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Old 11-04-07, 11:25 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2001
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - April 14th, '07

Founded in 2002

"This is an incredible achievement when you consider Kate Walsh is unsigned and still outsold several major international artists." – Oliver Schusser

"It is surreal, almost. Sometimes I forget we are 1,000 miles apart. I'm in his living room and he is in mine. I can't express in words how important that connection is." – Jeff Heyel

"Let's be honest, next-generation DVDs offered the promise of managed copy, which was the ability to rip your DVD and put it on your PC and stream it around your house and all this other stuff...None of that has come to fruition. So why don't these guys focus on enabling those functionalities instead of trying to thwart the minority that are trying to hack content?" – Josh Martin

"HD files are so enormous. It takes too long for them to download, store and manage." – Josh Martin

"In tests based upon real files downloaded from today's peer-to-peer networks, SET improved the transfer time of an MP3 music file by 71 percent." – Carnegie Mellon University

"This is a technique that I would like people to steal." – David G. Andersen

"Coined the word 'Weblog' (never made a dime)." – Jorn Barger

"Thank God the Internet is difficult to close down, but I think they will go after journalists who write things they don't like." – Vladimir Rakhmankov

"I’m scathed. Are you crazy? How am I unscathed by this? Don’t you think I’m humiliated?" – Don Imus

"You’re not as humiliated as young black women are." – Rev. Al Sharpton

"Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free." – George Christian

"`Trust us' doesn't cut it when it comes to the government's power to obtain Americans' sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage." – Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis

"Yes, I arrive at the [Imus] studio at 5 a.m. each day, but before I do, on my way out I shine my lawn jockeys, and then I stop at the cemetery and knock over Jewish tombstones. Oh please." – Bernard McGuirk

Impulse Power

Azureus has changed the name of its pay-per-download venture Zudeo. Now called Vuze (like views) the aim is to join a growing list of vendors selling quality content online. They do have an angle though: they want to sell it in Hi-Def. Big, beautiful high definition movies – right through your little copper telephone wire and into your living room. Fresh out of beta, it sounds great in the press release, I just don’t know how they expect to overcome the bandwidth limits.

There’s a piece in last weeks WiR about a guy named Cameron. Seems he ran into problems with his ISP for exuberant downloading. He used more than they liked. They cut him off. It’s a familiar story, but with his downloads approaching 600 gigs a month he beats my personal best by a factor of two – when I’m running flat out. I’m not jealous mind you (well, maybe a little), but it does underscore the fact that even at his impressive speeds it’ll still take him almost a full day to grab a 15 GB HD movie, and closer to three for a Blu-Ray. But wait. He doesn’t have those speeds anymore, because he’s been throttled. It may take him a month to grab a high definition movie now. And that’s it isn’t it? Most people just don’t have the throughput for HD and even if they do it doesn’t make much difference when they can’t use it. ISPs really don’t appreciate these users.

They may eventually grow on them though, especially if heavyweights like ATT light up their fiber and begin offering projected asymmetrical speeds of 25 Mbps, although after hearing the promises for years I’m not holding my breath (Verizon is now rolling out 50-100 Mbps but they’re a smaller company). The thing is, even if these speeds do materialize - even the ones pledged - downloading true HD content, whether for free or for fee, will be a consumer’s time consuming affair. Building a business around it is premature. I’m not sure snapping up stock in Azureus will be a smart move, not if they’re banking on high-definition to separate themselves from the wolf pack.

The long awaited telco revolution hasn’t happened yet and very few people enjoy these super speeds at present. There isn’t a guarantee the rest of us will see them any time soon, if ever, unfettered at least, not with the massive debt loads these ballooning companies have taken on with acquisitions and other non-network follies. Furthermore the ISPs may decide to raise rates and cap transfers, holding captive users hostage for what network improvements they are making, putting third party business models into that much more jeopardy.

For the foreseeable future the only kind of remotely practical way for most individuals to get true high-definition content is by either purchasing it physically or sharing it personally. You know, carrying a hard drive around and doing box-to-box hook-ups. Sneakerware basically. Works great and it’s lightning fast but it’s limited geographically. If you’ve been in the States breezily bouncing bits off a bounteous babe in Byzantium you’re going to need some big new things to bone up on. Like international postal rates for instance.

There’re a lot of great things happening in P2P but in spite of its undisputed prowess for moving content it will always be a captive of bandwidth. Electronic transfers have never been the best way to grab huge files quickly, if by quickly one means impulsively, and I do. If you must have blinding speed and the truly global reach of peer-to-peer you’re going to need compression, and that means giving up most of the breathtaking image detail made possible by HD. After grinding off the fragile edges of your favorite film you find the definition isn’t quite as high you thought it would be, you’re back to where you started, perusing those Byzantine postal regulations.

Certain efficiencies can be expected to climb. There’s the Carnegie Mellon University SET protocol that uses statistical "handprinting" to multiply hosts. It’s so new the worldwide code release was scheduled for New England only this week. It won’t increase your incoming bandwidth but it might take advantage of all the speed you do have. Could also be some as yet un-announced compression schemes about to leap from the lab (and we’ll need something new to handle these ever swelling file sizes). If not, one might as well stick to tried and true multi-pass DVD-ripping and swapping.

