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Tag Archives: Todays-Top-Tech

Today’s Top Tech: Apple Says DRM Bites

apple logoBy Evan Ackerman

So, I have a bunch of digital music. Never you mind where most of it came from, but I’ll tell you were it definitely did NOT come from: an online music store. I don’t like the idea of software/music companies restricting where I’m allowed to play music that I’ve paid for, especially since I can always just go out and (legally) buy and rip a CD. Not that I would go out and buy a CD, but still. Turns out that Steve Jobs (you know, the guy behind the iPod and iTunes) agrees with me, and according to his statistics, most of you do too.

In a letter posted today on the Apple website, Jobs talks about why DRM is such a pain in the ass for everybody, including Apple. And since only about 3% of the music on a given iPod is protected by DRM (or in other words, is from the iTunes store), DRM is not really protecting the commercial interests of Apple or the major music companies. The fact is, as Jobs states, “DRMs haven?t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music.”

So what’s the solution? Here’s Jobs’ take:

Abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store.

Wow. Almost makes me want to go out and buy a Mac. Almost.

[ Your cynical editor would like to point out that it just seems so easy for Steve to wash his hands of it all, placing the blame squarely on the Big 4. As if Apple's wishes can so easily be twisted around. Anyone remember when the Big 4 wanted to increase the price of songs on iTunes? Didn't happen. Cisco wanted to twist Apple's arm on the iPhone name... Didn't happen. -Ed. ]

[Thoughts on Music] VIA [Apple]

Today’s Top Tech: Cisco Tries To Stick It To Apple With Full-Page Ad In NYT

lynksys ip phone

By David Ponce

So, you know Apple is being sued by Cisco for using the iPhone name, right? Technically, Cisco’s got a case. They do own the name… in theory. But, then again, maybe not. And the full-page ad you see above is their latest move in this ongoing saga. Here’s the deal: Cisco’s owned the name since 2000, when they bought Netgear Infogear. But they haven’t used it in a product up until December 2006 (that’s, like, a few weeks ago, by the way), UPDATE: when they started shipping a VoIP device through Linksys, a company they apparently bought in 2003. Well, it turns out you can’t just sit on a name; you have to actively use it in the marketplace or risk losing it, and Cisco had simply not been using the name. That’s why there’s a decent chance Apple could win the lawsuit and be able to keep using iPhone, essentially giving Cisco the finger.

Cisco obviously knows this, and they’re taking steps. As you can see in the above image, they took an expensive full-page ad in the NYT, touting their version of the iPhone, as if it was their most cherished product. It’s a direct challenge to Apple, with the words “More than talk!” in bold; likely a reference to Steve Jobs saying the Apple’s iPhone was built around voice. So, why would they do this? Either to consolidate their claim on the name, or to confuse the marketplace in the hope of diluting Apple’s future benefit from the use of the name.

If this is the beginning of a larger ad campaign from Cisco, you could end up with a situation where you have enough consumers confused about the iPhone (“Which one’s which, again?”), and where both products could suffer, though Apple stands to lose more from this than Cisco does. In a way, Cisco would be saying “If we can’t hold on to that name, we’re gonna do our damndest so the name becomes useless to you.” Is it too little too late? Time will tell, but once thing is sure: this ad is a clear message to Apple that Cisco has no intention of bending forward and grabbing ankles.

VIA [ Gearlog ]

Today’s Top Tech: AllFreeCalls Lets You Do Just That

allfreecallsBy David Ponce

The real Top Story? Come on! Windows Vista’s in store. Go spend some money.

Now, let’s just start by saying this isn’t, for once, about VoIP. This is about ridiculous regulatory loopholes, and how some clever folks are able to exploit something (or someone… no one’s really sure), to give consumers a cool (free!) product, at least for the moment. If you’ve always wanted to make free calls to one of 41 specific countries from your mobile, or landline, you’re in luck. AllFreeCalls gives you an Iowa number to call (712-858-8094). Once you’ve called it, you can then dial your destination number free of charge or time restrictions, provided it’s one of the supported countries. The only cost to you might be the long distance to Iowa, though several cellular providers have nixed long distance charges within the US. There’s nothing to install, no need for a PC, a hotspot, EDGE, 3G or whatever. It uses the POTS, and some dumb laws. Apparently.

Here’s how we think it works. There seems to be some sort of regulation in Iowa that gives rural telcos a kickback for every call received… Yeah, they get money for you to call them (go figure). And that amount happens to be larger than what it costs them to patch you through to your destinations, so they can operate in the black. Supported countries include Australia, Belgium, and Bengladesh, to only name a few. It’s not clear exactly who is giving the telco these kickbacks, just what the specific legislation is, nor whether it’s the taxpayer that’s picking up the tab in the end (it probably is). But, well, who cares, right?

Check it out while it still works. Bureaucrats have a knack for clamping down on free.

[ AllFreeCalls ] VIA [ Techcrunch ]

Today’s Top Tech: Blu-ray Cracked

bluray logoBy David Ponce

Today, once more, we could talk about the true top story: Yahoo! posted Q4 and 2006 earnings. Everyone’s talking about that, but it’s kind of boring. This is all you need to know: they beat expectations, they’re happy, but a little cautious about 2007. Semel’s putting small fires out, but there’s nothing to get anyone’s panties up in a bunch.

The more interesting news is that Blu-ray technology has been cracked. A while ago, HDDVD fell under the prodigious hacking of one “muslix64″, from the Doom9 forums. And he’s at it again, this time successfully extracting “backup” video from Lord Of War, from Lion?s Gate Films. A small, Alpha (meaning barely tested and potentially unstable) utility has been released, and it’s called BackupBluRay.

