pfir | 2 Oct 00:01 2008

Where's Elvis? -- Dueling DVD Copying Lawsuits

                    Where's Elvis? -- Dueling DVD Copying Lawsuits


Greetings.  Here we go again.  A pair of dueling lawsuits between
the motion picture industry and Rob Glaser's RealNetworks have
materialized, this time surrounding Real's release of a DVD copying
program -- "RealDVD" -- that includes some unilateral restrictions
on created copies.

I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not a fan of DVD piracy.  Nor am I an
expert on the intricacies of the legal differences between DVD
piracy and fair use copying -- clearly an evolving area of law.

But one aspect of all this seems obvious to me.  Elvis has already
left the building!  

Unless our goal is the full employment of itinerant attorneys, these
sorts of lawsuits -- on both sides -- tend mainly to divert
resources from the broader range of intellectual property issues
that truly deserve our attention.

DVD ripping and copying is impossible to stop at this late stage.
Here's 1.65 million reasons why in a single URL:

The DVD Decrypter program is -- obviously -- ubiquitous.  While its
development stopped sometime back, it's still perfectly capable of
(Continue reading)

pfir | 6 Oct 19:03 2008

Sour Grapes: Missing the Point About Google Android and the G1

      Sour Grapes: Missing the Point About Google Android and the G1


Greetings.  I've recently written a number of items related to
Google Android and the first Android phone, the HTC G1, due to hit
the streets in a couple of weeks or so.  I've suggested that Android
is a "game changer" in terms of mobile applications, and despite an
inability to be used in 3G mode on other than the T-Mobile network
(even if unlocked), I've been impressed with what I've seen of the
G1 (my current phone is an HTC WM5-based PDA, so I have some
experience with HTC products).

Despite my debunking of Google Android conspiracy theories 
( ), I continue to receive
e-mail from iPhone diehards who still seem to be (either purposely
or innocently) missing the key points of why Android is potentially
such a positive development in the mobile communications industry.

Folks have been sending me excerpts from various "G1 vs. iPhone"
articles around the Web that do their best to tear down the G1 and
Android.  Typical talking points from such articles and messages:

 - The G1 is bulkier than the iPhone
 - The G1 doesn't have the same beautiful industrial design as the G1
 - The G1 doesn't have a "multitouch" screen (you can't "pinch" images)
 - Android is dangerous since there is no central control over applications

The physical differences between this first Android phone and iPhone
(Continue reading)

pfir | 11 Oct 06:02 2008

Verizon Wireless Plans To Charge (Soak) Both Ends of SMS Text Messages

    Verizon Wireless Plans To Charge (Soak) Both Ends of SMS Text Messages


Greetings.  The New York Times has revealed that Verizon Wireless,
who already makes a bloody fortune on the high cost of text (SMS)
messages that they charge Verizon subscribers, now plans to also
start demanding fees from the firms who send text messages to those
same customers 
( ).

The current scheme appears to be for a $0.03 charge per SMS
message.  Doesn't sound like much, but as noted in the old 
"Pajama Game" song "Seven and a Half Cents" 
( ), those pennies add up
fast, especially if you're sending millions of SMS messages to Web
users who have come to depend on those notifications.

On a cost-per-bit basis, text messages can be insanely expensive in
the U.S.  A few months ago, TechCruch calculated 
( ) that at $0.20/msg, AT&T SMS data was
priced at $1,310/MB! 

Note a familiar marketing pattern ...

First, you wait until outside services establish their business
models based on a known cost (in this case SMS charges) incurred by
users.  Then, once those SMS-dependent services are really rolling,
and subscribers are fully dependent, you drastically change the
(Continue reading)

pfir | 14 Oct 03:32 2008

Addams Family or Ned Flanders? The FCC Internet Censorship Battle Heats Up

  Addams Family or Ned Flanders?  The FCC Internet Censorship Battle Heats Up


Greetings.  The FCC appears poised to push ahead with plans to
auction off spectrum to provide "free" nationwide wireless Internet
service, but wants to make sure that the Internet you access this
way is thoroughly culturally shackled.  Even search engines could be
( ).

