honor.

AT&T is also reporting sales records with the iPhone 5 over the weekend, making it the fastest-selling iPhone the company has ever offered. Although AT&T didn't offer specific numbers, it said customers ordered more iPhones from AT&T than any previous model both on its first day of pre-orders and over the weekend.

Of course, with high demand comes constrained supply. Also much like past iPhone launches, Apple is reporting that demand for the iPhone 5 is exceeding its initial supply. Practically speaking that means that although most of the pre-orders will arrive in consumers' hands on the official Sept. 21 launch date, many won't arrive until October.

"iPhone 5 pre-orders have shattered the previous record held by iPhone 4S and the customer response to iPhone 5 has been phenomenal," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. Schiller is not surprised. He said the iPhone 5 is the best iPhone yet. He called it the "most beautiful product we've ever made."

Revolutionary or Evolutionary?

Schiller's comments are subjective, but what is certain is that the iPhone 5 is a major upgrade from previous versions. First, it's the thinnest and lightest iPhone ever and it's been completely redesigned to feature a 4-inch Retina display, an Apple-designed A6 chip for fast performance, 4G LTE wireless technology, and better battery life than its predecessors.

Specs-wise, the iPhone 5 comes with iOS 6, which itself features more than 200 new user features. Those features include an all new Maps app with Apple-designed cartography, turn-by-turn...

9/17/2012 10:31:10 PM
A new customer relationship management mobile platform designed specifically for media ad sales professionals has been released. The service, called SalesTouch, was announced last week by Sales Development Services.

SalesTouch, which is designed for touchscreen devices in the field, analyzes advertiser spending history and revenue trends in order to provide specific engagement strategies that could be used to keep existing accounts, increase opportunities, or allow better use of account executives' time, the company said.

'Actually Helps You Sell'

President and CEO C. Lee Smith said in a statement that his company "didn't want to build another CRM that just counts what you sell." Instead, Smith said, the aim was to build one "that actually helps you sell," by basing the design on the premise that "the only thing more important than what you've done for an advertiser is what you do next."

In the platform, each advertiser's profile information includes a Momentum Dashboard, which contains proprietary algorithms that generate unique assessments, such as an alert about an account that might be in danger of shrinking or going away or, alternatively, about one that appears to be growing.

In its announcement, SDS noted that individual advertisers' revenue momentum is rapidly changing, and said that Momentum Dashboard provides a "distinct advantage" for sales professionals trying to figure out how to engage advertisers.

There's also a full integration with AdMall, SDS' sales intelligence database for local and digital advertising. Local ad sales opportunities are provided to SalesTouch users through AdMall, as well as local market background research for over 400 business types and an online version of AdMall's Diagnosis Call.

AdMall Pro, Conversation Starters

Diagnosis Call provides needs analysis, consumer spending at a ZIP Code level, and direct access to Facebook and Twitter to search the social networks of prospective advertisers.

The company said that AdMall is utilized by the sales staffs...

9/17/2012 9:03:24 PM
Despite all the hubbub around the iPhone 5, the buzz is still going strong around the Kindle Fire HD. And for good reason: One of the most advanced 7-inch tablets on the market is only $199.

Just to review, $199 gets you a 7-inch tablet with an HD display, Wi-Fi, Dolby audio, a powerful processor and graphics engine, and 16 GB of storage. Add $100 and you get all of that in an 8.9-inch form factor. And $499 gets you the same large-screen HD tablet with 32 GB of storage, plus 4G LTE wireless.

"For a lot of people who are cash-constrained, the Kindle Fire HD is going to seem like a compelling offering," Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis, told us.

"If you have $500 in your pocket and you are looking for a tablet, Apple's ecosystem and user interface and the sheer versatility of the things you can do with an iPad easily justify spending more. But if you are on a budget or already have a tablet and are looking for another one for media consumption, Amazon has a lot of content and is selling the hardware for pretty much at or below cost."

The Value Proposition

Despite the comparison to Apple, Greengart said the Kindle Fire HD family is less of a competitive challenge to Apple than it is to other tablet makers in the industry. He suggests focusing on two factors when choosing a tablet: price and content.