As for me I have the standard 1.5 Mbps asymmetrical transfer rate from my ISP. This might even be a U.S. average (many are faster, even more are slower). At these speeds it will take me at the very least 5 days running flat out to grab a 50 gig Blu-Ray – but I can’t run flat out – because that kills all my other transfers. I need to reserve at least ten percent for overhead (preferably twenty), so add another day to that total unless I can grab another line for surfing which I’ve managed in the past but with open Wi-Fi signals all but disappearing I can’t count on doing forever. This also assumes someone can upload to me with that much speed over the course of the entire nearly week-long transfer, and notwithstanding BT and SET this has never happened before. Not in seven years anyway. Azureus may have a solution to that one, we’ll have to see. It is another hurdle they’ll need to jump.

Most Blu-Rays aren’t the full fifty gigs of course, and without the add-ons and behind the scenes fluff I don’t want anyway the total file size might be 25 gigs or less, but that’s still a multi-day download from a business essentially selling whims (Whatcha wanna do tonight honey?). It’s not going to fly for Mr. and Mrs. America. They need warp speed for their impulse buy.

Might not be such a bad thing for Mr. and Mrs. Japan though. They enjoy light speed now, and have for a while. Same with Korea and a few other mostly Asian countries. When it comes to bandwidth we’re way behind the curve in the States. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The regulated monopoly telcos were allowed to keep profits far in excess of normal in return for substantial upgrades to their networks. These improvements were supposed to mean speeds comparable to those available in Japan today, and this was back in the nineties. Never happened.

With a new congress in town, might be worth dropping somebody a line and seeing if maybe they could look into that.

As for Vuze, I wish them luck. ISP-neutral high-definition video transfer services are a great idea, even if this one is way ahead of the bandwidth.



April 14th, 2007

Computer Scientists Develop P2P System that Promises Faster Music, Movie Downloads

A Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist says transferring large data files, such as movies and music, over the Internet could be sped up significantly if peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services were configured to share not only identical files, but also similar files.

David G. Andersen, assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, and Michael Kaminsky of Intel Research Pittsburgh have designed such a system, called Similarity-Enhanced Transfer (SET). By identifying relevant chunks of files similar to a desired file, SET greatly increases the number of potential sources for downloads. And boosting the number of sources usually translates into faster P2P downloads, Andersen explains. How much SET could speed up downloads varies based on a number of factors, including the size and popularity of a given file. In some cases, SET might speed transfers by just 5 percent; in others, it might make downloads five times faster.

The researchers, along with graduate student Himabindu Pucha of Purdue University, will present a paper describing SET and release the system code at the 4th Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation, April 11 in Cambridge, Mass.

"This is a technique that I would like people to steal," Andersen said. Though he and his colleagues hope to implement SET in a service for sharing software or academic papers, they have no intention of applying it themselves to movie- or music-sharing services. "But it would make P2P transfers faster and more efficient," he added, "and developers should just take the idea and use it in their own systems."

"In some sense, the promise of P2P has been greater than the reality," Andersen said. By creating many more sources for data files, P2P reduces bottlenecks for data transfers. But residential Internet service providers allot far more bandwidth for downloading than they do for uploading files, an imbalance that continues to slow P2P data transfers. And members of P2P services often limit their computer's upload capacity so it is not tied up with other peoples' uploads.

Like P2P services such as BitTorrent, Gnutella and ChunkCast, SET speeds up data transfers by simultaneously downloading different chunks of a desired data file from multiple sources, rather than downloading an entire file from one slow source. Even then, downloads can be slow because these networks can't find enough sources to use all of a receiver's download bandwidth. That's why SET takes the additional step of identifying files that are similar to the desired file.

No one knows the degree of similarity between data files stored in computers around the world, but analyses suggest the types of files most commonly shared are likely to contain a number of similar elements. Many music files, for instance, may differ only in the artist-and-title headers, but are otherwise 99 percent similar.

Different versions of software packages likewise remain highly similar.

Taking advantage of those similarities could speed downloads considerably. If a U.S. computer user wanted to download a German-language version of a popular movie, for instance, existing systems would probably download most of the movie from sources in Germany. But if the user could download from similar files, the user could retrieve most of the video from English versions readily available from U.S. sources, and download only the audio portion of the movie from the German sources.

SET's basic operation is similar to that of BitTorrent. Once the download of a data file is initiated, the source file is divided into smaller, unique chunks — SET divides a one-gigabyte file into 64,000 16-kilobyte chunks, for instance. Different chunks are downloaded simultaneously from numerous sources that have the identical file, and then the chunks are reassembled into a single file.

But while that process of downloading is under way, SET continues to search for similar files using a process called handprinting, inspired by techniques that have been used for clustering search results or detecting spam. A sampling technique is used to see if non-identical files contain chunks matching those of the desired file. Relevant chunks can then be downloaded from the similar files identified by this method.

In tests based upon real files downloaded from today's peer-to-peer networks, SET improved the transfer time of an MP3 music file by 71 percent. A larger 55-megabyte movie trailer went 30 percent faster using the researchers' techniques to draw from movie trailers that were 47 percent similar. The researchers hope that the efficiency gains from SET will enable the next generation of high-speed online multimedia delivery.

Broadband Services: Who Shapes and Who Doesn’t?

Broadband users are becoming increasingly agitated with broadband providers shaping traffic and with suggestions that certain services may even be blocked on certain networks. MyADSL takes a look at who shapes and who doesn’t.

iBurst causing frustration

The issue of traffic shaping has once again raised its ugly head with iBurst subscribers voicing their frustration in what many call an unfair discrimination against certain Internet services.

Comments like “Well, now that apparently p2p is blocked their total traffic is likely much less than what it used to be and so they are paying the same amount or slightly less money to Telkom yet they've given bigger caps” and “…[it] sucks because we can't use those caps for anything meaningful,” are only two voices amoung a chorus of complaints about iBurst’s traffic shaping policy.

iBurst confirmed that they shape some traffic, but consider it necessary in order to optimize users’ online experience.