At issue is a chunk of unused spectrum that a former FCC official
has had his eyes on for quite some time.  John Muleta was head of
the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, then co-founder of M2Z
Networks, Inc.  M2Z wanted the spectrum to set up an Internet
service that would be free and ad-supported at low speeds like 384
Kbs, and a paid service at higher speeds.  And they promised to
filter everything to make the service "family friendly" (so warm and
cuddly that phrase).  

When the Commission didn't move fast enough for M2Z's liking, M2Z
sued.  The FCC decided that they wanted to auction off the spectrum,
but auction rules to many observers appear to favor M2Z.  The
Commission also bought into M2Z's concept that the service must be
"family friendly" content filtered (that is, content censored).

Today we learn that the FCC has determined that use of the spectrum
won't interfere with T-Mobile's adjacent 3G services -- a point of
strong disagreement with T-Mobile -- and that the Commission plans
(Continue reading)

pfir | 16 Oct 00:13 2008

Agenda for Internet Issues Discussion on National Radio Sunday Night

     Agenda for Internet Issues Discussion on National Radio Sunday Night


Greetings.  This coming Sunday night (10/19), from 11 PM PDT to 2 AM
PDT Monday morning (yep, three hours) I'll be discussing a wide
range of Internet-related topics as the guest on the nationally
(actually internationally available) syndicated "Coast to Coast AM"
(C2C) radio show ( ).  While I've been
on the show numerous times before, I don't usually have much notice
in advance or a wide open agenda, so this time I have the
opportunity to ask for your assistance beforehand.

C2C is an interesting creature indeed.  Originated by Art Bell many
years ago, it's now mostly hosted by George Noory.  It's the
500-pound gorilla of late night radio, on over 500 stations plus
satellite radio and Internet, with millions of nightly listeners.

While widely known for its focus on UFOs, the paranormal, and other
"far out" topics, it also features mainstream guests (I assume that
I fall into this category) discussing more "conventional" topics
(Wired: "Coast to Coast is No Wack Job" 
 - ).

I've found the show to be a great forum for discussing technology
topics where I'm not just "preaching to the choir" -- and some of
the best questions I've ever been asked about these topics have been
from C2C listeners (OK, I've gotten some pretty odd questions too,
but that's part of the package).
(Continue reading)

pfir | 22 Oct 03:46 2008

Fears of Google Android Wiretaps and More -- Plus a "Security Proposal"

    Fears of Google Android Wiretaps and More -- Plus a "Security Proposal"


Greetings.  First, I'd like thank everyone who sent me topic
suggestions for last Sunday night's radio show 
( ).  I was able to touch
on a number of the suggestions and I hope we did them justice within
the constraints of format and time.

Now to the subject at hand.  With the first Google Android phone
(the HTC G1) hitting the streets nationally tomorrow (though some
pre-orders are already arriving, and the San Francisco T-Mobile
store is starting to sell them today) reactions to my glowing
endorsements of the Android open development and deployment model
have been arriving at an increasing pace.  Many of these reactions
are negative and sometimes rather accusatory.

My view is that Android represents a massive sea change in mobile
technology, with enormously positive potential implications for both
consumer and corporate applications.

Quite a few people are taking me to task for this opinion, and
they're suggesting that Android will bring a "pestilence" of
dangerous and contaminated applications that will destroy users'
data, wreck whatever remains of the U.S. economy, and (judging by
the intensity of some statements I've received) perhaps also disrupt
the space-time continuum. 

(Continue reading)

pfir | 28 Oct 18:08 2008

Surprise! Google Android G1 Apparently Can "Multi-Touch" After All

      Surprise! Google Android G1 Apparently Can "Multi-Touch" After All


Greetings.  As consumer electronics devices become increasingly
complex internally, the differences between hardware capabilities
and software limitations can be ever more difficult to discern from
the outside.  And intellectual property issues can cast a long
shadow on both the hardware and software aspects.

Case in point -- the HTC Google Android G1.  A frequently cited
"shortcoming" of the G1 (though in my opinion by no means a crucial
issue) is the supposed like of iPhone-style "multi-touch" (also
known as "multitouch" -- that is, the iPhone "pinch" and "expand"
touchscreen gestures).  

