April 7, 2006
iPods and Identity Theft
The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting about an unusual case of identity theft. The methods of acquiring information seem traditional, such as stealing wallets and scamming information from the Internet. But one Wilson Lee stored his data on an iPod rather than a laptop or other computer. San Francisco police broke the case after Lee or an accomplice allegedly ordered a number of laptops using a stolen credit card. A plain clothes policeman delivered the machines to Lee and arrested him at the time of delivery.
The police were surprised to find that Lee's cache of stolen personal data was stored on his iPod. Even that unit was allegedly bought from a vending machine with the same stolen credit card. Card numbers for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a special agent for the San Francisco office of the FBI are reported on the iPod.
Statements made by spokespersons from the police and District Attorney's Office indicate this type of data portability had never occurred to them before. In the early days of iPods there were reports of people walking into stores and copying software suites from display Macs, so why not this? Someone should probably tell law enforcement about jump drives. Smaller, more transportable, and with storage at 2 gigabytes at the high end, these babies can store an awful lot of sensitive data. The moral of the story is not to assume that all data theft involves a large computer attached to a network. When data becomes portable, it really becomes portable.
Read the Chronicle story here.
April 6, 2006
Lucent Sues Microsoft Over Xbox Patent
Lucent is suing Microsoft over technology in the XBox 360. Three patents are at stake. Lucent is seeking injunctive relief and unspecified damages. After the suit was filed, the stock of both companies went up.
Details are in the Washington Post.
Federal Court Strikes Down Michigan Electronic Gaming Law
A federal court in Detroit has issued a permanent injunction against enforcement of a Michigan law that restricted the sale rental of violent video games to minors. Judge George Caram Steeh said that games in and of themselves do not have any less First Amendment protection, and noted that there is no evidence presented by the state that violent video games has caused anyone to commit of threaten a violent act. This marks the sixth law to fall on First Amendment grounds, including similar laws in Illinois and California.
Details are at Joystiq, The Deseret News (SLC), Gamespot News, and in an editorial from the Detroit Free Press supporting the decision. Judge Steeh's opinion is not available at the Eastern District of Michigan's web site at this time. It is available here, and a big thanks to ZDNet for the link. Their story on this is here.
April 5, 2006
Apple Releases Software Allowing Windows to Run on Intel Macs
Apple has introduced a beta piece of software called Boot Camp that allows users to install Windows XP on Intel-based Mac hardware. The program creates a set of hardware drivers for Windows, dynamically partitions the hard drive and walks a user through installation. A Windows XP installation disc with Service Pack 2 is required.
April 3, 2006
Download Movies to Own, Sort Of
Several studios announced that they were going to sell movies to own via the web through a co-owned site, Movielink.com. This is a tentative first step towards online distribution of significant visual content. Certainly Apple's iTunes store is selling videos, albeit in a tiny screen format designed for the iPod. This is the first time, however, that major film studios have agreed to let content flow to a consumer's desktop (or laptop) without the film expiring.
However, paranoia does run deep with film executives. There are strings attached to the sales. One is that there is lots and lots of DRM associated with the files. Films may be owned by the consumer, but, depending on the film, they can't transfer them from place to place. Movielink terms state that the movie files can be copied to DVD as a backup but only for playback on the same computer that initiated the download. Otherwise some movies can be transferred to a total of 3 PCs. That grant is in the download agreement on a per film basis.
There are other restrictions, such as requiring the Movielink Manager to run on the target machine. The software runs continuously in the background and requires some regular Internet access. The faq at the site indicates that there is no spyware or adware associated with the program, but if you want movies this way, you have to have it. TV viewing is available if you can connect a television set to your computer.
The downside of this is the size of these files. A typical digital film on DVD is anywhere from 3 to 8 gigabytes in size. Aside from the download time involved even with broadband, a hard drive can fill up fast with purchased content. Sure there's cheap hard drive space out there, say 400 gigabytes from $200 on up, but that's an expense no one has to make just to watch movies. This is especially true when downloads are priced about the same as discs, between $10 and $30.
While movie studios are putting their toes in the digital water with this new capability, it's actually easier and cheaper to buy the disc. You can play it anywhere except where region codes get in the way. You can also enjoy 5.1 surround sound as well. That doesn't seem to be there with downloads. At the very least, the only audio connections described on the site appear to be stereo, and that's in passing.
By the way, King Kong was selling for $19.99 as a download as of this writing. As of yesterday, Wal-Mart had the disc on sale for $14.87 as an introductory special. Do movie executives understand the economics of these things?
Visit Movielink here.