"At a $200 price point or even the $300 price point, it's really tough to compete with a hardware-maker who is not trying to make money. If you are selling Android tablets or Microsoft Windows RT tablets, you have to offer a value proposition so consumers are willing to pay more for it," Greengart said. "Apple has accomplished that feat...

9/15/2012 3:03:31 AM
An alleged spokesman for the "hacktivist" group Anonymous is in FBI custody. On Wednesday night during an online video chat, Barrett Brown was taken into custody about 11 p.m. Central Time by the Dallas County Sheriff's Department, and was reported to be under arrest by the FBI as of Thursday.

The arrest was reported by the Sheriff's Department, but there was no information by either that office or the FBI as to the charge.

'Get Your Hands Down'

A lawyer for Brown, Jay Leiderman, said Brown was being charged with threatening an FBI agent. He is reportedly being held without bail in a federal detention center near Dallas.

The recorded video chat on TinyChat, which has been posted online, shows Brown, 31, in a split-screen conversation with several others, one of whom wears the V-for-Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask that Anonymous members have adopted.

A woman, who some have identified as Brown's girlfriend, is shown on the screen from his location. At one point, she turns off the video but the audio continues with shouting and noise, and another voice says "get your hands down." The other chat participants exchange jokes about whether the noise from Brown's camera is actually an FBI raid.

Brown had appeared in a video published on Wednesday on YouTube, which was entitled "Why I'm Going to Destroy FBI Agent Robert Smith Part Three: Revenge of the Lithe." In a rambling rant, Brown said Smith was chosen because Brown's mother is being threatened with obstruction of justice for allegedly hiding his laptop.

Brown said he hid it himself, and that his mother is, in fact, "a rule follower," which is "what's absurd about this."

'I Am Going to Ruin His Life'

On the tape, Brown says, "Robert Smith's life is over." He added that, "When I say his life is over, I'm not saying...

9/16/2012 8:35:09 PM
The clock is ticking on Nintendo's U.S. Web site: 62 days (as of Sunday) until the launch of its next-generation gaming platform, the Wii U, with a large selection of new game titles to lure both serious and casual gamers.

The Japanese home entertainment giant promises that its new high-definition system will offer "entirely new ways for consumers to play games and enjoy their favorite programming" when it hits stores on Nov. 18, just in time for the holiday shopping season and beating top rivals Microsoft and Sony to the punch with a new console.

Basic and Deluxe Sets

The basic Wii U in the familiar white casing, one tablet-like GamePad controller and 8 gigabytes of storage will retail at $299.99, while the black Deluxe Set, with 32 GB and the new Nintendo Land title, goes for $349.99. The Deluxe set also includes a console stand, GamePad charging cradle and a stand for placing the GamePad vertically on a table. You'll also be enrolled in the Deluxe Digital Promotion, which grants points for each digital download redeemable for future content from the Nintendo eShop, through 2014.

Coming game titles include Nintendo's own New Super Mario Bros., Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Lego City: Undercover, Pikmin 3 and Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Skylanders Giants, and Transformers Prime, among many others.

"With the integrated second screen of the included GamePad and features that instantly enhance the way people play games, watch video and interact with each other, consumers will see how Wii U delivers a completely unique experience and a remarkable value right out of the box," said Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime in a statement.

"The new system also creates extraordinary new possibilities for game developers, bound only by the limits of their imaginations."

The Wii U accesses Nintendo's answer to Microsoft's...

9/15/2012 12:48:58 AM
Apple's newest iPhone is already flying through the sales channels through pre-orders. Just hours after the midnight (Pacific Time) Sept. 14 opening to the public, the tech giant pushed back delivery time on the iPhone 5 from one week to two.

There were reports that Apple had stopped taking pre-orders altogether, but as of Friday afternoon we were able to go through the process online without being told of any issues. A call to Apple's hotline, however, yielded only an apologetic message about high call volume.

The iPhone 5 is also available for pre-order from Best Buy, Walmart and other retailers, as well as from Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Nextel. Lines form at stores on Sept. 21. Analysts estimate that Apple can expect to sell 50 million iPhone 5s by the end of the quarter and year.

Son of a Glitch?

Given the history of iPhone glitches, such as the antenna issue that prevented Consumer Reports from recommending the iPhone 4, some consumers may choose to wait until the first 10 million or 20 million customers field-test the iPhone 5.