“iBurst shapes network traffic so that all applications and data types have a fair share of the available bandwidth based on the relative demand providing preference to protocols and applications which are interactive in nature, in order to optimize users’ online experience,” said Antony McKechnie, Head of Product Development at iBurst.

“P2P protocols are unfortunately extremely data hungry and without traffic management these applications would utilize an unfair proportion of the available network resources, which will affect the Internet access experience for the majority of subscribers. iBurst does not block P2P protocols,” McKechnie pointed out.

Telkom openly prioritizes traffic

Telkom openly discloses their traffic shaping policies and have two separate account types to differentiate between shaped and unshaped bandwidth. Shaped accounts prioritize basic web and email traffic while all traffic is handled equally with unshaped accounts.

For ADSL subscribers’ looking to optimize their online experience for services like online gaming, share trading and other applications using ports other than HTTP, FTP and SMTP, Telkom advises an unshaped ISP account.

Unshaped ADSL accounts are significantly more expensive than the shaped option, and despite the ICASA ADSL Regulations stating that ‘Telkom, SNO and ISPs shall not be allowed to impose port prioritization on their subscribers’ this differentiation remains.

Internet Solutions shapes bandwidth

Internet Solutions (IS) also shapes their traffic, but aims to pass the benefits of unshaped bandwidth on to their subscribers during quiet periods.

“The main traffic that is managed is peer to peer, where, during office hours, this utilisation is managed and reduced for all users. This is a method of managing utilisation of bandwidth to protect other users to be able to use their bandwidth during office hours. After hours, this changes, and peer to peer becomes available again,” IS said.

According to IS their shaping policies are no secret and generally ‘a known fact by most users’.

Verizon Business ADSL

Verizon Business’s ADSL solution, which is starting to make inroads into the SMME and residential market, is completely unshaped.

Verizon Business said that their main aim with their ADSL offering is quality of service, and it is therefore not surprising that they steered clear of prioritizing certain services on their ADSL network.

Sentech moves away from shaping

On its MyWireless Classic products Sentech used to employ some traffic shaping measures, but this policy is a thing of the past with its new MyWireless Flexi products.

This is a welcome change for many MyWireless users who have been upgraded to 1 Mbps recently when the company announced drastic price cuts on all its Flexi products.

Mobile providers say ‘data is data’

Neither MTN nor Vodacom imposes port prioritization on their Internet traffic.

While many recent media reports have suggested that MTN may be blocking or charging more for certain traffic on their network, the mobile squashed these rumours and confirmed that they do not shape traffic or block services on their network.

Vodacom has for a long time said that they see data as data, and does not discriminate between different forms of traffic.

CellC also does not shape or block traffic. “Currently Cell C does not shape traffic, prioritize any traffic or block any type of traffic or services,” CellC’s Vinnie Santu confirmed.

The following table summarizes the traffic shaping from the various providers:

Provider Traffic Shaping Blocking Services

ADSL - Telkom Shaped Yes No
ADSL - Telkom Unshaped No No
ADSL - Verizon Business No No
ADSL - Internet Solutions Yes No
iBurst Yes No
Sentech MyWireless No No
Vodacom HSDPA No No
CellC EDGE No No
Virgin Mobile EDGE No No


We Don't Need No Stinking Best Effort

Net neutrality may have been just a fantasy all along.
Robert X. Cringely

Let me tell you about the problems I am having with my fax line. Fax? Why would anyone still have a fax line? Well I have a few thousand business cards orbiting out there with my fax number attached, but the line also serves quite well as a secure (if slow) access point for remote control software when I am on the road. Or it would serve that role if my fax line actually worked, which it doesn't.

My fax line isn't a regular phone line, it is a Vonage Voice over IP phone line. I have two such lines with the other being my main business number. The business number works reliably, though the audio quality isn't what I would like and there are plenty of dropped bits. But the fax line doesn't work at all. It connects but won't sync no matter what I try. It is already set on the slowest possible speed and I have spent literally hours on the phone with Vonage, which can't find anything wrong.

For all its legal troubles, Vonage has always been a reliable supplier to me and they have made a valiant effort to get this fax line functioning. So what can the problem be?

It's not a lack of bandwidth. I am a Comcast business customer and pay three times the residential rate in exchange for eight megabits down and one megabit up with five static IP addresses, the right to run servers, and what they call a Service Level Agreement.

That's the good news. The bad news is I just tested my 8/1 connection and the actual speeds with tests that Comcast accepts as valid (Comcast service likes the Speakeasy speed test) are 6764 down and 1410 up. That's substantially faster than I am promised upstream but substantially slower than I am promised downstream, yet both are still plenty for a 9600 bps fax, right? Wrong.

When I ask Comcast business about the Service Level Agreement, they snort. I can do the paperwork and demand some money back, they say, but my numbers to them look pretty good and there isn't much they can do to improve them. So Comcast's Service Level Agreement in this case is probably more of a marketing tool than anything else. In terms of actually guaranteeing service levels, it is meaningless.

So why can't I get a fax, then?

I don't know for sure, but I suspect the answer may well lie in an extension of last week's column about net neutrality. In that column I explained that the big broadband ISPs were apparently preparing to offer tiered levels of service and at this point it is a matter of flipping a switch, with the result that Comcast's VoIP might suddenly work a LOT better than Vonage's VoIP, which is to say my fax line.

Well it turns out that I may have, in this case, actually understated the problem. Readers claim that some -- who knows, maybe ALL -- big broadband ISPs are ALREADY running tiered services.

