September 11, 2008
Court Says No Relaxed Standard for Government Accessed Cell Phone Records
The Federal District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania opines that the government must secure a court order to get historical geographical records for cell phone (and suspect) location using the probable cause standard under the Fourth Amendment rather than an ex parte application under the Stored Communications Act or the Pen Registry Act. The Court notes that people expect privacy in where and when we use cell phones. It doesn't suggest that the government is not entitled to tracking information, which is stored for no business purpose other than to respond to a government request. Rather, the standard for turning the information over to the government still remains Constitutionally based. As some in government might say on this Court's view of the Constitution and Fourth Amendment, how quaint.
September 10, 2008
LHC Goes Live, World, Sadly, Does Not End
The world did not today end due to the start-up activity of the Large Hadron Collider. The fear of some was that the power of the Collider would cause a black hole to form which would swallow the earth and who knows what else. Those fears will have to stay in the realm of science fiction for the time being. Perhaps a movie with Hillary Swank, Ice Cube, Morgan Freeman, and, oh I don't know, Conan O'Brien could give the story of the the crack team that saves the world from science run amok disaster. It can't be any worse than the last three Star Wars films. Atom smasher or no, Earth still revolves around the sun.
More in Ars Technica. [MG]
Chrome Browser Has Impact
Google's Chrome browser has made a slight indent in Internet Explorer's market share. More from Computerworld. [MG]
September 9, 2008
Tips on Chrome
Nine tips from Google on using the new Chrome browser are available from Google Operating System, the unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move the OS online. Thanks to BNET for this one. [MG]
RealDVD Claims Legitimate DVD Copying
The news is buzzing with reports that Real is set to release (today) a DVD ripper, RealDVD, the company claims is legal. The legality of Real's software is based on the Kaleidescape case. That action had a manufacturer of a video server pitted against the DVD copy Control Association (DCCA), the licensor of DVD DRM.
Kaleidescape manufactured equipment that stored purchased DVDs on a home video server. The box had a price tag of $10,000, which made it a luxury item for most. Nonetheless, the DVD copy Control Association (DCCA) took exception and sued on violation of their license for DVD encryption. Kaleidescape is a member of the DCCA. A trial judge in Santa Barbara, California, said Kaleidescape did not violate the license. That decision remains on appeal.
No manufacturer has taken the liberty of creating legal DVD ripping software since the Kaliedescape decision until now. Actually, that's not quite true. Software exists that easily pirates encrypted video content, though none of this is legal under copyright regimes. Studios have been loathe to give up control of their content. The distribution for online copies of movies is littered with severe copy restrictions and price points that make mainstream online distribution non-competitive with physical distribution. That may be changing as the studios get more comfortable with the concept. That comfort level may get a jolt from Real.
Real's software copies a DVD to one computer. A customer can buy additional copies of the software and share that copy with five other devices. They can include other portable computers, external drives, or even jump drives. Now that 16 Gb jump drives are starting to hit the market, that means a portable memory device can hold two full DVDs. RealDVD copies the DVD with full encryption intact and adds its own layer of DRM on top of that to prevent piracy. However, it can't tell the difference between purchased and rental copies, so there is somewhat of a loophole in the process. The software will not work with Blu-Ray discs and, oddly, discs that have no copy protection at all. For all those hockey moms out there with DVD home videos of the kids, this product is not for you.
This development may have one or two effects on the movie distribution industry. The studios may see if and how people actually use this software and alter their distribution strategy. If Real can monetize portability with someone else's content, why can't the studios cut Real out of the equation and sell that functionality themselves? Real can establish a market for them. For that to happen, though, the studios have to get over their paranoia of controlling every aspect of the home video experience. That may hard given what they see on the music side of the business.
A lot of this depends on how consumers react irrespective of the licensing issues. It's hard to compete with free as in free, albeit illegal, tools that completely eliminate encryption and regional restrictions on DVDs. Legitimate software does keep the process server away from the door, and that's what Real is counting on to develop the market, assuming it can keep the process server away from its doors as well. [MG]
September 8, 2008
Happy Birthday Google
Google first appeared on September 7, 1998 then a merely a search engine, now an omnivore of commerce, culture, and technology (and a lawsuit magnet). Reactions to the anniversary range from how can we live without it to how could we let this monster grow into what it is. Ten years ago Microsoft was front and center as the Justice Department took the company on over competition issues. Many people thought Microsoft was evil at the time. (Many still do, for various reasons.) Google adopted its own "Don't Be Evil" motto setting itself apart from the perception of the most important technology company at the time. Given what Google has grown into over the course of the last ten years, some question whether that motto still rings true. If anything, Google has amassed the capital and power to pursue business with the best of them, and succeed in many attempts. The little search engine that could now runs an office suite, a video site, email, an online book library, and one of the most profitable ad businesses in the solar system. Google just released a beta version of a new browser (as if the world needed one, maybe it does), and launched its own satellite for earth mapping. All Google needs is Google OS to complete the transformation into MS Lite. That and a gaming system. And a music player. And a hardware division. The motto may be Don't Be Evil, but that doesn't always translate into Don't Be Annoying. Here's seeing if you're still king of the Internet in 10 more years. [MG]