But wireless analyst Gerry Purdy of MobileTrax told us the high volume expected by Apple, plus the fact that it is not a major redesign of the product -- though it is thinner, lighter and taller -- suggests that glitches are unlikely.

"This is a refresh of the product, rather than a revolution or innovative product," Purdy said. "They wouldn't be into a run-rate of -- to be conservative -- 40 or 50 million units unless they felt it was pretty stable."

He added that concern about potential glitches or malfunctions has likely kept Apple making only incremental improvements in the device, including the increased screen size and a radio for long-term evolution high-speed data. Expectations for near-field communication for mobile payments, however, fell short.


9/15/2012 4:58:20 AM
If you're in the bathroom and a video call comes through on your smartphone, is that location off-limits? Not necessarily, say 13 percent of respondents in a new survey.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for Radvision, is an attempt to lay down some markers about exactly what are the boundaries of acceptable behavior in the long-envisioned but only recently implemented trend of video calling.

Of course, as one would expect, there's a big difference between acceptable etiquette for personal versus business video calls.

Demographic Factors

Not surprisingly, age plays a part in the evolving etiquette. The study found that those age 35 and older were more likely to feel that a bathroom is off-limits at any time, than were their younger counterparts.

But gender can also be a factor. Women are more likely than men to dress in business attire for work-related video calls. Single or never-married Americans are more likely to dress casually for a video call or conference than they would otherwise do for an in-person meeting.

The survey indicated that where you live in the U.S. can affect how likely you are to have employed video calling. For instance, those who live in the southern or western U.S. are more likely to have participated in video calls than those in other parts of the country. The study does not indicate why, although it could be related to a wider geographical spread between population centers in those regions and, therefore, a lesser propensity for local traveling.

Bob Romano, global vice president of marketing for Radvision, suggests that the growth of video calling is not surprising, since "many companies are looking for alternative cost-effective and efficient ways of doing business." The generational difference is yet another consequence of the "bring your own device" movement in which, Romano noted, "younger entrants into the workforce are...

9/15/2012 12:04:49 AM
There are plenty of security threats making headlines this week, from a new version of the Blackhole exploit kit being released to a Pinterest hack that feeds spam to Twitter and Facebook to rumors around Anonymous and beyond.

But with the launch of the Apple iPhone 5 making headlines, and the iTunes updates being announced right alongside it, security researchers stood at attention when Apple released a security update for iTunes 10.7 that fixes a jaw dropping 163 vulnerabilities. The issue affects Windows 7, Vista, XP SP 2 or later.

"Visiting a maliciously crafted Web site may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution," Apple said in its security bulletin. "Multiple memory corruption issues existed in WebKit. These issues are addressed through improved memory handling."

No Big Threat?

We caught up with Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, to get his take on the whopping number of vulnerabilities and what kind of target that puts on iTunes' users backs.

Kandek told us he doesn't think iTunes is very high on the priority list of the attackers -- and it is quite possible that none of the fixed vulnerabilities can actually be exploited through iTunes.

"We do not treat iTunes vulnerabilities different from other software packages," Kandek said. "Personally, I recommend customers to first address the most exploited attack vectors, such as outdated PDF readers, old Java installations, etc."

Beware Blackhole 2

The greater threat may be the new version of the Blackhole exploit kit Sophos is reporting. Sophos characterizes Blackhole as arguably the most successful exploit it has seen over the past couple of years.

According to Sophos, the new Blackhole exploit kit claims to: prevent direct download of executable payloads; only load exploit contents when the client is considered vulnerable; drop use of the PluginDetect library; remove some old exploits; and change from a predictable URL...

9/17/2012 8:55:50 PM
About a mile from the main quad at Stanford University, one of the nation's bastions of exclusive and expensive higher education, a street-level office building across the street from an Olive Garden houses the makings of an up-and-coming contender.

In this version of education, learning will be free and available to anyone who wants it while operating like a whimsical playground: No one is late for class, failure is not an option, and a lesson looks something like Angry Birds, the physics-based puzzle game that has been downloaded more than 1 billion times.