"I used to work at Time-Warner Cable's Road Runner High Speed HQ," wrote one reader, "and as of 2005, TWC marked all VoIP packets with the TOS bit turned to 1. TWC has 5 levels of priority, VoIP having the highest, router tables second, commercial services 3rd, Road Runner consumer 4th and everything else is classified as 'best effort'."


In the strictest sense, this is perfectly in keeping with my point from last week that having a native VoIP service changes the rules of the game when it comes to net neutrality because VoIP in this case is a PHONE service, not an INTERNET service and is therefore not restricted from QoS prioritization. But what about those other service levels? They generally have to do with Internet services and so ought to come under the net neutrality rules.


I went to one of my smartest, best-informed, and most cynical friends who has a long career making these networks work and he wrote, "Well, there are no Net Neutrality rules/laws in place (yet). Correct? So, they can do anything they want, right? Besides, your point about why your fax doesn't work on Vonage may be explained..."

Suddenly it is all beginning to make sense to me.

Last year SBC (now AT&T), Comcast, and other big broadband ISPs began to make noise about how Google wasn't paying them for priority access and should. Feeling threatened, the Internet community tried to push through net neutrality rules that said every packet should be treated equally. The net neutrality rules haven't yet gone through but the ISPs also aren't charging anyone yet for priority access.

Too bad those of us on the side of net neutrality were so naïve. I looked in the RFCs and saw that the Internet was defined as a "best effort" network, which seemed to embody the principles of net neutrality. So, like most other people, I assumed that the de facto state of things was that all packets were being treated equally and what the ISPs were looking for was a change in the status quo.

Silly me.

What turns out to be the case is that some ISPs have all along given priorities to different packet types. What AT&T, Comcast and the others were trying to do was to find a way to be PAID for priority access -- priority access that had long existed but hadn't yet been converted into a revenue stream.

This reminds me of the problems Silicon Graphics (SGI) and NeXT Computer had making their machines work with the Network File System (NFS) protocol back in the late 1980s. NFS was invented by Sun Microsystems and published as an open standard for accessing data on other systems using a remote procedure call. Dozens of vendors supported NFS, but SGI and NeXT couldn't get their machines to interoperate. What turned out to be wrong was that SGI and NeXT both wrote their NFS code from scratch using Sun's published specification, while all the other vendors generally lifted Sun code and concentrated on making their implementations interoperate with Sun's, the de facto standard. BUT SUN'S NFS CODE WASN'T COMPLIANT WITH ITS OWN SPEC.

So lots of we "pundits" have been sitting around believing that the Internet is a "best effort" network, which in practical terms it isn't and probably hasn't been for a long time. We've believed that by being out of compliance with RFCs this combination of QoS and non-QoS services wouldn't work, but they do. And the result is that I can sit here with 100+ times enough bandwidth for fax service and still can't send a damned fax.

We should have seen this coming. When ISPs claimed that private peering arrangements gave them priority routing (a best-effort no-no) we should have believed them. OF COURSE they would give priority for services such as DNS and, frankly, I wouldn't want that any other way.

So instead of a true "best effort" network upon which some ISPs want to impose tiered services, what most of us probably have are already tiered services, which means that net neutrality, if imposed, would make some Internet services slower than they presently are.

Net neutrality threatens ISPs while a regulated lack of net neutrality rewards them, so they push for it.

The reality of this argument, then, is that in the strictest sense net neutrality is already dead and we don't really want it if that means slowing down every page access. At the same time, we have already paid for that bandwidth, so allowing our ISPs to effectively sell it twice seems unfair to users.

What's to be done, then? Well we won't be going back to true net neutrality. Revealing that it had never existed was probably a weapon the ISPs were saving for their final defense of the status quo. In the long run, the ISPs will probably get their way, too, on being paid for access to higher service tiers. But since we've already paid for that bandwidth, I propose the ISPs be made to share their bounty with us.

If an ISP can account for packets on different service levels accurately enough to bill a Google or a Yahoo, then they can take half of the revenue generated by allowing faster access to me and credit that to my account, lowering my bill. I can either take the money and run or apply it toward raising the priority level of some of my own services.

In my case, of course, that would be fax.

DVD Security Group Says It Fixed Flaws
Gary Gentile

The group behind security measures for next-generation DVDs said Monday it has fixed a leak that allowed hackers to discover the keys for unlocking movies on HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Makers of software for playing the discs on computers will offer patches containing new keys and closing the hole that allowed observant hackers to discover ways to strip high-def DVDs of their protection.

Digital rights management protection, or DRM, is intended to prevent copying of the movies. Hackers working late last year and early this year were able to observe computer code found on the PC-based DVD players and discover keys that unlock protections on all high-def discs, so copies could be made.

On Monday, the group that developed the Advanced Access Content System said it had worked with device makers to deactivate those keys and refresh them with a new set.

Companies such as Corel Corp., which owns InterVideo, makers of a popular PC-based playback software, will also distribute more secure versions, said Michael Ayers, chairman of the AACS License Administrator.

"The device keys associated with the InterVideo player are being deactivated and InterVideo has updated its player," Ayers said. "They are taking steps that block off access to the inner workings of the application."

New high-def DVDs will include updated keys and instructions for older versions of the PC-playback software not to play discs until the software patch has been installed.

Corel has told users of its software that failure to download the free patch will disable the ability to play high-def DVDs.

Stand-alone DVD players, such as the Toshiba HD DVD player and the Sony Blu-ray player, are not affected by Monday's announcement. So far, no problems have been found with their security.

