Technology News

Monday, October 31, 2005

Google Discovers Appeasement Doesn't Work

Back in August, Google announced that, due to various complaints, they were going to stop scanning books from various libraries to try to come up with a way to make authors and publishers feel more comfortable with the project. Since that time, organizations representing both authors and publishers have sued Google -- so apparently the "appeasement" part of the plan isn't working very well. If that's the case, why stop scanning? So, sometime next week, Google plans to get right back to scanning.

[via TechDirt]

Friday, October 28, 2005

Google: If It's Advertising, We Can Sell It

Ok, ok. We get it. Google is an advertising company. All those billions they're making are from advertising. Everything they do, pretty much, is about advertising. So, a couple of months ago, it wasn't that surprising to find out that they were trying to sell ads in magazines and it shouldn't come as a surprise to find out they're looking to sell TV spots as well. Remember when dot coms used to just buy Superbowl TV ads? Now, apparently, they'll be selling them as well. Of course, it still remains to be seen how much efficiency Google can really add to the process. With online advertising they did make it much more efficient and accurate. You could see them trying to add some efficiency by making it easier to upload and manage advertising assets (using Google base, for example, as the platform), but the distribution just doesn't lend itself to the same type of efficiency found online. Still, when it came to print ads, apparently some companies found the association with Google to be worth a premium -- and perhaps they can leverage that in the TV world as well. In the meantime, we await Google's next advertising foray, where they attempt to sell pieces of the sky for your ads. Remember how Larry and Sergey were so interested in space elevators? Of course, if they did that, they'd have to fight for the patent -- because someone already owns the idea of ads in space.

[via TechDirt]

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What's The Damage When An Ad Is Copied?

Lots of folks are buzzing over the fact that the latest iPod commercial from Apple starring Eminem looks an awful lot like a commercial for boots from a few years ago. The still shots from each ad certainly do show a striking resemblance. However, while the ads may be similar, is there really grounds for any kind of lawsuit? From the article it sounds like some of the parties are angry about it, but the only discussion of suing is hinted at in the last line of the article where an exec at the company behind the first ad says that they're going to "take all the steps... to protect our rights." Just what rights are those? Is there really any confusion caused by the ads? Are people going to start thinking that Apple is endorsing the boots, or the boot company is endorsing Apple? If anything, Apple has a much stronger brand name than the boot company -- so this whole thing is probably giving the boot company a lot more publicity than any "harm" to their brand. It seems like yet another case where someone feels they need to protect their "intellectual property" because they can, rather than because it makes good business sense. Unless, of course, the company is counting on the fact that by stirring up the pot with lawsuit threats they're increasing the publicity, without having to actually having to file any lawsuit. Either way, if a lawsuit is filed, it may be quite difficult for the boot company to show any kind of damages. As a random aside, last we heard, Eminem was suing Apple over their use of one of his songs in a commercial. Apparently that situation was resolved.

[via TechDirt]

Between The Gadgets And Breakfast, Who Has Time To Watch The Road?

When it comes to drive distractions, the one most people talk about is talking on a mobile phone. It's become politically popular to ban talking on a phone -- and there is plenty of evidence that it is quite distracting. However, it raises questions about specifically targeting certain behaviors rather than simply targeting bad or dangerous driving. While one approach is to ban driving distractions one by one, it looks like that list is only going to get much longer over time. The NY Times is running a series of articles on cars and car culture, including one that looks at how gadgets in cars are on the rise, including just fancier, more distracting dashboards, and another on how common it is for people to eat and drive, leading to a whole business in providing in-car eating accessories. What becomes clear very quickly is that it's just part of the way we view driving -- and everyone's willing to help out, from automakers who add new flashing gizmos and gadgets along with special in-car spaces for fast food containers to the fast food restaurants who hand out driver placemats and study their meals to make sure they're less likely to drip on drivers' laps. While lawmakers may start trying to cut down on each of these, there are always going to be some new form of driver distractions, and focusing on bad or dangerous driving still seems to make a lot more sense.

[via TechDirt]

Apple Took All The Chips, Creative Says

MP3 player manufacturer Creative says there's an industry-wide shortage of flash memory that will make it hard to deliver 1GB flash players. It's a shortage that's affecting everybody but Apple -- and Creative blames it on Apple's "special deal" with Samsung to buy up a large amount of its quarterly flash-memory production. It also sounds like Creative's CEO is blaming Apple for putting price pressure on the industry that a lot of companies can't handle. His response? Raise prices. Sounds like that should work, because if people favor a rival's product, raising the price of your own will certainly make it more attractive. Maybe the real problem is that a Creative MP3 player never made anybody king of the Internet.

