September 27, 2005

Fallout from “Open Sourcing” the Weather [6:23 pm]

Slate’s Timothy Noah on AccuWeather’s efforts to reclaim the weather: Santorum’s Mighty Wind, Part 2 - If you can’t lick ‘em, spoof ‘em

When last we checked in on AccuWeather, it had persuaded Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who is ostensibly a proponent of the free market, to sponsor a bill that would give special protection to AccuWeather and a handful of other private weather services. The bill would achieve this by forcing the National Weather Service to withhold its forecasts from the general public. AccuWeather is located in Santorum’s home state [....]

Now AccuWeather has apparently decided that if you can’t lick ‘em, hijack their Web traffic. If you entered “nationalweatherservice.org” into your computer, you might reasonably assume you’d be taken to the NWS site. But you would be wrong. It will actually take you to AccuWeather. The NWS (whose real URL, incidentally, is www.nws.noaa.gov) has complained about this display of private-sector ingenuity in the past, and it’s even gotten AccuWeather to apologize and desist. Apparently, though, you can’t keep a good spoofer down.

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Ah, The Dismal Science and WiFi [4:43 pm]

The real problem will be when these games lead to claims that municipal broadband should not be funded by governments because of economic harm: If Parks Offer Free Internet, Why Can’t Costly Hotels?

Oddly enough, the pricier the hotel, the more likely you are to pay an extra fee to check your e-mail from your room, said Bjorn Hanson, the head of the hospitality and leisure division at PricewaterhouseCoopers. That is because three-star chains like Hilton’s Garden Inn, Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites and Marriott’s Courtyard, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn cater to price-conscious travelers, while the swankier names figure you won’t much care about the extra few bucks.

Corporate travel managers are now trying to negotiate with four-star and five-star hotel brands to include Internet access in the room charge in future contracts, Mr. Hanson said

If the hotels are smart, they will concede the point. While baby boomers still outnumber them, Generation Xers spend more per capita on business travel, and have little patience for either dial-up connections or the general idea of paying for high-speed Internet access, which they have been accustomed to having free since college.

[...] Like Mr. Campbell and most other business travelers, I regard reliability of the connection as more important than the $9.95 it might cost.

Even so, it galls me to have to pay it. [...]

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Microsoft and Intel to Back Toshiba’s NextGen DVD Format [4:39 pm]

After all, if one standard is good, then two standards must be better? (Of course, when there’s two, I guess neither is really a standard…) DVD Fight Intensifies: Microsoft and Intel to Back Toshiba Format

Today, the two companies will announce that they are backing the HD-DVD format developed by Toshiba over the Blu-ray standard championed by Sony, Matsushita Electric, Samsung and others. Microsoft announced in June that it would work with Toshiba to develop high-definition DVD players. Now, Microsoft and Intel say they will develop software and chips that will allow personal computers to play the next-generation DVD’s from Toshiba.

Slashdot: Microsoft, Intel back HD DVD over Blu-ray

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Working All The Angles on the Broadcast Flag [4:34 pm]

You Are the MPAA: A Broadcast Flag Update

One especially sneaky way to get an amendment passed is to smuggle it into a reconciliations bill. Reconciliation is the mirror image of appropriations. Appropriations is about taxes; reconciliation is all about making cuts. Because Congress dearly loves to appear thrifty, reconciliations has special fast-track status. It can’t be filibustered, it’s almost impossible to amend once agreed upon, and it only needs a plain majority to pass.

Of course, with such good intentions, it’s a perfect vehicle for piggybacking unpopular provisions. Except…there’s the Byrd rule. Under this point of order, any senator can get a reconciliation clause thrown out if it’s not really about government cuts.

This will be tricky, since the Broadcast Flag essentially demands government interference with every digital AV product on the market.

Ah, but how about — no, that’s far too sneaky. But…perhaps…

Listen. Suppose our sympatico politicos carve out a bunch of Digital TV provisions that, in fact, do have something to do with government finance? Suppose they stick those provisions in the Senate Commerce Committee’s reconciliations bill (due October 26th), where they’re practically untouchable?

More at Slashdot: Broadcast Flag Back in Congress

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