Rythan's Tech Commentaries

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Doctorow: DRM advocates are "the real pirates"

Doctorow: DRM advocates are "the real pirates"

13.10.09 Catherine Neilan

Publishers who continue to use digital rights management (DRM) or other methods to tie readers to a single e-book device, are "bent on the destruction of publishing" and are the "real pirates", according to Cory Doctorow, a keynote speaker at today's O'Reilly Tools of Change (TOC) conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The author, activist and co-editor of the influential Boing-Boing blog urged TOC delegates to "restore ownership to books" and blasted publishers and rightsholders who continue to apply DRM to their content.

Doctorow said: "Digital licensing systems currently employed destroy the bond between the readers and the book."

He said that DRM was a "farcical" way to get money out of readers, adding that "there is no mechanism whereby a retailer of a [print] book can take it away from you", describing a system that this happens as "insane". Earlier this year, Amazon was the centre of controversy in the US when it remotely deleted Kindle versions of 1984 from customers' devices after the edition was added to Amazon's catalogue without the rightsholder's permission.

Amazon last week settled a lawsuit over the fiasco with a Michigan teenager—who had his Kindle notes deleted as well as his e-book—for $150,000.

Doctorow added that ownership was the "most valuable asset that publishers have" knowing that a book "is passed to kids or has come from your parents".

The third keynote speaker at TOC—the first of publishing's pre-eminent digital talking shops to take place in Europe—Doctorow sounded a note of optimism. He said: "The library of tomorrow will better than the library of today. Just stop believing that the pirates in your digital department are right."

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Does 'strengthening diplomacy' warrant Nobel? Americans split

(CNN) -- The decision to award President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to "strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" appears to have left some in the United States divided over whether intangible achievements are worthy of such an esteemed award.

iReporter Katy Brown couldn't understand why Obama won the award. iReporter Egberto Willies celebrated it.

iReporter Katy Brown couldn't understand why Obama won the award. iReporter Egberto Willies celebrated it.

"So can anyone tell me how this man won the Nobel Peace Prize?" iRepoter Katy Brown wondered, asking whether it had more to do with him becoming the first black U.S. president. "The people who have won the Nobel Peace Prize in the past ­-- I'm sorry but the legitimacy of this award has gone down the drain."

Twenty other Americans have won Nobel peace prizes. Among them, President Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Prize in 1906 for negotiating a peace settlement in the Russo-Japanese War, and President Wilson for the creation of and advocacy for the League of Nations.

While the committee's decision to honor Henry Kissinger in 1973 was widely criticized by some, his peace prize was awarded for helping to end the Vietnam War.

The Nobel committee said of Obama: "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."

Brown, who goes to school in Kent, Ohio, and calls herself a conservative, said she couldn't believe based on the lack of accomplishments so far in his first term as president that Obama was given the award. Video iReporters mixed on Obama's Nobel win »

" 'SNL' put it best, whether you want to call it a comedy skit or not, this man has done two things: jack and squat," Brown said, referring to this past weekend's "Saturday Night Live" skit that characterized Obama as a man with many promises who hasn't fulfilled them.

"Has he ended a war? No. He's only made matters worse. Has he provided health care for everyone? No. He's just caused a big disaster in Congress.

"And has he even closed Guantanamo Bay, the first thing he [said he would do] when he was in office? No; hasn't even done that." Rollins: Obama must now "earn" Nobel Peace Prize

For others, it's not about Obama's political initiatives. For them, it's more about the message Obama is sending to the rest of the world and the hope he has given them.

"To move a country like the United States -- in the eyes of all countries around the world -- from being perceived as one of the most belligerent Americas ever to one that decides it wants to work with the rest of the world -- that is the real definition of a path towards peace," iReporter Egberto Willies said. Zakaria: Nobel honors Obama's "bold gambit"

Willies, a 48-year-old from Kingwood, Texas, who described himself as a liberal, was proud of Obama's intangible achievements.

