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March 27, 2008

No BitTorrent Gatekeeping — For Now [3:41 pm]

Comcast to Stop Hampering File-Sharing (pdf)

Comcast Corp., an Internet service provider under investigation for hampering online file-sharing by its subscribers, announced Thursday an about-face in its stance and said it will treat all types of Internet traffic equally.

Comcast said it will collaborate with BitTorrent Inc., the company founded by the creator of the peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol, to come up with better ways to transport large files over the Internet instead of delaying file transfers.

Since user reports of interference with file-sharing traffic were confirmed by an Associated Press investigation in October, Comcast has been vigorously defending its practices, most recently at a hearing of the Federal Communications Commission in February.

Consumer and Net Neutrality advocates have been equally vigorous in their attacks on the company, saying that by secretly blocking some connections between file-sharing computers, Comcast made itself a judge and gatekeeper for the Internet.

They also accused Comcast of stifling delivery of Internet video, an emerging competitor to the core business of the nations largest cable operator.

It was not immediately clear what effect, if any, the move will have on the FCCs ongoing probe, but Net Neutrality groups remained skeptical.

Later:
Comcast Adjusts Way It Manages Internet Traffic and Comcast relents on Web video (pdf)

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The Perils of Standards-Setting [7:22 am]

A painful lesson, and another chapter in this ugly story: Chip Developer Wins Crucial Ruling in Patent Dispute

Rambus, the developer of memory chip technology, said Wednesday that it won an important ruling in a long-running patent lawsuit, sending its shares 39 percent higher.

The jury rejected claims by three large memory-chip makers — Hynix Semiconductor, Micron Technology and Nanya Technology — that Rambus deliberately misled the memory chip industry in the 1990s when new standards were being hammered out.

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It’s Not Surveillance, It’s Marketing! [7:15 am]

YouTube Feature Tells Video Creators When and Where a Clip Is Being Watched

In a move to provide better data to its users, YouTube formally announced late Wednesday that it had added a free feature that will show video creators when and where viewers are watching their videos. With this, the company hopes to turn YouTube from an online video site into a place where marketers can test their messages, Tracy Chan, YouTube product manager, said.

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The Dawn of Recording [7:12 am]

phonoautograph image

An article that treats the topic with surprising depth, reminding us that early efforts in sound recording were directed toward converting sound into graphically interpretable artifacts, rather than what Edison came up with: Researchers Play Tune Recorded Before Edison

For more than a century, since he captured the spoken words “Mary had a little lamb” on a sheet of tinfoil, Thomas Edison has been considered the father of recorded sound. But researchers say they have unearthed a recording of the human voice, made by a little-known Frenchman, that predates Edison’s invention of the phonograph by nearly two decades.

The 10-second recording of a singer crooning the folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was discovered earlier this month in an archive in Paris by a group of American audio historians. It was made, the researchers say, on April 9, 1860, on a phonautograph, a machine designed to record sounds visually, not to play them back. But the phonautograph recording, or phonautogram, was made playable — converted from squiggles on paper to sound — by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.

“This is a historic find, the earliest known recording of sound,” said Samuel Brylawski, the former head of the recorded-sound division of the Library of Congress, who is not affiliated with the research group but who was familiar with its findings. The audio excavation could give a new primacy to the phonautograph, once considered a curio, and its inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, a Parisian typesetter and tinkerer who went to his grave convinced that credit for his breakthroughs had been improperly bestowed on Edison.

[...] Listeners are now left to ponder the oddity of hearing a recording made before the idea of audio playback was even imagined.

“There is a yawning epistemic gap between us and Léon Scott, because he thought that the way one gets to the truth of sound is by looking at it,” said Jonathan Sterne, a professor at McGill University in Montreal and the author of “The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction.”

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