"You want learning to be as much fun as it is to play a video game," says Sebastian Thrun, a Google vice president and Stanford research professor best known for his role in building Google's driverless car.

Thrun, 45, is seated in a cramped, soundproof studio at Udacity, the education company he founded in January after teaching a free online artificial-intelligence course that drew more than 160,000 students. So profound was the experience that he announced he could no longer teach in a traditional Stanford classroom.

"I feel like there's a red pill and a blue pill," he famously told an audience in January at the Digital-Life-Design conference in Munich. "And you can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture your 20 students. But I've taken the red pill, and I've seen Wonderland."

Now, Udacity is one of a rush of online start-ups he oversees. The vision across these ventures: Develop a catalog of free online courses taught by star professors from around the world.

In this windowless room, producers create cool special effects, and video cameras capture tight shots of an instructor's hand as it writes diagrams and figures on a white board. In the next room, a dozen or so of Thrun's staff of twentysomethings are...

9/17/2012 8:59:49 PM
For nearly a decade, consumers have gotten used to the familiar white 30-pin connector cable from Apple. It did everything from charging up iPhones, iPads and iPods to connecting devices to a host of 150 million devices, such as home stereos, radios and car units.

Now, with the new iPhone 5, which you can preorder starting [Friday] and which ships Sept. 21, Apple is ditching the old cable for a new, thinner one, called Lightning. Consumers already are confused. And businesses are scrambling to adapt to the new cable.

Rachel Sederberg, a senior at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., calls the new cable a "pretty big nuisance. Now older products won't work together in that seamless way they used to."

Apple defends the new cable connector, saying it was needed to make the iPhone 5 thinner. "I think when everybody holds the product, they're going to say, 'Wow, this is absolutely the right thing to do,'" Apple CEO Tim Cook told USA TODAY this week.

Additionally, Apple hopes to ease the pain by selling a $29.99 adapter that will work with the new cable. "It would have been an issue had they not created an adapter," says Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies.

Manufacturers who make their living churning out iPhone accessories have their hands full. Blue Microphones, which makes a line of popular consumer microphones sold in the Apple retail stores, recently released the Mikey Digital microphone, which snaps directly into the iPhone via the 30-pin connector for improved sound.

Now the company has to go back to the drawing board.

"We're looking into how to adapt to the new connector," says Hillary Money, Blue Microphones' event manager. Belkin International, which makes a host of iPhone accessories -- cases, cables and chargers -- got busy figuring out its next move after the iPhone 5 announcement...

9/17/2012 8:28:23 PM
The new motto for high-tech thieves may well be, "Reach out and swindle someone."

Cellphones have made it easier to stay in touch, but they have also brought everyone closer to scam artists and tricksters, who are just a few numbers away from separating you from thousands of dollars

Anyone with a phone number is a target, and there is no shortage of flim-flam schemes. Here's a look at some scams happening now across the nation:

Jailhouse jingles: An inmate calls collect from jail and tricks you into dialing a number starting with *72. But *72 activates call forwarding, giving control of your phone to the inmate -- who then makes long-distance phone calls or racks up fees on 900 numbers on your bill.

Election scam: The phone scammer asks you to take a voter survey and says that at the end, you will get a free cruise. When you complete the bogus survey, the scammer asks for a debit or credit card number for port fees.

Utility scam: A man at the other end of the phone tells you that President Obama has approved special funding through the Federal Reserve Bank to help you pay your utility bills. The scammer asks for a Social Security number, then provides you with a fake bank routing number to pay your utility bill.

Granny scam; The scammer pretends to be a relative in urgent need due to an emergency. Seemingly panicked, they say they need funds right away and get you to wire money.

Text message identity rip-off: A scammer offers a free $1,000 Walmart gift card through a link in a text message. When you click it, a Web site comes up requesting personal information that can be used to steal your identity.

About 70% of spam text messages are financially motivated scams. In July, there were about 30...

9/17/2012 8:58:49 PM
In creating Twitter, Jack Dorsey changed the world of communication. In founding the company Square, he is redefining mobile payments. Yet one of Silicon Valley's brightest stars says he believes the future is all about the past.

"Consider history," Dorsey says in his soft-spoken, low-key manner. "Every technology was invented for one purpose: Enable humans to take actions faster."

