Tech News 07-31-08
- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Internet Users Stop Comcast, Net Neutrality Win on the Horizon
July 11, 2008
Read More: Cable, Comcast, Fcc, Internet, Kevin Martin, Net
Neutrality, SavetheInternet.Com, Media News
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is taking
action against Comcast for illegally violating Net Neutrality, after
a coalition of Net users and activists caught the cable giant
blocking open access to the Internet.
Martin told the Associated Press last night that Comcast
had "arbitrarily" blocked Internet access and failed to disclose to
consumers what it was doing. "We found that Comcast's actions in
this instance violated our principles."
Topolski Ignites the Fire
The move is the agency's response to a complaint filed by Free Press
and members of SavetheInternet.com, which called for severe action
against Comcast for jamming people using popular "file-sharing"
applications. But the story goes back further than that.
Organized People Beat Organized Money
Martin's action -- to be voted on by the full FCC in three weeks -
would be a major milestone for the growing open Internet movement,
marking another defeat of entrenched corporate interests in
Washington and a stunning victory for ordinary people who want to
control their Internet experience.
If adopted by the FCC, Martin's order could set an historic
precedent for protecting the future of the open Internet. Against
every ounce of conventional wisdom in Washington, everyday citizens
and consumer advocates have taken on a major corporation and won a
The decision follows nearly a year of organizing and action by a
growing alliance of bloggers, Internet innovators, consumer groups,
organizations from across the political spectrum, and Net activists
from all walks of life.
In that time, tens of thousands of people wrote the FCC in support
of Net Neutrality after Free Press filed its complaint against
Comcast and asked the agency to levy the largest fine in its
Hundreds of others packed public hearings to speak out against would-
be gatekeepers (even after Comcast notoriously attempted to keep
them out by hiring drowsy seat warmers in Boston).
The Power of One
But it all started with one person. When barbershop quartet
enthusiast Robb Topolski found Comcast was preventing him from
sharing legal music files with other fans, he took to his computer
and launched a one-man investigation.
Topolski uncovered conclusive evidence that Comcast was secretly
blocking his uploads. His concerns echoed those of hundreds of other
Comcast users, who had taken to the blogs and chat rooms to express
He posted his findings on a single tech blog. This had a cascading
effect, and soon dozens of others were writing about his findings.
The Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation
conducted their own investigations with similar results. The
evidence was indisputable: Comcast was blocking the Internet.
The wheels of government started churning. This time for the better.
The Fight Continues
Martin's move is a major victory. But this fight is far from over.
His order has yet to pass, though it seems likely. The cable
companies -- and the phone companies, too, even though they're
trying to distance themselves from Comcast -- will be back with
their money, lawyers and phony grassroots groups to try to take
control of the Internet and establish themselves as gatekeepers.
Companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon are spending hundreds of
millions of dollars to lobby Washington to gut Net Neutrality and
hand over control of the Internet to them. But they so far have
failed to overcome widespread and organized public opposition.
Today we can celebrate a huge victory for real people, but we need
to continue this fight to send a clear signal to the next Congress
and White House that standing with regular people for a free and
open Internet is a winning proposition.
Roku Netflix Player upgrade in the works
Christopher Null: The Working Guy
Wed Jul 9, 2008
Has the battle to create a dream product to link online digital
media to the TV quietly been won? Despite competition from just
about everyoneVudu, Apple, TiVo, Xbox, and morehumble Roku, which
released its Netflix Player set-top box barely over a month ago
(making it a distant latecomer to the game), sold out of its first
shipment in three weeks. Demand is so strong that the company is air-
freighting new units to the U.S. in order to keep up.
Almost thrown off as an aside in a Forbes story about Netflix's
online ambitions, Roku VP Tim Twerdahl mentions that later this year
the $99 box will be upgraded to stream content from other providers
aside from Netflix. That would make it the first major set-top box
to hook into multiple services and could turn what is already a very
good product into a category killer.
Even without the extra features, the Roku box is already a hit, and
I think it's because it's embraced the idea of simplicity. There's
nothing complicated or even sophisticated about the Netflix Player.
There's no display on the box, and the remote control is reminiscent
of the original Zenith "clicker." Next to famously "simple" products
like TiVo and the Apple TV, the Roku player makes them look like
baffling mainframe computers in comparison. Anyone who can plug in
their television should have no problem setting up the device.
Naturally, the price is another huge boon for the product. At $99,
it's cheaper than dinner and a movie. Since the service is free if
you already have a Netflix account, what possible objections could
anyone have to hooking one up?
Add in more streaming options and the Roku gets even better. Roku
teases us by not mentioning exactly what services it will link to,
though; they are described only as "other 'big name' providers." My
only concern is that the box needs to retain its simple nature. If I
have to input a credit card number using a remote with no number
buttons on it, I'll unplug it in disgust.
Meanwhile, Netflix is wasting time with other set-top box providers
(including Microsoft's Xbox), all of which is just a distraction
that keeps it from adding to its 10,000-movie library available for
streaming. Does anyone really watch movies on the Xbox 360 as it is?
