June 1, 2007
AACS Fix Hacked Again
The AACS copy protection update that closed a hole in the last hack to high definition DVDs has apparently been hacked within one day of its appearance. The cat and mouse game between hackers and Hollywood continues. Maybe a studio will make a movie about this.
See the story in Ars Technica.
Google Street Views Captures People in Everyday Action
Google's new street level views of certain cities has had some unintended consequences. Privacy advocates say the views capture people in sometimes embarrassing situations. An article in the Telegraph (U.K.) said the photos captured a man leaving a strip club, another going into an adult book store, and a third man being questioned by police.
Kevin Bankston of the EFF had this quote in the story:
"If the Google van happened by your house at the right moment it could even capture you in an embarrassing state of undress as you close your blinds, for instance."
I wonder if he considered the possibility that the neighbors who live next to that individual would have seen the moment live. Google notes that everything its cameras capture is nothing more than what people would see if they were in the same position as the camera. Settled law says that no one has to ask your permission to take your picture in a public place. The only difference here is the picture is more or less available on the Internet as a frozen moment. That man coming out of the strip club, well, you have the potential for being with us forever. That's not enough, though, to place black bars across the eyes of every individual in a public picture Google or anyone else places on the Internet.
People who live in urban areas see this kind of stuff all the time. There are surveillance cameras all over the place, from stoplight cameras to those for crime control. The Fourth Amendment doesn't even come close to stopping those government activities. If someone is concerned that they will be seen entering or leaving adult entertainment establishments, then they shouldn't patronize them. And if there is concern about being captured on pixel at all, then they should not go out in public. Ever.
May 31, 2007
Apple, EMI, and YouTube in Deals Together
Apple is now selling unprotected and higher quality EMI tracks for $1.29, or a 30 cents upgrade to those who already purchased the tracks. If anyone has a penchant for piracy with these, be advised that Apple is quietly embedding email addresses and other details of track buyers in downloads. In fact, it has apparently done this all along according to two articles in Ars Technica (here and here).
EMI also announced that it struck a deal with YouTube to let users view and remix EMI content. The company said the deal is structured for the artists and the company to be paid, but didn't say how that was going to happen. And to bring this all back to Apple, YouTube content will be available on TV via the Apple TV set top box. Viacom, suer of YouTube for massive copyright violation, said they would welcome a deal with Apple. With Apple and Google very cozy these days, that might not happen so easily. Who knows, though. It's all about money and selling stuff.
Gates and Jobs Appear Together -- World Doesn't End
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates appeared on stage yesterday in a forum moderated by the Wall Street Journal. People looking for a public brawl were disappointed by the generally cordial feelings between the two. The highlights included Gates acknowledging Jobs ability to create cool imaginative products. Gates said he saw products as an engineering issue and wishes he had some of Jobs vision. Jobs, on the other hand, said Microsoft was great at strategic partnerships that grew the business. He said that Apple didn't learn that until decades later. Apple had been criticized years ago for not licensing the Apple operating system. Apple at one point experimented with third parties creating legitimate Apple clones but ended that fairly early on. Jobs also addressed the I'm a Mac, I'm a PC commercials, saying the PC Guy and the Mac Guy are clearly friends and were supportive of one another. Gates, to his credit, remained silent. He had lashed out at the ads as unfair characterizations in earlier interviews.
The press reports made it sound like a fun place to be for 90 minutes. The world did not end from a matter-antimatter collision, and the Justice Department did not investigate.
Spammer Arrested for Spamming
Noted spammer Robert Soloway was arrested yesterday and charged in federal court with mail fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering. The CAN-SPAM Act probably figures in there somewhere. The charges stem from Soloway's activities as a high volume spammer using zombie PC's to send out at least a million of spam messages per day. He also allegedly misled legitimate businesses to buy advertising services from him, failed to provide the services, and threatened them when they complained.
May 30, 2007
Microsoft Surface -- The Next Big Thing or Who Cares?
Microsoft is announcing a new type of computing called Surface computing. The PC is a table top that can be manipulated by fingers, objects, or anything else that touches the surface in a meaningful way. There is novelty to this as there is no keyboard, mouse, or other familiar PC equipment: just the table top and and you. And just what can you do with this? Right now not much, at least as an average user. The units are between $5,000 and $10,000 per pop which makes them viable for well heeled or corporate customers.
Microsoft is targeting the hospitality industry as initial clients for the technology. That move makes sense given how they describe the potential uses. A person sitting in a restaurant places a wine glass on a table. Five infrared cameras read a bar code from the glass and the computer will display a list of entrees that go well with that wine; or, the person sees pictures of the vineyard where the wine was produced; or, they can book a trip to the vineyard right on the spot.
Microsoft sees a great future for this type of computing and expects prices to come down in about three to five years for consumer models. The concept is interesting and the practical applications are bound to come. So far, the only examples coming from Microsoft seemed aimed at convenience. Take this passage from the Microsoft Press Pass interview on Microsoft Surface:
PressPass: Why should consumers take notice and care about Microsoft Surface? How will this change their everyday lives?
[Tom] Gibbons [President of the Entertainment and Devices division]: Surface computing is going to revolutionize everyday lives, much like the way ATMs changed how we get money from the bank. Surface lets us manipulate a tremendous amount of information with our hands so that the content works with you rather than for you. For example, with Surface’s mapping application, you can manipulate a map and move it, shrink it and access personalized data for local sites, attractions and venues. To do this today, you’d need a paper map, books, concierge and even a bookstore to find and gather all the information. Or, with Surface’s photo application, you have the ability to sort through pictures, decide which ones you want to share, zoom in for a closer look and more. In these ways, Surface is unlocking content; making it rich, more fun and easier to use.
Maybe it's me, but I thought that was all possible with a wireless connection and a laptop.
Microsoft always tries to push the cool factor with these kinds of technology, trying to copy Apple's technique. What's always missing from these press announcements is the practical stuff that makes this technology work. Questions such as, how is it updated, will the OS (Vista) need to be patched, how often will the hardware need to be replaced, and others, all underly the utility. Then there is the privacy concern. Can five infrared cameras include an optical model for that telescreen effect? Will the technology be ad supported? The product has potential, but so does (did?) the Internet connected refrigerator and the Segway. Both have great utility, but how many people need to spend extra money to get milk ordered automatically? Even high gas prices aren't getting anyone to talk up the Segway as a transportation alternative. Other than the hands thing, what else does this puppy do?
The press release is here.
May 29, 2007
FTC To Consider Google Buy of DoubleClick
The Google-DoubleClick deal is going to get a look by the Federal Trade Commission. The story in Ars Technica suggests that privacy concerns are behind the move. Google has signaled that it would include some privacy safeguards in the kinds of profiles that a combined company would keep. Whether whatever they have in mind meets the scrutiny of government regulators remains to be seen.
Vista Betas Expire in Two Days
Don't forget that all beta test and pre-release copies of Windows Vista expire on May 31st. Microsoft recommends that everyone using these versions of Vista should back up all their data and purchase a license to continue "enjoying" the benefits of the new OS.
New Features for Maps on Google and Windows Live
Map enhancements come to both Google Maps and Microsoft's Live Search Maps. Google is adding street level views in selected cities, with more additions planned. Microsoft is adding 3D views that give a realistic view, also of selected cities.