Motioning toward a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge, and invoking the power of plumbing in the world-domination plans of the Roman Empire, the 35-year-old Dorsey says water-supply systems played a pivotal role in letting Julius Caesar and others expand their empire.

Prognosticating the future of technology is nearly impossible in five years, let alone 30, he says.

Just 30 years ago, the Internet, PCs and smartphones were mere glimmers in the eyes of scientists. Cable TV was in its infancy. Music and movies were on albums, cassettes and videotape. Few could foresee how comprehensively the Web, smartphones and tablets would change the world.

Looking forward, personal technology will infuse nearly every facet of American consumer life: retail, transportation, education -- you name it, Dorsey and others say. The impact will be so far and wide that it might be taken for granted as daily life.

The full force of tech will be all around us in the form of a growing cashless society, where most transactions are done with smartphones; same-day delivery of goods ordered online or at bricks-and-mortar retailers; the elimination of PCs in favor of smartphones and tablets; robots in all forms; the proliferation of data through cloud computing; and more. Change will be rapid and seamless.

Ubiquitous technology will continue to blend into the American consciousness, to the point where it will be rarely noticed -- unless it doesn't work. "I bet you only notice (an electrical outlet) when I point it out or...

GSMArena.com - Latest articles

9/18/2012 12:15:34 PM

LG just launched its monstrously-spec'd Optimus G in its homeland and set a new performance benchmark for smartphones. The Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset that powers the beast features four Krait cores, which are all but guaranteed to wipe the floor with existing CPUs...

9/18/2012 9:30:12 AM

At a special event in South Korea, LG officially launched the most powerful Android phone do date, the Optimus G. Built around a 4.7-inch True HD IPS Plus display with a resolution of 1280 x 768 (15:9 ratio), the Optimus G is powered by a Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, featuring a 1.5GHz quad-core Krait processor and the whopping 2GB of RAM. Naturally, this powerhouse boasts LTE connectivity...

9/18/2012 7:37:20 AM

With its likely unveiling less than 48 hours away, an alleged press shot of HTC's long rumored 5" smartphone has emerged. When official, the Taiwanese Android powerhouse will likely be called HTC One X 5. The rumored specs of the HTC One X 5 include a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset and a 1080p display. If this is the case, the handset will easily top the current crop of Android top...

9/18/2012 3:16:20 AM

Following the success of the original DROID RAZR and its 3300mAh battery equipped DROID RAZR MAXX version, Motorola decided to add three new models tp the RAZR family. Launched at a glitzy event, starring members of Google's top brass, alongside the DROID RAZR HD...

9/18/2012 12:02:29 AM

A couple of hours after AT&T announced that the iPhone 5 had broken the previous record for best-selling iPhone, Apple stepped up and gives us some exact numbers. In a Press Release the Cupertino-based company shares that the iPhone 5 has hit over 2 million pre-orders in the first 24 hours after it went available. In comparison the iPhone 4S got 1 million pre-orders last October in its...

9/17/2012 6:54:26 PM

AT&T issued a Press Release concerning the new iPhone 5's selling pace. The carrier declared the iPhone 5 the fastest selling iPhone on its network to date, but chose not to provide specific numbers. The early statement is very impressive and in tow with what analysts have projected so far. The Apple iPhone 5 is expected to sell 10 million units in September alone. And it should come as no...

9/17/2012 6:45:43 PM

The Samsung Galaxy Note II should be coming to all major US carriers - we saw photos of Verizon's version yesterday and today there is a ROM that confirms the existence of the Galaxy Note II for T-Mobile USA. SamMobile is reporting its sources have confirmed the existence of T-Mobile's Note II and they have a Jelly Bean ROM powering it, which was compiled quite recently - September 15. Samsung...

9/17/2012 6:25:30 PM

An image and some specs of the yet unannounced HTC phablet device have risen from the rumor pool. Currently the device is only known by its DIx codename, which when put together with the red stripe and naming history of HTC could coincide with Droid Incredible X. The DIx is said to feature a Qualcomm S4 Pro SoC with four Krait cores. There's 1.5 GB of RAM, 16 GB built-in storage and a 5"...