[via TechDirt]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Boston Airport WiFi Spat Now A "Security" Issue

Massport, which runs Boston's Logan Airport, has for some time been trying to force airlines to use its paid-access WiFi network in the airport instead of operating their own. This clearly usurps the authority of the FCC to regulate unlicensed spectrum -- authority the FCC has made clear belongs to it alone. Now, Massport is attempting to paint the issue as one of security, which American Airlines says masks the real reason the airport wants everyone to use its network -- money. Massport says that every airline running its own network "could jam radio frequencies used by the State Police and Transportation Security Administration", since apparently the TSA is testing using the airport network. Glenn Fleishman rightly wonders why critical emergency or security communications would use an unlicensed band, rather than dedicated public safety spectrum. Massport's security argument is bunk, and American's lawyer says that throughout talks about WiFi stretching back to last May, the airport's concerns were strictly commercial in nature. The bottom line is, whatever Massport believes, its authority doesn't supercede that of the FCC.

[via TechDirt]

Tracking Traffic Via Cell Phones

There are plenty of companies around that want to send traffic data to mobile phones so people can avoid jams. But some are also working to get traffic data from cell phones, by monitoring their movements along roads and highways to get an idea of how well traffic is flowing. The idea's been around for a while and was tested in Finland a few years ago, and now the state of Missouri has awarded a contract for a company to track phones across the entire state. While the Department of Transportation promises all the information will be anonymous and won't be used for any other purpose, privacy advocates are concerned that the next step will be to track speeders or to monitor people's movements surreptitiously. But the system seems like it would suffer from many of the same pitfalls as the earlier Finnish one, and inaccuracy could cause it more problems than invasions of privacy. For instance, how can it differentiate between 30 cars with just a driver and a bus with 30 passengers, or be able to distinguish between a number of people near a road, but not moving and stopped traffic? There are a lot of unanswered questions about how the system will work, and indeed, how well it will work. And for less than $3 million a year to monitor 5,500 miles of roads, it almost sounds too good to be true.

[via TechDirt]

States Still Looking At Laws Requiring eBay Users To Talk Fast

Perhaps we've found the real reason eBay overpaid for Skype: eBay users need some practice talking really fast. Earlier this year, we wrote about a series of obsolete state laws on auctions that failed to anticipate the internet and would technically require many eBay-based businesses to get an auctioneer's license including lots of training and classes in how to speak fast. Apparently, nothing has changed. Many states are still exploring what their laws mean for eBay sellers -- mainly for those in the consignment business, rather than the person next door selling their old stereo or whatever. Still, it's interesting that these states seem to be focusing on deciding whether or not existing state laws apply to eBay sellers, rather than whether or not it makes any sense at all -- and if, it doesn't, about changing the laws to actually apply to today's world.

[via TechDirt]

Monday, October 10, 2005

The New Obsession With Online Mapping

After the initial burst of online maps from Yahoo and Mapquest, it had seemed like the online map world had settled down, other than an occasional complaint that the maps or driving directions were wrong. That completely changed recently when online maps became "hot" again, as the existing companies started upgrading their mapping features and new entrants like Google and Amazon/A9 entered the space. Now, it seems like everyone is talking about online maps. Both Wired and CNET have stories about online mapping this morning. has a completely random and totally unscientific test comparing a single set of directions across a bunch of the sites (and then comparing it to how a single, randomly chosen, taxi driver would drive the same route). Meanwhile, Wired is running a short piece about how more readily available maps change the way people do things, whether it's where to place new McDonald's franchises to the latest map mashups that are suddenly becoming popular.

[via TechDirt]

HBO Fights Back Against Torrents

Cable network HBO is the latest entertainment company to actively try to stop file-sharing of its content, apparently "poisoning" BitTorrent downloads of episodes of its show Rome. Basically they are alleged to have put up BitTorrent peers that say they have entire episodes available for sharing, then just pass garbage instead of actual pieces of the file. The strategy appears to be ineffective as well as stupid, as most newer BitTorrent clients have features to defeat this type of attack. The demand for downloads of the show indicates there's a demand for it that's not being met by HBO's traditional distribution, but like other companies before, HBO doesn't appear to realize it. Other TV networks are beginning to experiment with making shows available online, illustrating that the right reponse is figuring out a way to monetize downloading, not trying to stop it.

[via TechDirt]