The fan is so loud it drowns out the dialogue.
Memo to Netflix: Stick with the Roku. Expand the library. Dominate
July 16, 2008
Apple must win its case against Psystar -- or else
Posted by Don Reisinger
In a move that everyone was waiting for, Apple has finally sued
Psystar for violating its copyright and has asked for the company's
profits and a recall of all orders.
"As alleged more fully below, by misappropriating Apple's
proprietary software and intellectual property for its own use,
Psystar's actions harm consumers by selling to them a poor product
that is advertised and promoted in a manner that falsely and
unfairly implies an affiliation with Apple," Apple's suit
claims. "Psystar's actions also have caused, and are causing, harm
to Apple and constitute a misuse of Apple's intellectual property."
Everyone knew Apple would eventually make a move against Psystar,
but I'm not too sure anyone thought the suit would feature the kind
of saber rattling it does. That said, it's the smart move and one
that Apple must make if it wants to get away from anything of the
sort happening again.
But if it doesn't use its head and try to force Psystar to its
demise, Apple will open a can of worms that it may not be able to
handle so easily.
Psystar may be the only company that's willing to sell its own brand
of computers with Mac OS X installed right now, but rest assured
that it's not the only company that's thinking about it. In fact, I
would venture to say that the vast majority of small computer
companies are looking to jump on that bandwagon at any second and
have waited this long because of their desire to see what happens to
Here's how I see it going down:
If Apple gets everything it asks for and totally ruins Psystar, it
will never need to worry about an unknown firm trying to sell Mac OS
X again. The legal battle will be enough to send small companies
packing and Apple will make Psystar just another example of what can
happen to a small organization when it tries to stand up to a
But if it doesn't get everything it asks for and it's forced to
concede some points and the court orders Psystar to pay Apple some
sort of licensing fee, Apple will have stepped on a bee's nest.
In one fell swoop, other companies will realize that they will be
able to get away with selling Mac OS X on their own brand of
computers and use the precedent of the Psystar case to their
advantage if and when they face legal action from Apple.
In the process, these companies will crop up and start selling Mac
OS X-based computers and instead of trying to deal with one company,
Apple will be forced to play games with dozens.
But the story doesn't quite end there. Does Apple really know why
companies actually want to sell Mac OS X? Inevitably, the company's
lawyers will claim that it's due to the value of Mac OS X and its
usefulness. But in reality, it has nothing to do with Mac OS X and
everything to do with Apple.
Apple's policy of locking Mac OS X down to its own brand of
computers has helped it sell Macs, but it hasn't won it any awards
in the SME space. By only offering Mac OS X on its own computers,
it's effectively blocking any and all companies out of the profit-
making space and forcing them to try and sell Windows PCs.
On top of that, Apple is an extremely popular company right now that
commands a lot of attention from both tech and mainstream media.
Because of that success, companies like Psystar are taking notice
and are trying desperately to jump on that bandwagon before it
So in an attempt to become a major player in a PC market that's
dominated by a handful of huge companies where there simply isn't
any room for small PC manufacturers, companies like Psystar are
trying to find ways to capitalize on Apple's success and
differentiate themselves as much as possible. And although it may
not be the smartest move legally, Psystar is just the first of many
that want to do that by selling Mac OS X-based machines.
Years ago, breaking into the PC business and solidifying your
company in it wasn't nearly as difficult as it is today. In fact,
it's practically impossible. But by selling Mac OS X-based machines,
the chances of your company making some inroads are substantially
And as more companies realize that, it becomes more imperative for
Apple to play hardball with Psystar and try to take the company for
all it's worth. If it doesn't and Psystar gets away with just a slap
on the wrist, look for it to be the first of many companies that are
looking to offer Mac OS X machines and Apple will be faced to deal
with many more than one.
Yahoo and Microsoft step up Time Warner AOL discussions
July 16, 2008
Yahoo and Microsoft have both accelerated their respective deal-
making talks with Time Warner's AOL, as a proxy fight looms less
than three weeks away between Yahoo and investor activist Carl
Icahn, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
"The ongoing talks between all the companies have recently picked
up," said the source.
That may come as no surprise, given that Yahoo over the weekend
rejected a sweetened Microsoft offer to buy just its search assets
and the board of directors for the Internet pioneer will be up for
grabs when Yahoo and Icahn face off at the August 1 annual
Specifics about the types of deals that are currently underway in
these two separate discussions and the likelihood of an outcome are
But previously, talks between Yahoo and AOL reportedly involved
discussions of Yahoo acquiring AOL and, then, Time Warner taking an
investment in Yahoo.
And as noted in the Silicon Alley Insider last month, a Microsoft
buyout of AOL could come sooner than later. In fact, Silicon Alley
Insider posted this nugget Tuesday that a team from AOL was in
Seattle to talk about a potential deal with the software giant.
And a report in Reuters Tuesday was the first to note talks
had "heated up" among the three parties.