Ayers said future assaults by hackers can be similarly fixed by replacing compromised keys with new ones.

"AACS is a high-profile technology and is protecting high-profile content, so we fully expect there will be future attempts," Ayers said.

DRM Patch Only a Bandage: Analyst
Greg Sandoval

A contest of wills has begun between hackers and the maker of software for playing back next-generation DVDs. Skeptics say that the outcome is all too predictable.

Corel Software said in a statement last week that customers must download a new update of its InterVideo WinDVD software if they wish to continue watching HD DVD or Blu-ray discs on PCs.

The move has been anticipated since December, when a hacker accessed the device key used to communicate with the security keys on each movie disc. By compromising the key, the hacker could have made and circulated unauthorized copies of movies. The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator, the group backing the AACS copy-protection format used by both Blu-ray and HD DVD, also announced that it was doing away with the compromised keys.

The creators of AACS, which includes IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Panasonic, anticipated that their security keys might be hacked. To stay a step ahead of the hackers, they designed a system that allowed them to swap out compromised keys.

A security system that anticipates hacks and enables copyright holders to issue new safeguards is considered an improvement in the entertainment business. But others say the only thing it will achieve is a prolonged tug-of-war between stakeholders and pirates, said Yankee Group Research analyst Josh Martin.

"We saw a hack come out less than three months after the hardware for both HD DVD and Blu-ray, and it's a sign of things to come," Martin said. "People with ample time and ample desire will always find a way to crack DRM (digital rights management)."

Corel is developing an automated system to perform security updates, but testing is incomplete, the company said in an e-mail. This means customers will have to download the new software--a requirement that may frustrate some, Martin said.

"We have tremendous confidence in the AACS system and our products' upgraded security," Catherine Hughes, a Corel spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. "Our hope is that we won't have to deal with issues like this in the future. Regardless, by automating all future updates our goal is to ensure that consumers continue to enjoy all of the latest benefits offered through (high-definition) playback without unnecessary disruptions."

Martin said that such attempts to thwart hackers are futile and end up alienating the majority of users, who aren't trying to cheat the system. Martin argues that content, hardware and software makers abandon DRM. He knows that they have to protect their content, he said, but notes that there is a security measure inherent in high-definition video files that would discourage most consumers from pirating them: their size.

"HD files are so enormous," Martin said. "It takes too long for them to download, store and manage."

"Let's be honest," Martin said, "next-generation DVDs offered the promise of managed copy, which was the ability to rip your DVD and put it on your PC and stream it around your house and all this other stuff...None of that has come to fruition. So why don't these guys focus on enabling those functionalities instead of trying to thwart the minority that are trying to hack content?"

Among WinDVD users, there's been some confusion over whether the update will affect only discs that are manufactured after the new keys have been distributed. Not so, said Hughes.

"Our recommendation is for anyone using HD DVD or Blu-ray disc playback to download the update in order to ensure that both their existing titles and newly purchased titles will continue to play," Hughes said. "If someone inserts an HD or Blu-ray disc with the new licensing keys, it will result in HD/BD playback of previous titles being disabled until (users) install the free update."

Xbox 360 HD DVD Drive Exposes Volume ID

The hackers and crackers sure are persistent when it comes to the war on AACS encryption. This time the target was the Xbox 360 HD DVD add on. Geremia on Doom9 forums has started a thread on how he has obtained the Volume ID without AACS authentication. With the aid of others like Arnezami they have managed to patch the Xbox 360 HD DVD add on. The drive in question is the Toshiba SD-S802A or better known as the Xbox360 HD DVD Drive. Remember that recently AACS released a patch for WinDVD, HD DVD and BD players that caused a revocation to the keys used to decrypt HD DVD and BD disc. The update requires that you update your software/hardware or you will never be able to watch newly manufactured HD DVDs or Blu-Ray disc. While this patch isn’t vital yet for those that want to backup their HD DVD collection, it could soon provide the hackers as well as private individuals with the key needed to decrypt the newly manufactured HD DVDs or Blu-Ray disc.

Most people will want to know why this important. I have posted some common questions and answers to make more sense as to why this would benefit you.

Q. What does patching the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive do exactly for me?

A. Patching the HD DVD drive allows us to get the Volume ID of that disc when the disc is inserted in the the HD DVD drive without the need of a special key (called a Host Private Key).

Q. How would flashing my 360 HD DVD drive benefit me?

A. If in several weeks when the new discs are released that contain new Volume IDs, this may be one of the few ways to get the Volume ID which is needed to decrypt/backup your discs.

Q. Do i need to patch my HD DVD drive now?

A. No, but when the new HD DVD disc are released you could patch your drive to obtain the new Volume ID to make backups like before.


It appears that XT5 has released a application that allows the Volume ID to be read without the need to rewrite the firmware. This would mean that anyone could simply plug in the HD DVD drive and obtain the Volume ID from any HD DVD without the hassle of flashing it. Good work XT5

Steve Jobs’ DRM Double Standard

Now that a major record label has finally consented to sell music without DRM restrictions it would be easy to portray Steve Jobs as a hero of the anti-DRM movement. After all, it was just two months ago that Jobs published his scathing letter criticizing the music industry for its reliance on DRM.

The problem is, Steve Jobs isn’t really an anti-DRM crusader. In fact, he has a pretty obvious double standard when it comes to DRM. Jobs has made it clear that when we talk about the death of DRM we’re really only talking about the death of DRM for music. As Jobs said during Monday’s press conference:

“Video’s pretty different than music because the video industry does not distribute 90% of its content DRM-free — never have. So I think they’re in a pretty different situation.”