Of course, the issue of whether there is a demand for HD backup files is another topic altogether. These files will be difficult to distribute via P2P for various reasons: they’re extremely large, so less people will want to wait. Less people will want to seed them. Less people will want to have them on their hard drives. Not to mention that it’s not yet possible to burn them back into Blu-ray, so you have to watch the HD film on your PC.

Still, now Blu-ray and HDDVD are cracked.

VIA [ Wesley Tech ]

Today’s Top Tech: WordPress 2.1, Codename “Ella”, Released

wordpress logoBy David Ponce

Today, a new version of WordPress came out. Version 2.1, named Ella after the famous jazz singer, comes with a truckload of new features that will eventually make even the most die hard non-upgraders want to take the plunge. Aside from fixing over 550 bugs, here’s a quick rundown of the new features that we feel are important.

- Autosave.
- Tabbed editor to go from WYSIWYG to HTML editing easily.
- The ability to set any “page” to be the front page of the site, making it easier to use WP as a CMS.
- New upload manager.
- New version of anti-spam king Akismet.

There’s a bunch more stuff, of course, so head on down there and grab yourself a copy. Or, wait a little to see what everyone is saying about it, then upgrade. Just to be safe. That’s what we’re going to do; the ole wait-and-see.

[ Development Blog ] AND [ Download Page ]

Today’s Top Tech: MySpace Sued By Angry Parents

By David Ponce

MySpace and parent company News Corp. are being sued by four families whose daughters myspace logowere molested by adults they met of the site. They charge that MySpace did too little too late to implement security measures that could have helped prevent such an outcome, and are alleging negligence, recklessness, fraud and negligent misrepresentation by the companies. They are seeking (you guessed it) monetary damages “in the millions of dollars

Now, we’re on the fence a little on this one. On the one hand, we agree that MySpace has some responsibility to create an environment that doesn’t make it so easy for sexual predators to play their games. A social networking site shouldn’t turn into a meat market for pedophiles and we agree that the corporation should at least try to create a safe environment.

On the other hand, whatever happened to responsible parenting? Whatever happened to watching over your own children, and teaching them about these sorts of things? Parents too busy? There was a time when parents told their kids not ever to get into a stranger’s car, even if he offered you some shiny lollipops. Why is it so hard to tell your kids never to trust an online stranger?

Opinions?

[ MySpace Lawsuit ]

Today’s Top Tech: Apple Posts $1B In Profits

apple logoBy David Ponce

The real top tech news today is about Brightcove and how they managed to raise $59.5M in funding. They are (yawn…) yet another internet TV company, only proving what we already know: internet TV is hot. Yes, we get it.

So, instead today, we’ll just tell you about Apple, and how they’ve just announced a cool billion (with a “b”) in profits for the last quarter. That’s $1B in profits, from $7.1B in revenue; $7.1B worth of iPods, Macs and whatever other Apple branded goodness the Cupertino Oven bakes. This represents a 24% growth in revenue and 78% growth in earnings. Considering most PC companies are happy to post single digit growth, this last financial showing from Apple proves that it is indeed leaving its simple computer manufacturer ethos behind and becoming a full blown consumer electronics manufacturer. If you thought dropping the “Computers” from “Apple Computers” was done on a whim, you better think again.

Oh, and how much of this comes from the mighty iPod and music sales? 58%

[ Apple Press Release ]

Today’s Top Tech: Netflix Announces Free Video On Demand

netflixBy David Ponce

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s top tech news, today comes word that Netflix is entering the downloadable (streamable rather) movie business as well; another player in an already overcrowded field. Oh, and did we mention: no one is really sure that there’s all that much of a big market for watching movies on your PC… Anyway, here’s the story.

A select number of Netflix’s 6 million subscribers will be allowed to download a special piece of software, with which they’ll be able to stream DVD quality movies right to their PC, from their Netflix account. For free. The free part is what’s got people relatively excited. Of course, you can’t save the stuff, let alone copy it to DVD. And free doesn’t mean unlimited either: members are allotted a specific amount of time, usually in proportion to the type of membership they hold. Most will get 18 hours a month, some more, some less. They will be able to select from 1,000 titles, including stuff from NBC Universal, Sony Pictures, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers and others. Yeah, it’s a lot less than their 70,000 strong title catalogue, but the service should expand with time.

And how are they getting away with making this free? They’re throwing $40M at it, to cover royalties and overhead, and which aside from wiping out most of their operating profit, could turn out to be simply wasted in a field already somewhat full. At least if Apple, Amazon, MovieLink, CinemaNow and Joost have anything to do with it.

[ Netflix's Press Release ] VIA [ NY Times ]

Today’s Top Tech: The Venice Project To Be Named “Joost”

joostBy David Ponce

The Venice Project, the upcoming online television startup from Kazaa and Skype founders has now acquired an official name: Joost. While we won’t comment on the name itself, let us give you a quick summary of the service in case you’re not familiar.

Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis are two Swedish men with a knack for creating disruptive technology. First they turned the music distribution model on its head with Kazaa (sure, Napster came first, but Kazaa took it to the masses), then they poked a huge hole into the phone business with Skype. Both services share P2P at the core of their technology. And now, they’re set to take on yet another ailing institution: television.

For the last few months, they’ve been working on a project that until now has been named The Venice Project. Now named Joost, the service will consist of a downloadable software based on the Mozilla framework. It aims to improve and build upon what the likes of YouTube, Metacafe and Brightcove are doing by giving both content users and producers superior video distribution (and monetization) tools.

And let me tell you, it all looks very purdy. Right now, the service is still in Beta, but we’ve included a bunch of screenshots inside.

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