May 25, 2007
Give Your Frequent Flyer Miles to Injured Troops
Operation Hero Miles is a program that allows folks to donate their frequent flyer miles to support injured members of our armed forces and their families. This weekend. the participating airlines will match donations mile-for-mile, from 6 AM, Friday, May 25th through 11:59 pm, Monday, May 28th. Please give miles if you are in the position to help out.
See the post on the Law Librarian Blog at http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/law_librarian_blog/2007/05/americans_are_u.html for all of the details on how you can participate in this worthy program.
Have a great holiday weekend and join us Tuesday for more postings.
Nudity in Halo 2 Delays Release, Sort Of
Microsoft's Halo 2 game for Vista has been delayed due to partial nudity on one of the characters. Microsoft is issuing a 2 MB patch to eliminate the offensive content and updating its labels on copies of the game that are in distribution. The store date is May 31st though some stores with copies were reportedly selling them now. Partial nudity seems to be a little more buttock than usual. Microsoft is probably doing the right thing given there is a presidential election coming up. It's not a bad thing either to take steps to protect one's corporate self from the one litigant in Utah who is morally offended to the core by such things.
Microsoft said through a spokesman that the content was added in jest and wasn't meant for the final build. Someone will likely not be working on any future builds, particularly if it costs the company money.
No links to the inappropriate content here, although there are some in the story at Gamer.Blorge.com. Make sure you hide the children and small animals before viewing. Sailors, avert your eyes. Regular anime fans, yawn. More details at Computerworld.
Sony Blu-Ray Alleged to Violate Patent
Sony is on the receiving end of a lawsuit charging it with patent infringement over the coatings on its Blu-Ray discs. Target Technology applied for patents on reflective layers for optical discs in 2004 and received the patent in 2006. The company is seeking a injunction against Sony's future use of the technology. Obtaining an injunction is less of a slam dunk than even George Tenet could predict based on recent Supreme Court rulings, though that remedy doesn't affect the underlying claim or other possible remedies.
May 24, 2007
Google to Buy FeedBurner
Unconfirmed reports say that Google is buying RSS publisher FeedBurner. The cost is $100 million, a drop in the bucket compared to YouTube and DoubleClick. Look for more ads via RSS feeds.
The story is in Wired News.
Deal Offered to Webcasters over Royalty Rates
SoundExchange is throwing a bone to small radio webcasters. The Copyright Royalty Board basically approved higher rates that small operators would pay for Internet broadcast streams. SoundExchange would collect those charges on behalf of the record labels. Small operators complained and Congress got into the act by introducing various bills that rolled back rates to something akin to what terrestrial broadcasters pay. A law has the affect of locking in rates until Congress gets around to passing another law. It would be easier to get a post office branch named after the late Jack Valenti than to get Congress to revisit rates a second time if a bill passes. So, at the quiet urging of Congress, SoundExchange has offered a deal for broadcasters whose revenue is less than 1.25 million a year. They want 10% of revenues up to $250,000 and 12% for revenues over that. That, of course, leaves out ClearChannel and other large broadcasters who stream. Watch them lobby Congress to pass a bill. They have the lobbying dollars to make a credible effort.
In a somewhat related move, the RIAA is lobbying to get a law passed that would require radio stations to play performance royalties. That's money that would go to the artist for their recording in addition to any royalties that currently go to song writers. This move comes from the RIAA belief that radio performances do not promote sales, which is contrary to the basis for the lack of radio performance royalties. The logic is simple. Radio stations keep playing music but sales keep dropping. That does not take into account, though, what is in rotation at mainstream radio stations or the lack of musical diversity in those play lists. Moreover, it doesn't account for the fact that once music is turned into a commodity, consumers will buy less than more. The labels are very good at promoting music as a sale than as an art. That doesn't give anyone a reason to buy more music of a particular genre when it all starts to sound alike. But that's a different debate. The point here is that the RIAA is doing the same thing that politicians do all the time. If one says something over and over again, whether it's true or not, the statement could get some traction. Thus the attack on the basis for no performance royalties for radio plays. It will be interesting to see how they prove that radio doesn't sell music, if the association tries to prove it at all.
