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May 16, 2008

Ideology and Technology [3:12 pm]

Once they were called hackers; now the term (if Make magazine has its way) is “makers:” This, From That — Maker Faire

“We are grabbing technology, ripping the back off of it and reaching our hands in where we are not supposed to be,” says Shannon O’Hare, who has brought his three-story Victorian mansion on wheels, one of the most prominent examples of the anachronistic style known as steampunk, to the Faire. He is holding forth in a vintage British military uniform and pith helmet, and is gesturing with a hand that holds a sloshing tankard of ale.

“We’ve been told by corporate America that we cannot fix the things we own,” says Mr. O’Hare, who goes by Major Catastrophe and works as a fabricator for the stage and businesses. “All we can do is buy their stuff and like it.” Cars have become too complex to work on under a shade tree, and people have no idea what is inside their cellphones and cameras. “All this technology, and it’s not ours. It’s somebody else’s,” Mr. O’Hare says. “ Make is about taking that back off and making it yours.”

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The Power of the Network Effect [7:11 am]

The NYTimes well-established pro-Microsoft slant on technology news is particularly evident in this writeup, which seems somehow to indicate that OLPC had been bullying the Redmond firm. But the news also shows that it’s awfully difficult to beat the network effect, even with free software: Microsoft Joins Effort for Laptops for Children

After a years-long dispute, Microsoft and the computing and education project One Laptop Per Child said Thursday that they had reached an agreement to offer Windows on the organization’s computers.

Microsoft long resisted joining the ambitious project because its laptops used the Linux operating system, a freely distributed alternative to Windows.

The group’s small, sturdy laptops, designed for use by children in developing nations, have been hailed for their innovative design. But they are sold mainly to governments and education ministries, and initial sales were slow, partly because countries were reluctant to buy machines that did not run Windows, the dominant operating system.

[...] [T]he alliance with Microsoft has created some turmoil within the project. Walter Bender, the president who oversaw software development, resigned last month. His departure, Mr. Negroponte said, was “a huge loss to O.L.P.C.”

Inside the project, there have been people who, Mr. Negroponte said, came to regard the use of open-source software as one of the project’s ends instead of its means.

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CBS Goes All In [7:03 am]

CBS in Deal to Buy CNet to Increase Online Ads

On Thursday, CBS announced a $1.8 billion deal to buy the online media brand CNet Networks, home of Web sites like CNet.com (on technology), BNet (on business), GameSpot (on video games), TV.com (on television), and CHOW (on cooking).

CBS has been snapping up small Web sites in the last year or so, including Last.fm, a music Web site it bought for $280 million, according to regulatory filings. It also acquired Wallstrip, which makes irreverent financial-themed Web videos, and DotSpotter, a celebrity gossip site.

But at $1.8 billion, Thursday’s deal for CNet is the biggest by far in its recent Internet expansion, making the network — and therefore Mr. Smith — bigger players in online media.

Also CBS agrees to buy Internet media firm CNET (pdf); and an analysis over at Slate: Network 2.0

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