9/17/2012 5:40:56 PM

There was plenty of speculation what kind of CPU powered the new iPhone 5 and in the end it turned out to be a custom Apple design. So, how well did the Cupertino-based company did? According to an unverified Geekbench results, A6more than meets the 2x performance increase Apple promised. The results are nothing short of amazing - the Apple A6 chipset has two custom cores rated at 1GHz with...

9/17/2012 2:25:35 PM

When Apple announced the iPhone 5, the only details they revealed about the new processor was that it was called the A6 and that it was twice as fast as the older one in CPU as well as the GPU. Rumors started circulating shortly afterwards that Apple was seemingly using the brand new ARM Cortex A15 cores for the CPU, being the first in the industry to do so. Turns out, that's not the case...

9/17/2012 3:03:13 AM

The Galaxy Note II has long been rumored to be in the works Stateside for both AT&T and Verizon, and some images of what looks to be a Verizon version have popped up. The images look legitimate save for the Verizon logo on the home button, which looks a bit like overkill if they indeed turn out to be the real deal. The back sports a less pretentious "Verizon 4G LTE" logo, which, of...

9/16/2012 1:16:57 AM

It looks like the Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo Mobile has something amazing in the making. The company's CEO Chen Mingyong teased the Oppo Find 5 quad-core flagship with 1080p display, sporting the mind-blowing pixel density of 441ppi. Such pixel density puts the upcoming 5" device in an entirely different league from the current crop of top shelf smartphones. A 441ppi pixel...

9/15/2012 11:11:39 PM

It appears that HP might be looking for a way back into the smartphone game, people . Immediately after the computer giant's CEO Meg Whitman spoke about the company releasing a smartphone eventually, an HP branded, Android ICS booting handset, dubbed Bender has appeared in GLBenchmark test result database. The mysterious handset sports some seriously beefy specs, which include Qualcomm...

9/15/2012 8:44:53 AM

In a quiet fashion Motorola has released a developer edition of its latest and greatest DROID RAZR HD smartphone, sporting a bootloader which can be unlocked. The handset is destined for users with a knack for flashing custom ROMs, as well as those who don't like Verizon's take on Android. There is no release date set for the headset. A sign up page however is up and running for the...

9/15/2012 1:54:53 AM

Nokia is still picking up pace in the smartphone market, with the Microsoft-driven Lumias yet to make the impact the Finns have been hoping for since the strategy reset. In the meantime, the company has been enjoying a pretty easy run in the...

9/14/2012 11:50:49 PM

A twitter update from Rogers in Canada reveals that an ICS update is in the works for the Xperia ion. The update is scheduled to arrive next week, although the exact day is not specified. The Sony Xperia ion went international back in June, and is now available in most markets for around €490. It features a 12 MP camera capable of 1080p recording, 13.2 GB of internal memory, a 4.6" LED...

9/14/2012 11:12:53 PM

LG and Qualcomm sent invitations for a joint event that will be held in New York on September 19. The invitation clearly shows that it will be all about some new smartphone and it would be a real shocker if the device in question isn't the US version of the Optimus G. The event is called Live Without Boundaries, but that doesn't really give us much information about the nature of the...

9/14/2012 7:34:40 PM

The Motorola DROID RAZR M is the first of the new RAZR family to become available - you can get it right now online or from Verizon. The phone offers a 4.3" screen in a package about the same size as the new iPhone 5, a dual-core Krait processor at 1.5GHz, plus a battery that's "40% more powerful than the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S". And there's also LTE connectivity on Verizon's 4G network, of...

9/14/2012 5:30:44 PM

Just as promised at the iPhone 5 announcement event, Apple made the smartphone available for pre-order from its website today. If you live in the US, you'll also be able to book your Apple iPhone 5 directly from Verizon and AT&T. Initially, only users from US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, France, and Germany will be able to make a pre-order, with many more to follow...

9/14/2012 3:31:23 PM

It has been discovered that the iPhone 5 won't be able to do simultaneous voice and LTE data on CDMA networks. This has been independently confirmed by both Verizon as well as Sprint in the US. Now it's not that you cannot do voice and LTE data together on CDMA; there are phones out there that can do this. But if you remember, Apple chose to go with a single chip and singe radio for voice...


Powered by RSS Content Generator