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August 8, 2006

Go Open Source? Or Just Get Better Legal Representation? [10:12 pm]

Reliance upon proprietary software and failure to think through the contract: Giant Robot Imprisons Parked Cars

In the course of a contract dispute, the city of Hoboken had police escort the Robotic employees from the premises just a few days before the contract between both parties was set to expire. What the city didn’t understand or perhaps concern itself with, is that they sent the company packing with its manuals and the intellectual property rights to the software that made the giant robotic parking structure work.

The Hoboken garage is one of a handful of fully automated parking structures that make more efficient use of space by eliminating ramps and driving lanes, lifting and sliding automobiles into slots and shuffling them as needed. If the robot shuts down, there is no practical way to manually remove parked vehicles.

In the days that followed, both sides dragged each other into court. Robotic accused Hoboken of violating its copyright. “This case is about them using software without a license,” said Dennis Clarke, chief operating officer of Robotic Parking, in a telephone interview last week.

At the same time, Hoboken accused Robotic of setting booby traps in the code, causing the garage to malfunction. Then Robotic accused Hoboken of endangering its business by allowing a competitor into the garage.

See also Hoboken, NJ vs. Giant Parking Robot

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UK Drinking the Surveillance Society Kool-Aid? [9:18 am]

From the work I’ve been doing lately, this is a potential nightmare scenario: Brown to let shops share ID card data [pdf]

Gordon Brown is planning a massive expansion of the ID cards project that would widen surveillance of everyday life by allowing high-street businesses to share confidential information with police databases.

Far from intending to dump ID cards once he is in Downing Street, Brown is quietly studying how biometric technology - identifying people by unique markers such as fingerprints and iris patterns - could be expanded over the next 20 years to fight crime.

The report ; an analysis from The Register; Slashdot’s story

Related: AOL’s disturbing glimpse into users’ lives

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Part II in the LATimes’ Series on Entertainment in the Digital Age [9:08 am]

How movies are watched, sold and experienced today: Far Removed From the Multiplex - pdf (see part I here)

As the head of MTV Films, [David] Gale was at the theater for a research screening of his “Jackass: Number Two,” a crude teen comedy coming out next month. The film had just started when a teenager seated next to Gale began pecking away on his BlackBerry.

“It was an amazing experience. My first instinct was to slap him,” Gale said. “But then I realized he was just enjoying the movie.”

In fact, the teenager was e-mailing a friend, recounting the movie’s best jokes.

“The kid was just doing what kids do,” Gale said. “This is how they watch movies. This is how they consume entertainment. And when they like something, they let people know.”

[...] With an array of devices competing to fill their leisure time, today’s teens and young adults show diminishing interest in adhering to Hollywood tradition. They’re willing to watch brand-new movies at home rather than in theaters, are starting to use their PCs as their entertainment gateway and are slowly turning to their iPods and cellphones for video programming.

They still crave to be entertained, but not necessarily inside a movie theater.

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Congressional Know-how Shortfalls in Telecomm [9:02 am]

Why Technology & Policy (and a host of other programs) exist: Weighing High-Tech Bills in Analog - pdf

Almost daily when Congress is in session, lawmakers are struggling to comprehend new technology and the government’s role in shaping its future. In the biggest spurt of legislative activity since the dot-com boom, advocacy groups and businesses are seeking new laws to shape the fast-evolving digital landscape. The effort will resume in September, when Congress returns from its summer recess.

[...] Lawmakers this year could decide whether millions of Americans get TV piped through their phone lines and high-speed Internet access extended to their neighborhoods, how long Internet service providers retain Web-surfing records and how easy it will be to record programs broadcast over high-definition TV.

The task is all the more difficult because few in Congress understand what those engineers in Silicon Valley actually do.

[...] Supporters have resorted to analogies — trucks on highways are a favorite — to simplify the movement of information online and the risks posed by creating Internet “toll lanes.” But sometimes those explanations have only caused more confusion.

“I’m tired of talking about 18-wheelers,” an exasperated Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) said at a House hearing this spring. “I’d like to know what we’re talking about here.”

Phone and cable companies, which oppose any new regulations governing whether they can charge for prioritizing content, have seized on that confusion. They’ve warned lawmakers not to act on a vaguely defined potential problem because it could have those dreaded “unintended consequences.”

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College Athletics and Social Networking Systems [8:57 am]

Colleges, Athletes Learn Downside to Websites - pdf

The free sites, increasingly popular among high school and college students who use them to keep tabs on friends, contain personal pages for each user. Students who join the sites maintain profiles on which they can post pictures and personal information such as cellphone numbers, addresses and sexual orientation. But they are a technological headache for school officials charged with protecting student-athletes and the image of their universities.

Some are concerned that the sites negate the buffer between student-athletes and agents, gambling associates and overzealous fans, leaving programs vulnerable to NCAA violations.

They can also be the source of embarrassment.

Related: MySpace’s New Friend: Google - pdf

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