Spoken like the single largest shareholder of the Disney Corporation.

While it’s true that copy protection schemes have been around since the advent of home video, it’s also true that DRM for video downloads is subject to all of the same issues that Jobs identified in his rant against DRM for music.

Video copy protection schemes don’t actually protect content. While it’s true that almost all commercial DVD’s contains copy protection, it’s well known that that copy protection doesn’t actually protect the content on the DVDs. High quality copies of protected DVD content are easily available through file sharing networks. This is one of the main problems with DRM. It punishes honest consumers by limiting their options, while pirates can easily gain access to digital content that is free of any limitations.

DRM for video downloads is proprietary and device dependent. You simply can’t compare the copy protection systems used for analog video tape or even DVDs to the DRM systems being used for digital video downloads. The current generation of digital DRM schemes are device dependent and incompatible. While consumers may have grown used to copy protection on video products, they haven’t had much experience with the proprietary DRM that Apple, Microsoft, and others will be offering through various incompatible download services.

Consumer lock-in is just as much a problem for digital video as it is for digital music. DRM locks consumers in to a single brand player and content provider. As a result of the proprietary nature of Apple, Microsoft, and other DRM systems used to protect video content, consumers are essentially locked-in to their current platform. That was never the the case with DVD or analog video copy protection. When your DVD player dies you aren’t limited to a single brand player when you go shopping for a replacement.

The battle against DRM is far from over. Consumers who download digital video will, apparently, be stuck with DRM for some time to come.

Just don’t expect Steve Jobs to start railing against DRM for video any time soon.


DRM, Lock-Ins, and Piracy: all Red Herrings for a Music Industry in Trouble
Eric Bangeman

A British media research company has peered into the music industry's crystal ball, and the outlook for the next couple of years isn't so hot. Global music sales will drop to $23 billion in 2009, just over half of 1997's $45 billion and down 16 percent from 2006. The biggest reason for the steep decline is a drop in CD sales, which Enders Analysis believes will not be fully offset by digital sales in the next five years.

Is piracy to blame? Is DRM the solution? Enders Analysis says no, instead laying the blame for the industry's sliding sales at the feet of the record labels. "As we analyze the industry's core challenges... we consistently find that the industry has lost the ability to influence and control its future," reads the report's executive summary. "Worse, the industry has often appeared caught short, and its reactions accordingly wrong-footed."

Where did the industry go wrong? At the height of the rush to DRM, the record labels decided to put their money behind expensive and ultimately unattractive subscription services at a time when Napster 1.0's popularity was it its peak. The industry favored an approach where consumers would be locked into monthly subscription deals that control how you used content.

Yet the writing was already on the wall, courtesy of P2P. Users prefer to pick and choose their favorite songs from among the sea of (sometimes free) content. It wasn't until 2003 that the iTunes Music Store opened, marking the music industry's first serious attempt at an online distribution model consumers would like. Yet by this time the industry had spent the previous years trying to fight the direction that the market was heading, which is a bit like trying to change the flow of a river. It can be done, but it's rarely easy and rarely worth it.

Speaking of Apple, Enders Analysis has some harsh words for the iPod-iTunes ecosystem. The report's authors believe that Apple's dominance of the digital music industry is hurting the market's evolution. Apple's insistence on a single, fixed price for all content hurts potential long-tail sales of older, back-catalog music. In addition, they're not impressed with the iPod-iTunes cycle, saying that Apple's reliance on iPod sales and resulting music pricing model may be squeezing both other players and music-only stores out of the market.

Of course, the recent move by EMI to liberate its catalog from the shackles of DRM will change the iTunes-iPod equation, as any player capable of playing AAC files will be able to play non-DRMed tracks purchased at the iTunes Store.

The biggest problem facing the music industry, according to Enders, is one that we've pointed out here at Ars: the decline of the album. The easy availability of digital music makes it possible for music fans to cherry-pick their favorite songs. In high school, I bought Abacab (yes, I'm old) in LP form by Genesis primarily because of the title track and "Dodo/Lurker." 26 years later, I would have just snagged those two tracks from the iTunes Store.

As you can see from the chart above, legal downloads are expected to continue their growth, but not at a rate that will be able to make up for the decline in CD sales. Although sales of a single track online arguably cost less for the record company due to the lack of physical distribution costs, the fact that music fans are picking their favorite songs from albums instead of buying the whole disc eats away at the advantages of digital distribution from a revenue standpoint.

The changing landscape has forced the Big Four labels to get creative with their revenue streams. One example is Universal's decision to sign a licensing deal with YouTube not long after suing it for copyright infringement. Under the terms of the deal, Universal will receive a chunk of the advertising revenues generated by YouTube, while YouTube gets the masters from Universal's music video library to work from.

Licensing deals will increasingly become a more important part of the revenue landscape for the record companies, but it's not likely to close the revenue gap. Unfortunately for the record labels, it looks like the glory days of the mid-90s have vanished forever, and no amount of lawsuits, DRM, or licensing deals will be able to turn back the clock.

Winners, Losers in the Apple, EMI Digital Deal
Brian Garrity

EMI Group Plc and Apple Inc. sent shockwaves through the music industry with their announcement Monday that they would begin offering commercial downloads without digital rights management (DRM). As the dust begins to settle, Billboard breaks down the winners and losers in the latest round in the fight over the anti-piracy technology.


Consumers. People who actually pay for digital music finally are free to playback purchased tracks wherever they want, however they want. And they're getting better audio quality to boot. But improved usage rights and sound performance don't come for free: EMI is charging a higher wholesale rate for DRM-free tracks, a cost that is being passed on to the customer. iTunes will charge $1.29 for DRM-free downloads.

