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Tech News 07-31-08

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  • Robert Sterling
    Please send as far and wide as possible. Thanks, Robert Sterling Editor, The Konformist http://www.konformist.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2008
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      Please send as far and wide as possible.

      Robert Sterling
      Editor, The Konformist


      Timothy Karr
      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
      major victory.

      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

      Comcast's "Shame"

      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
      their dismay.

      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 everyone—Vudu, Apple, TiVo, Xbox, and more—humble 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
      the market.



      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
      fizzles out.

      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
      shareholders meeting.

      Specifics about the types of deals that are currently underway in
      these two separate discussions and the likelihood of an outcome are
      not clear.

      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
      million units."

      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
      188,800 units.

      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?

      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
      Media Summit.

      "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
      couldn't happen."

      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
      announced today."

      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?
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