June 6, 2008
Ars Interviews FCC Commissioner
There's an interesting interview with FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adlestein on the Ars Technica web site. Public comments do affect the Commission's decisions. Who knew?
June 5, 2008
PDF Format to Host Flash Files in Acrobat Version 9
Adobe has announced that the upcoming release of Acrobat 9 will include the capability to embed Flash animation and videos. An article in PC World wonders whether this "weakens" the PDF format. Most of the article comments agree that this would be bad for PDF files. Historically, the value of PDF is that it gives a faithful representation of the printed page. Law review cite checkers even use it as a substitute for getting their hands on the paper artifact. So adding Flash now will upset the balance of reliability, I suppose.
It seems as if Adobe is positioning PDF to be either a publication format that mimics paper, or as a multimedia publishing format. Actually, it can still be both as no one is forcing anyone to embed a Flash video into anything. But think of the possibilities. Imagine getting a PDF of a congressional hearing with a Flash version of the hearing at the end of the volume. Sure, the record of the hearing is the paper version, but does it dilute the paper version by adding the video to the electronic copy? Congress does mount these same videos on committee web sites. Is the time-space continuum threatened because these formats may no longer be discrete? There are two kinds of publishing: paper and electronic. Paper can be represented electronically, but electronic publishing shouldn't be limited by paper. A video can't be printed, but it can be archived.
June 4, 2008
Icahn is Miffed at Yahoo!
Carl Icahn is angry at Yahoo! and Jerry Yang in particular. He says that the employee escape plan implemented by the Yahoo! board without telling the shareholders is what really scuttled the proposed merger with Microsoft. The plan essentially gives employees the right to leave with generous severance if the company experiences a change in control. Icahn has proposed an alternative slate of directors and opinion is that if they unseat the current board it could trigger the plan. Mr. Yang, tear down this poison pill, or something like that. Icahn also doesn't like the idea of selling the search business without the rest of the company. After all, Microsoft won't necessarily have incentive to buy the whole company if they get the parts they originally wanted. Microsoft, however, could be biding its time, poison pill or no. We'll have to see.
CNET has good coverage of the struggle to
destroy sell Yahoo! here. The relevant documents in the shareholder suit filed against Yahoo! management are here. Somewhere, Google management is moving forward with their operation, expanding its headquarters by about 42 acres in NASA's Ames Research Center. The Google tentacles grow bigger.
June 3, 2008
Time Warner Goes Ahead With Bandwidth Cap Test
Time Warner Cable is going ahead with its test of metered Internet services, using Beaumont, Texas as the test market. As noted in several stories on this, Time Warner doesn't have much competition in Beaumont. The company can put the screws to the customer without too much fear of losing customers. If there ever was an argument for broadband competition, this is it. The low end version would have a speed cap of 768 kbps and 5 GB a month for $29.95, while the high end will offer speeds up to 15 Mps and 40 GB of bandwidth for $54.90. There will be a $1 charge for every GB exceeding those limits. Time Warner claims that this will only affect 5% of its customers that use more than half the bandwidth of its system. Maybe.
That may be true now. Peer to peer file sharing is the bane of ISPs but popular with customers for all kinds of reasons . While companies are quick to seize on the issue of pirated content as a way of justifying their actions to attack P2P use, P2P is actually used by many companies as a way of distributing legitimate content. That was one of the issues in the Comcast hearings before the FCC. Could Time Warner be considering the day when more and more content will be delivered to homes by the Internet rather than on fixed media? A metered approach could affect download services from Amazon, Netflix, Apple, and others. Standard video may not be affected much because the necessary files may be compressed into several GB per movie. However, HD content can run into the tens of GB per title. If you can't limit customers by speed without getting a look see by the FCC, you can charge them for bandwidth, especially when the content comes from someone who is seen as a competitor.
One other point regarding this test comes to mind, and it involves privacy. In theory, the really heavy bandwidth users are likely downloading pirated media (the mindset of many an ISP). Should anyone go over the limit, can they merely expect a bill or will they have their download habits scrutinized? And if so, will that information be handed over to trade associations with a penchant for lawsuits? Just wondering. And will there be any meters for customers to know when they come up against the limit? This will get interesting. I remember years ago when visionaries were telling us how our refrigerators would be connected to the Internet. Maybe I don't want my refrigerator taking up valuable bandwidth trying to figure out if my carton of milk is going bad. It's one goofy example, but consumers may not go for the reasonable innovations if they have to pay extra to use them.
One suggestion: The government should mandate that electronic interaction with government agencies and resources be exempt from these metering plans. Schools and libraries should also be exempt.
June 2, 2008
Fanatasy Baseball Lives Despite MLB's best Efforts
Fantasy baseball, as spawned by the Internet, is safe thanks to the Supreme Court deciding not to get involved. Major League Baseball wanted to restrict the use of players names and statistics, but the pesky First Amendment got in the way of good old fashioned commerce according to the lower courts. Read about it in the Washington Post.
MS Signs Search Deal with HP
Microsoft strategy for search becomes a bit clearer as the company signs a deal with HP to make Microsoft Live Search the default on HP computers sold in the U.S. and Canada starting in January. It's not available in Europe, though. I wonder why. Newsweek has the story.
A Note on Privacy in Electronics and the Border
Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP has a nice discussion of the law of searching electronic devices at the border, including a survey of applicable U.S. precedents. Find it here.