Apple. The market leader in digital music grabs the moral high ground in the debate over interoperability and DRM. "The right thing for the customer going forward is to tear down the walls that preclude interoperability by going DRM-free," Apple CEO Steve Jobs says. It also avoids having to license its FairPlay DRM to rival technology companies, something it was loathe to do. As a bonus, a move to higher-quality audio files will drive the need for iPods with greater storage capacities (at likely higher price tags). And the company benefits from timing its announcement to overshadow word of an European antitrust probe into iTunes pricing.

Digital retailers. Rivals to the iTunes Music Store like Rhapsody, eMusic, Napster and Yahoo suddenly have the ability to sell downloads compatible with the iPod--provided they can strike DRM-free deals with EMI and indie labels. "It's in EMI's best interest to get any retailer with credibility in the market out there selling music," eMusic president/CEO David Pakman says. Retailers with subscription offerings also win, with iPod-compatible downloads that can draw consumers in for an upsell to all-you-can-eat plans.

Device manufacturers. Makers of MP3 players and music phones not built by Apple now have the ability to support tracks purchased through market leader iTunes. "It will eventually remove the issue of iTunes lock-in," Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg says. "But if sales don't take off, it will be clear that it wasn't lock-in that prevented their success."

Variable pricing proponents. In pricing DRM-free downloads at $1.29, Apple has effectively endorsed variable prices for iTunes, something the company has previously resisted. The shift to two pricing tiers opens the door for labels to push harder for a more dynamic pricing environment.

AAC (the Advanced Audio Coding format used by Apple). Retail sources estimate that less than 10% of music devices support the AAC format. But with Apple choosing to support unprotected AAC over MP3, device manufacturers are expected to ramp support for the format. Microsoft's Zune, San Disk's Sansa and Sony's PlayStation 3 are among the select devices that already do play AAC files.

Independent labels. Never sticklers for DRM, indie labels will see a spike in iPod-friendly retailers of their content.


Rival majors. Universal Music Group, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group now face increased pressure to follow EMI in adopting DRM-free downloads despite reservations about the uncertain impact on digital profitability and piracy. Rival label executives are privately complaining that EMI has recklessly embraced its new strategy without adequate testing. Some label sources are also expressing dismay that EMI's effort undercuts the industry's ability to correct the security problems that have plagued the CD format by creating a completely secure commercial environment for digital music.

DRM patent holders. While still a must for subscription services and try-before-you-buy ad-supported offerings, DRM is fading in the biggest part of the market.

Microsoft. A move to DRM-free music is another nail in the coffin for third-party device and retail support for its WMA (Windows Media Audio) standard. The company also loses on capitulating to DRM demands of content owners when designing the Microsoft Zune and Windows Vista -- moves that have been unpopular with consumers.

Publishers. Songwriters and publishers are dragged into a DRM-free environment with little to no say in the matter.

On The Fence

EMI. EMI chairman Eric Nicoli wins points in the short run for progressive thinking on DRM by making the first move to break the interoperability log jam. But the company is taking big risks on its long-term digital profitability and stock price. If the move does not increase digital consumption, the results could be disastrous. EMI execs are adamant they are making the right move.

"This is about creating more opportunity in commercialized music by providing the right product to people who are prepared to pay for it," says Barney Wragg, a Universal Music veteran who took over as London-based head of EMI's worldwide digital operations last year. "We think it's going to significantly increase the size of the market."

MGM and United Artists Join iTunes Store

MGM and United Artists movies have started appearing on Apple's iTunes Store this evening. The new movies are listed amongst the New Releases (iTunes link) on iTunes.

Popular MGM Titles include (iTunes links) Mad Max, Bulletproof Monk, Rocky, Pieces of April, The Thomas Crown Affair, Dances with Wolves, and Robocop. Meanwhile, only one United Artists movie (Ronin) has been added so far.

United Artists and MGM have now joined Lionsgate, Paramount and Disney in selling movies on Apple's iTunes Store. With the release of the Apple TV, additional movie content for the iTunes Store has likely become a priority for Apple. When the iTunes Movie sales originally launched, Disney was the only studio that had participated. There had been rumors that Wal-mart and other retailers were threatened by Apple's entry into the movie-market. Even now, these new studio's movies appear to represent older "catalog" movies, rather than "new" releases.

An official press release from Apple should be expected later today

Apple Delays Launch of Operating System

Apple Inc. said it won't be shipping its next-generation operating system in June as planned, saying it had to divert resources from the project so that it could launch its highly anticipated iPhone on time.

The new shipment date for Mac OS X "Leopard" will be in October, the company said Thursday. The iPhone will make its debut in June as planned.

Apple shares dropped $1.75, or nearly 2 percent, to $90.44 in extended-session trading after the announcement. Earlier, they had closed at $92.19, down 40 cents, on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The "iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price - we had to borrow some key software engineering and (quality assurance) resources from our Mac OS X team," Apple said in a statement.

Apple announced the iPhone - a smart phone that also serves as an iPod media player - in January to much fanfare. The Cupertino-based company said Thursday the iPhone is still on track to be shipped in late June and has passed several of the required certification tests.

Apple, which had previously said Leopard would be available in the spring, had hoped to release the Mac operating system upgrade at its Worldwide Developers Conference, a five-day event in San Francisco that starts June 11.

Instead, a "near-final version" of Leopard will be ready for the developers at the conference to take home, Apple said. Though Leopard's features will be complete by then, Apple said the company won't be ready to ship what it considers a "quality release."