Most reviewers have assumed that this is a fundamental limitation of
the G1 hardware -- a presumed inability to sense more than one
simultaneous touch on the screen, like an old-style keyboard without
key rollover.  

This appears to be an incorrect assumption.

With the G1 now in the wild, videos are appearing that seem to
definitively demonstrate -- through clever manipulation of the
Android interface -- that multi-touch capabilities *are*
present in the G1 hardware.  

Here is one example:
(Continue reading)

pfir | 29 Oct 01:04 2008

Google Book Search Lawsuits Settled -- And Global Internet Compliance Guidelines

                   Google Book Search Lawsuits Settled --
                 And Global Internet Compliance Guidelines


Greetings.  I've have two very positive moves associated with Google
to report, both related to issues of comparatively long standing.

First, the years-old pending lawsuits related to Google Book Search
are apparently being settled
( ).

Here are more details:

I spoke -- or rather sang -- about those suits (tongue-in-cheek, of
course) last year in my "Modern Major Googler" Gilbert and Sullivan
parody song ( ).

This settlement is great news.  I've long expressed two rather
conflicting opinions about Book Search.  As someone who used to hang
out in libraries picking out books at random, I find the service to
be absolutely delightful
( ).

But I've also long been concerned about the specific manner in which
Google was dealing with copyrighted works without payments being
made to authors.

(Continue reading)

pfir | 30 Oct 22:29 2008

T-Mobile Stores Will Apparently "Price Match" Wal-Mart's Lower G1 Price

     T-Mobile Stores Will Apparently "Price Match" Wal-Mart's Lower G1 Price


Greetings.  The HTC Google Android G1 world is all atwitter over word that
Wal-Mart will shortly be selling the G1 (at least to new T-Mobile customers)
for about $30 less than we've been paying at T-Mobile stores (shades of the
original iPhone price drop controversy!)

We knew that there would be price drops, and come "Black Friday" shopping
later this year even steeper discounts seem likely.

Still, it's irritating after only a week.  Is this enough to make you want
to return the phone to T-Mobile and deal with Wal-Mart?  Hmm.  Problematic
to say the least.  But there is a principle involved.  We should be used to
being fleeced in the hi-tech consumer electronics sector by this time, but
it still bumps up the blood pressure.

However, I have confirmed a rumor (at least as far as my local
company-operated T-Mobile store is concerned) that they'll credit the
difference if you bring in a Wal Mart ad promoting the G1 and your original
G1 receipt.  (Anyone see one of these Wal-Mart ads yet?)

I should note that this offer may only apply to new T-Mobile customers who
bought their phones in the T-Mobile stores.  It is not clear at this point
whether similar arrangements will be available to T-Mobile pre-order or
upgrade customers.

While I'm on the T-M topic, I'll mention that I've bumped up the concerns
(Continue reading)

pfir | 31 Oct 20:41 2008

How to Destroy Yahoo

                              How to Destroy Yahoo


Greetings.  It is being reported that after continuing resistance
from DOJ and other quarters, Google and Yahoo may be on the verge of
calling off their proposed ad sharing arrangement 
( ). 

While I understand the concerns raised by detractors of the plan, I
can't help but feel that collapse of the partnership would be a
gigantic nail in Yahoo's coffin, and ultimately a blow
*against* vibrant competition in the ad serving marketplace.

The Google/Yahoo proposal represents a means to get cash to Yahoo at
just the time when Yahoo needs it most.  If the plan vaporizes, the
odds of Yahoo continuing for very long as a stand-alone enterprise
would seem markedly worsened.  This would ultimately most likely
represent a significant contraction of competition, not an

My gut feeling is that a lot of folks complaining about this
proposed arrangement couldn't care less about Yahoo -- or the real
state of ad competition. What they really want to do is simply
"stick it" to Google.  If Yahoo disintegrates, and we end up with
even less ad competition in the long run -- oh well, them's the
breaks seems to be the prevailing attitude amongst this crowd.

For anyone genuinely interested in ad serving competition, this
(Continue reading)