Nintendo seizes lead in US console war
by Tracy Erickson | 07/17/2008
Our new leader.
Speaking to GamePro today Nintendo proclaimed, "After just 20
months, Wii is the new console leader in the US with nearly 10.9
NPD sales data backs up the claim. Wii moved 666,700 units in the
month of June, which is enough to push it over Xbox 360 as the
dominant platform in North America.
Despite a year head start for Xbox 360 and two generations of
PlayStation consoles leading the market, Nintendo has rocketed back
to the top with Wii.
Even with the help of blockbuster exclusive Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns
of the Patriots which sold nearly a million copies last month,
PlayStation 3 still took a second seat to Wii with a respectable
405,500 consoles sold.
That figure is nearly double the number of Xbox 360s sold in June -
219,800. Adding salt to Microsoft's wounds is the fact that it
almost was beaten by PlayStation 2 with an impressive showing of
Nintendo's new position in the video game market comes hot off the
heels of E3 in Los Angeles this week. The annual trade show saw a
slew of new game announcements from the company, as well as
competitors Sony and Microsoft.
Thursday, Jul. 17, 2008
Star Wars: Episode 3.5?
By AP/DERRIK J. LANG
Consider it Star Wars III and a Half complete with a pivotal plot
When LucasArts releases Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on Sept. 16,
the video game will serve as George Lucas' official median between
2005's Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and 1977's Star
Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. In the game, players become Darth
Vader's secret apprentice and use The Force to hunt the remaining
Force Unleashed allows gamers use supercharged Force powers to bust
through objects, wield a lightsaber, blast lighting bolts and fling
around foes. The game will also change the way fans view Episode IV
through Episode VI Return of the Jedi, LucasArts project lead
Haden Blackman told The Associated Press at the E3 Business and
"There's a couple of big twists and turns in the story," said
Blackman. "One revelation in particular really impacts the rest of
the saga as a whole. It goes way beyond filling in gaps. We try to
make a bridge on every level. The story has a real implications on
Episode IV. In some ways, without the apprentice, Episode IV
Versions of The Force Unleashed will be available on the PlayStation
3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and PlayStation
2. Blackman and his team worked with Lucas to craft the original
saga, which mixes both pre-established elements from the Star Wars
universe as well as new characters, locales and details from game
"We pitched a number of different story ideas and concepts to him,"
said Blackman. "With him, we picked and chose the strongest
elements. As we worked on The Force Unleashed, he encouraged us to
create new characters as well use existing characters. He told
us, 'If you're going to use Vader, that's fine, but here's how you
can use him.'"
In the first level, players will plow through the Wookie homeworld
of Kashyyyk as Darth Vader. Subsequent levels find players serving
as Vader's apprentice and traveling to such locales as a TIE Fighter
construction facility, the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, the overgrown
planet of Felucia and back to an Empire ravaged Kashyyyk.
"Story-wise, we left some openings for a sequel," said
Blackman. "The concept of 'The Force Unleashed' could be taken in
any direction. We could potentially do a Force Unleashed game set in
a different Star Wars time period with a new storyline. We were
definitely cognizant to leave some doors open at the end."
Lucas will premiere the new computer-animated film Star Wars: The
Clone Wars, which takes place between Star Wars: Episode II Attack
of the Clones and Episode III, on Aug. 10. The film will be pegged
to a new weekly animated TV series as well as new Clone Wars video
games for both the Nintendo DS and the Wii.
AT&T Teases iPhone Owners With Free Wi-Fi -- Again
By Brian X. Chen July 18, 2008
Categories: Internet, iPhone, Our Telco Overlords
Moments after AT&T posted a message on its site saying it would
provide free Wi-Fi services to iPhone users, the company took it
back. And AT&T spokespeople are keeping their lips sealed as to who
or what caused the "error" -- or whether free AT&T Wi-Fi is ever
going to become a reality.
At approximately 9 a.m. PDT, AT&T removed the message from its site,
which read, "AT&T knows Wi-Fi is hot, and free Wi-Fi even hotter,
which is why we are proud to offer iPhone customers free access to
the nation's largest Wi-Fi hotspot network with more than 17,000
"It was posted in error and was removed shortly thereafter, so it
should not have been up," said Seth Bloom, an AT&T spokesperson, in
a phone interview. "We know how important Wi-Fi is and we intend to
make it available to as many people as we can, but nothing can be
Another AT&T representative said almost the same thing, verbatim.
Clearly they were both reading from the same script.
This isn't the first time AT&T has teased iPhone users, either. In
late April, iPhone users began receiving free AT&T Wi-Fi without any
official announcement. Days later, that free access was no more.
Unlike in May, Friday's snafu is a bit more embarrassing for AT&T
since an announcement -- official or not -- appeared in writing.
It's practically irresponsible (not to mention condescending) for
the company to refuse to comment on any prospects of free Wi-Fi: Why
else would that message ever have been written? If it were "pushed
live erroneously," doesn't that imply it'll be pushed live
eventually? And if so, why don't they just tell us that?