September 13, 2005

Unfortunate Acronym? Or Implicit Technology? [1:28 pm]

Hybrid radios set for take-off

Radio listeners are soon to be offered a new type of radio which can play and record both digital and conventional radio.

The new generation of such radio sets was demonstrated in Amsterdam at the IBC, International Broadcasting Convention, by the Digital Radio Mondiale, (DRM), consortium.

[...] DRM is intended to replace long wave, medium wave and short wave broadcasts with a more reliable and higher-quality service for an audience which has largely moved to FM. AM is perceived as low quality because of interference and low fidelity.

The sample radio sets are the product of collaboration between the DRM consortium, Texas Instruments and RadioScape.

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A Testbed for Palladium-Style Tech? [1:26 pm]

Start with a proprietary architecture and see what you can do — a challenge to the hacker community, yes, but what will it mean for sales? Should be interesting to see if there’s a market for such a box: Microsoft aims for hack-proof 360

Shortly after the first Xbox came out, computer scientists, smart amateur engineers and others started taking it apart and creating modification chips and software for the machine to make it do things Microsoft never intended it to.

[...] With the 360, Microsoft is aiming to make it as hard as possible to hack.

“We’ve taken security to the hardware level and built it in from the ground up,” said Chris Satchell from the Xbox Advanced Technology Group.

“One of the reasons we went with custom hardware design for all our silicon is that it allows us to build security at the silicon level,” he told the BBC News website.

“There are going to be levels of security in this box that the hacker community has never seen before.”

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Upset With A Wireless Business Plan [1:21 pm]

While promoting his own, of course: Napster president slams ring-tone rip-offs

Napster President Brad Duea has criticized cellular operators that use the popularity of mobile music to exploit their customers.

Speaking at Mobile Content World, Duea said consumers should only be charged once for their music–for whatever hardware they transfer it to. “Some operators want to force consumers to buy all their content again,” he said. “That creates an island rather than an integrated experience.”

Duea also called for mobile-service operators to avoid charging their customers almost three times as much to download a song to a mobile phone as the same track costs to download to a PC. “We need to have a reasonable pricing model,” he said.

While it’s common for ring tone peddlers and mobile operators to charge $5.45 (2.99 pounds) for a 30-second snippet of music while the same song is available as a download for music players at $1.43, the ring tone market doesn’t appear to be suffering. It is, rather, predicted to be worth $4.9 billion this year.

Duea sung the praises of subscription music services, which can be bigger earners for music companies than the standard pay-per-track model.

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Patent Reform Moves [8:49 am]

Legislating creativity–feds plan patent reform

The legal standard that was applied awards patents to the person who invented a concept first, and it has long been a unique feature of the U.S. patent system. This year, however, Congress is about to consider a controversial proposal from Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, that would grant a patent to the first person to submit the paperwork–a standard that’s common outside the United States.

The legislation suddenly has become a flash point about everything that’s right with the U.S. patent system–and everything that’s wrong with it. Technology companies fighting expensive patent cases are hoping the bill will reduce litigation, while open-source advocates say it will do nothing to hinder the rising tide of software patents being issued. Many people feel that the measure will make only modest improvements, if any, to the quality of patents being awarded.

Smith’s bill, called the Patent Reform Act of 2005 [HR2795], also has drawn the ire of independent inventors, who have said it will unfairly hurt anyone without a battalion of patent lawyers who can race to the Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va.

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eBay & Skype: New Notions in Online Synergies [8:01 am]

EBay to Buy Skype, Internet Phone Service, for $2.6 Billion

Meg Whitman, chief executive of eBay, said the acquisition did not mean that eBay intended to become a Web portal like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, which deliver a range of services.

Instead, Skype’s voice communications technology will make online trading easier for eBay’s 157 million users, she said, particularly with transactions involving real estate, big-ticket purchases and services that require detailed conversations.

“I’m a big believer in focusing brands and businesses that are in very large markets,” Ms. Whitman said by phone from London. EBay is “absolutely not” interested in developing a portal, she said. “You can be sure we’re going to focus on e-commerce.”

Noting that eBay also owns PayPal, the online payment service, Ms. Whitman said “by combining the two leading e-commerce franchises, eBay and PayPal, with the leader in Internet voice communications, we will create an extraordinarily powerful environment for business on the net.”

See also Bloggers debate impact of Skype acquisition

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Research in the Internet Age [7:56 am]

Thinking a little more carefully about what one puts online; or chilling effects for open access? One Find, Two Astronomers: An Ethical Brawl

When a group of Spanish astronomers reported in July that they had discovered a spectacular addition to the solar system, a bright ball of ice almost as big as Pluto sailing the depths of space out beyond Neptune, Michael Brown of Caltech chalked it up to coincidence and bad luck. His own group had been tracking the object, now known as 2003 EL61, for months but had told no one.

He sent the leader of the group, Jose-Luis Ortiz, of the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia, in Granada, a congratulatory e-mail message.

Now Dr. Brown has asked for an investigation of Dr. Ortiz’s discovery, alleging a serious breach of scientific ethics. Archival records, he said, show that only a day before the discovery was reported, computers traced to Dr. Ortiz and his student Pablo Santos-Sanz visited a Web site containing data on where and when the Caltech group’s telescope was pointed.

The information in these observing logs could have been used to help find the object on the Spanish images, taken more than two years ago, or simply to confirm that both groups discovered the same object. Depending on what the Spanish astronomers did, their failure to mention the Caltech observations could be considered scientific dishonesty or even fraud, Dr. Brown suggests.

[...] The imbroglio illustrates the ethical dangers and pitfalls of doing science in the Internet age, where a little clicking can bring you a shocking amount of information about what your colleagues and rivals are up to.

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FCC Support for Baby Bells Consolidation? [7:05 am]

FCC presses on with phone mergers [pdf]

The head of the Federal Communications Commission has asked agency staff to draft orders approving two big phone company mergers — SBC Communications Inc. with AT&T, and Verizon Communications Inc. with MCI Inc.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin wants the commission to take a final vote on the deals next month, two people with firsthand knowledge of the issue said yesterday. They were authorized to speak about the drafts only on the condition of anonymity.

The sources would not say what conditions might be placed on the mergers to ensure competition is not compromised.

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Backchannel Communications [7:01 am]

Technology reshaping the meaning of “hearing,” “meeting,” “negotiation,” etc. (And, if you’re reading it in the newspaper, it means that there are already even more elaborate techniques being used): Questioning will trigger torrent of text messages [pdf]

Ensconced behind the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are three dozen staff aides and legal counsels, ready to do their bosses’ bidding. In the hands of many are BlackBerries, and at the other end of those e-mail retrieving devices are the front-line combatants of the first Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 11 years — interest groups of the left, interest groups of the right, congressional staff experts, political party strategists, press aides.

Assembled in rooms around the Capitol, they stand ready to shoot e-mail advice to senators, and political spin to reporters, at a moment’s notice. Once upon a time, these same players in the confirmation hearing dramas passed handwritten notes to senators and typed press releases for the media. Anita Hill’s written sexual harassment charges against Clarence Thomas in 1991 came via fax machine.

Now, Republican legal scholars say, they are primed to send e-mails to GOP staffers suggesting comeback questions if and when Judge John G. Roberts undergoes fierce questioning from tough Democrats such as senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles E. Schumer of New York.

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