May 23, 2007
Don't Try To Hide, Microsoft Will Know Who You Are
The Microsoft research lab in China is apparently developing software that can identify individuals by web surfing habits, even when the individuals give false demographic information. This came out at the World Wide Web conference in Banff, Canada last week. The Microsoft engineer who disclosed this is Jian Hu.
New Scientist has the story. One quote from the article is particularly interesting when considering how web tracking takes place:
Hu's colleague Hua-Jun Zeng says the software could get its raw information from a number of sources, including a new type of "cookie" program that records the pages visited.
A new type of cookie? Hmmmmm. As the story points out, there may be some legal issues about this capability.
China Will Not Rerquire Bloggers to Identidy Themselves
Reports were that China intended to require bloggers to register under their real names and contact information. That unsurprisingly drew a strong outcry against the proposal. That China decided to encourage the accurate identification rather than require it is the real surprise.
The story is in Ars Technica.
Government Orders Agencies to Cut Back on SSNs in Data Collection
Hardly a week, or even a day goes by when there isn't an embarrassing disclosure of lost or stolen laptops contain Social Security numbers of a large group of people. Northwestern University lost data recently on alums, including SS numbers. Government agencies are no better than universities or private corporations when it comes to securing individual data with sensitive information. It seems that all identity thefts revolve around the unique 9 digit number most residents have, which is collected again and again by so many entities.
The U.S. government is getting somewhat aware that a problem exists, at least with its own data collection practices Clay Johnson III, deputy director for management at OMB has ordered federal agencies to eliminate the unnecessary collection and use of Social Security numbers in their records. The operative word, of course, is "unnecessary." It's a nice idea, though who knows how this will play out in terms of record keeping.
The story is in the International Herald Tribune. The link to the OMB press release is here, and it contains a link to the memo directed to the agencies. One wonders how the Director of National Intelligence feels about this.
May 22, 2007
Apple Sued Over False Graphics Claim
Apple is being sued over the quality of its displays on MacBook and MacBook Pro computers. The suit alleges that Apple promised high quality resolution in the millions of colors but fails to deliver except through tricks such as dithering. Apple is accused of ignoring complaints. XP running on the same systems allegedly have no problems.
Negroponte Complains that Intel is Trying to Kill OLPC Program
So, Nicholas Negroponte complains that Intel is trying to kill his One Laptop Per Child program. Intel is offering competing laptops to governments running $3 copies of Windows. Negroponte needs 3 million orders to make the project viable. Reports are that he has about half of that. He claims that Intel is doing this because his machine is powered by an AMD processor. The OLPC machine also uses Linux as the operating system.
There seems to be this feeling that because there is this element of philanthropy involved in his project that the rest of the world should back off. He should realize instead that he's uncovered a market for the corporate interests, and companies such as Intel and Microsoft are willing to compete. Why should Intel and Microsoft concede a market to AMD and Linux. It's not as if they are doing anything illegal or even questionable enough to cause a congressional hearing on the issue.
What is more important? Getting computing power in the hands of the children of developing nations, or getting his computers in their hands? I'm surprised that with all the novel thought that went into OLPC that Negroponte didn't anticipate this development.
See the story in PC World for more details.
May 21, 2007
Google Book Search Adds Links to Library Holdings
There's a new feature in Google Book Search. For those books not scanned in the system, there is a link noting what libraries own the hard copy. This is done via (and in cooperation with) WorldCat. The feature appears as well for books with a limited preview. These texts will be part of a result set with only the title page, table of contents, and index.
CALEA Does Not Appply to Universities and Libraries
In some circumstances, at least. The network at these facilities are private, and they do not support the Internet connection. The last part means the telecom manages Internet access for the school or library. Otherwise, CALEA may apply.
More details in Ars Technica.
MySpace Comes to Agreement with State AGs Over Sex Offender Data
MySpace will, as it turns out, provide the sex offender profile data that the eight state attorneys general are seeking from the social web site. MySpace said that they had negotiated a legal process, although the mechanics could vary from state to state. The AGs will use some form of subpoena or other process to get the data, with MySpace cooperating on the various cases.
Here's the story from CNET.