"I felt like we were reintegrating back into the world," the software developer said. Obama is more inclusive of other countries. That's important."

Like Brown, Thomas Strom, a 39-year-old salesman from Wallingford, Connecticut, who described himself as a conservative, couldn't grasp the committee's decision.

"Obama hasn't accomplished anything to deserve an award of such stature," he said.

Strom couldn't help but wonder what it meant for future recipients.

"This is almost turning the Nobel Peace Prize into a bogus award," he said.

Matt Milam, an iReporter and Obama supporter from Chicago, Illinois, said while he was thrilled to see Obama win, he understood why some people might question it.

"I'm personally glad for the man, but some people are sitting around scratching their heads. And perhaps there's a good reason. He's still fresh in the White House and yet he's getting the Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe it's just that he's just that good."

And the fact that Obama said he was surprised at the award and humbled, and didn't question it, made Milam support it even more. He compared it to Cuba Gooding Jr.'s surprising Oscar win for his role in "Jerry McGuire."

"He didn't sit there and question it. He didn't sit there and analyze it," Milam said.

Milam hoped that despite what people felt about Obama winning the award, it would serve as an inspiration for the country.


"We need to give each other hope, we need to give ourselves hope," he said.

"It's something to strive for so let's be glad for President Obama."

All About Nobel Peace PrizeBarack Obama

Posted via web from The Great Canadian Pumpkin

Friday, October 09, 2009

F.T.C. Proposes Problematic Regulation of Online Free Speech | Electronic Frontier Foundation

F.T.C. Proposes Problematic Regulation of Online Free Speech

Legislative Analysis by Tim Jones

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published vague new advertising rules that require online writers to disclose whether they've been compensated for product endorsements. The rules are full of ambiguities and double-standards, many of which are summed up on this article in The Atlantic Wire.

Significantly, the new rules place requirements on social media from which traditional print and television media are exempt. For instance, if a blogger publishes a book review, the rules will require her to disclose whether she received a free copy of the book from the publisher. Book reviews in print media face no such restrictions.

When pressed on the rules' discrepancies by blogger Edward Champion, the FTC's Michael Cleland explained that newspapers are more trustworthy than social media because "most of the newspapers have very strict rules about that and on what happens to those products." This is an unsupportable assertion, and one which seems to lie in the now time-worn assumption that the Internet is somehow more conducive to corruption and dishonesty than traditional media. We've heard this story before; it was unreasonable then and it's unreasonable now.

EFF believes that bloggers ought to have the same legal protections and privileges as traditional journalists. We urge the FTC to rethink and clarify the problematic aspects of these new rules.

Related Issues: Bloggers' Rights

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It is completely unfair to impose regulations on Online Media and not Print Media.

Posted via web from The Great Canadian Pumpkin

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dell shooting to be Apple of business IT's eye with new Z600 - Ars Technica

A closup of the Dell Z600

Posted via web from The Great Canadian Pumpkin

Dell shooting to be Apple of business IT's eye with new Z600 - Ars Technica

Every company that makes any sort of netbook or notebook seems to have figured out sometime in late 2007 that industrial design matters—indeed, "if you bling it, they will come" seems to be the PC industry's number one takeaway from watching Apple's success in the notebook market. But with today's launch of the new Latitude Z600 notebook, Dell has demonstrated that it knows something that other netbook makers have yet to discover: if you want to compete with Apple at the level of design and user experience, then you have to do more than just offer the same Windows laptop, but in different colors and finishes; you must also apply some software and hardware engineering effort to solving problems that users didn't know they had. With the 16-inch, 4.5-pound Z600, Dell is clearly angling to position itself as the "Apple" of business portables by making products that mix form, function, and novelty.

We joined Dell for a prelaunch demo of the Z600 and its accessories, and the company impressed us with some technologies and ideas that may even have Cupertino starting its photocopiers.

Always ON

The first idea, Latitude ON, announced over a year ago but fully debuting on the Z600, is basically a instant-boot OS combined with a self-contained system-on-a-daughtercard. The OS is Linux-based with a bunch of Dell customizations to both the OS and the applications (browser, mail, contacts, calendar, VPN client, and Citrix client); on the hardware side, the tiny daughtercard contains a TI OMAP SoC (Dell wouldn't reveal which exact part), a 512MB pool of flash for storing the OS, and a WiFi radio.

What Dell does with this system-in-a-system is more than just fast booting, which always sounded pointless to us since we rarely boot our laptops anyway (they remain in sleep mode while closed). ON's basic idle mode runs with the laptop closed, with the device acting sort of like a Blackberry in that it gets all of your inbound e-mails from over the network (WiFi or 3G). When you open the laptop and the screen turns on your new messages are already there waiting for you. The idea is that every time you open the laptop, there is fresh data for you to access instantly, so that you don't have to first connect to a network and/or start an application.

Dell claims that in the normal idle mode, with the laptop closed yet constantly polling for e-mails, you can get up to 12 hours of battery life; in a low-power idle mode, where the laptop polls for new e-mail every 6 minutes, you can get some two days of battery life.

For security reasons, you can't get to the hard drive at all in ON mode, so if the ARM daughtercard is compromised, your data remains safe. For the idle mode e-mail polling, ON uses the on-card WiFi radio; if there is no WiFi signal available, then it can connect via an optional built-in 3G radio. The ON feature will be standard on the Z600 and optional on other portables.

In all, ON is a solid idea that will probably find many fans in the road warrior set. The fact that it can check your e-mail all day long with the laptop closed is the killer feature that causes the whole "lightweight, instant-on OS" to make real sense.

Going completely wireless

The two other great features on the Z600 are the wireless charging dock and the wireless HD video and I/O capabilities.


Dell has designed an elevated laptop stand that uses induction to wirelessly charge the Z600 whenever it's placed on the stand. If you're going to charge by docking (as opposed to just plugging a cable into the laptop), then this is a better way to do it than lining up proprietary ports.

Also of interest is Z600's built-in support for wireless I/O (video, USB, and sound) connections. The Z600's hardware establishes a UWB-based link with a Dell wireless docking station that contains a DVI out, two USB ports, and an audio out. The end result is that you can walk into a room, set your laptop down anywhere (perhaps on the inductive charging platform), and immediately begin using the laptop via a stationary monitor, mouse, and keyboard without plugging in a single cable. The whole wire-free setup is quite impressive to see in action, especially for someone who frequently juggles their MacBook Air between a stationary workstation (external monitor, mouse, and keyboard) and a recliner throughout the day.

FaceAware, additional trackpad

FaceAware is another new feature of the Latitude Z600, and it involves the laptop using its built-in 2MP webcam to spot when a registered user has stepped away from the computer. When the Z600 sees that the user has left, it automatically locks the machine.

Also novel is a thin, invisible trackpad that runs down the right-hand bezel on the screen. Swiping a finger up and down this trackpad will scroll the active window up and down, and pressing it at the bottom will bring up a launchbar-type widget that lets you launch programs. This is a nice idea, but it's not immediately clear that this is oddly placed, additional touch surface is a real improvement over a regular multitouch trackpad.

More details, conclusions

The Z600 uses Intel's new CULV processors, which helped Dell get the notebook's thickness down to half an inch and its weight down to 4.5 pounds, despite its 16" screen size. Being a business portable, it also comes with a full complement of ports, including Ethernet, eSATA, and DisplayPort. The Z600 is available today starting at $1,999.

It's clear that Dell put quite a bit of engineering effort into designing both the software and hardware sides of the Z600 and accessories, so that the whole package presents a unified user experience. Not every aspect of the Z600 is an obvious win, but it represents a step in the right direction. If Dell can continue to generate these kinds of ideas, which represent a lot more work than just repackaging someone else's hardware and software in bright plastic, then the company can go after enterprise users who have Apple envy but who need business features like vPro that Apple doesn't provide.

Posted via web from The Great Canadian Pumpkin