"We think it'll be worth the wait," Apple said. "Life often presents trade-offs, and in this case we're sure we've made the right ones."

Analysts agreed.

"If it came down to one product or the other slipping, they made the right choice for iPhone to be on time - where consumer demand and anticipation is already running high," said Michael Gartenberg, an industry analyst at JupiterResearch.

Apple plans to ship two versions of the iPhone - a 4-gigabyte model for $499 and an 8-gigabyte one for $599. It will be available in the U.S. exclusively through AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless network. It will be sold in Europe later this year and in Asia next year.

Apple has said it hopes to sell 10 million units in 2008, representing about 1 percent of the market.

The iPhone is a new foray for the iPod and Macintosh maker, and analysts predict it could be yet another hit product that could boost the company's growing fortunes.

Leopard is Apple's sixth major upgrade to Mac OS X since the desktop operating system debuted in 2001.

In fact, Apple has ribbed its larger rival Microsoft Corp. for its repeated delays of Vista. The overhauled Windows platform was released in January after five years of development and is often seen as playing catch-up on features found in Apple's existing operating system.

Product delays - which are a fact of life in the high-tech world - are uncharacteristic for Apple partly because the company usually avoids announcing expected shipment dates.

The Leopard delay, however, is the second Apple product to have its release pushed back this year. Apple TV, a set-top box for streaming video and other content from computers, was originally slated for a February launch but did not ship until March 21.

The four-month delay of Leopard "is a little embarrassing," Gartenberg said, but he doesn't think it will harm Apple.

In addition, unlike the situation for Microsoft, which dominates the personal computing market, other PC makers are not relying on Apple to deliver an operating system for their machines.

"The only company this affects is Apple," Gartenberg said.

The delay will push down the typical bump Apple would see in software sales by just a quarter, said John Lynch, analyst at Needham & Co. LLC. "But I don't see this as putting a big damper on Mac demand."

Apple issues its next quarterly report for the March quarter on April 25. Company officials did not disclose any financial guidance Thursday.

Michigan iPod Proposal Possibly Influenced by Apple
Jacqui Cheng

Two Michigan lawmakers who support a plan to spend millions of state tax dollars order to buy an iPod for every child in the state may have flown to California thanks to Apple. The accusations raise questions as to whether the two lawmakers support the plan so heavily because they genuinely support it or whether it was due to the financial influence of Apple.

As first reported by the Detroit Free Press, state representative Matt Gillard and House speaker Andy Dillon made a trip earlier this year to visit Apple's headquarters in Cupertino and to discuss the educational uses for the iPod. Gillard reportedly told the newspaper that he thought Apple may have covered a portion of the travel costs, while Dillon's office did not release any details of the trip.

The plan that has caused so much debate is the Democrats' proposal to spend $36 million to give an iPod to every student in the entire state of Michigan. Unsurprisingly, the proposal was somewhat vague and sparse on details, but the suggestion to spend that much money on digital music players for kids did not go over well. The "one iPod per child" plan has been heavily criticized by other legislators and residents of the state, who argue that Michigan is in the middle of a $600 million budget crisis and cannot afford the iPods.

Gillard maintained his motivation for making the trip and backing the bill was not about Apple or iPods, but primarily about technology in the classroom. "I don't know that it has to be iPod-specific technology," he told the Detroit Free Press. He also pointed out that the devices could be used to download lectures and other classroom-related materials—an activity that is increasingly popular among college campuses in the US.

Whether or not Apple financed all or part of the lawmakers' trip, we may never know, as Michigan's disclosure laws for lobbyists do not require them to report on travel expenses or the reimbursement thereof. However, if the proposal was on shaky ground before, it's on even less stable ground now that Gillard's and Dillon's motivations have been called into question.

Cablevision to Continue Fighting the Good Fight Over Networked DVR
Eric Bangeman

Cablevision isn't ready to throw in the towel on the "networked DVR": the company has decided to appeal a District Court ruling barring it from deploying the device. Known as the RS-DVR, the service would perform all of the same functions as a DVR, but the DVR's physical storage would be located in a Cablevision server room rather than in a set-top box.

Television networks were appalled at the idea, accusing Cablevision of rebroadcasting their content without their permission and infringing on their copyrights. US District Court Judge Denny Chin agreed, saying that the deployment and use of the RS-DVR would constitute a "public performance of plaintiffs' copyrighted works."

In a statement released today, Cablevision said that it would seek an expedited review of its appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The cable company faulted Judge Chin's "misapplication of modern copyright law" and said that his ruling could have "broader negative implications for technological innovation."

"We continue to believe strongly that [the] remote-storage DVR is permissible under current copyright law and offers significant benefits to consumers, including lower costs and faster deployment of this popular technology to our digital cable customers," said Cablevision Chief Operating Officer Tom Rutledge in a statement.

Rutledge also pointed out that the RS-DVR functions exactly as a "conventional" DVR, noting that it allows subscribers to time-shift programming as they would with any other DVR. "The technological innovation behind our remote-storage DVR makes a popular product even better," said Rutledge. "It... simply stores programming recorded by consumers in a central location."

One concern of broadcasters is that cable companies using networked DVRs could turn them into on-demand services, and they wouldn't be able to share in the revenue streams. However, Cablevision's RS-DVR would have function identically to a conventional DVR: users would have a set amount of storage space, would only have access to programming they decided to record, and would control the device from their TV just like a conventional DVR.

The key here is the storage location, and view that the location of a hard drive determines whether or not a product infringes depends on whose interests are being serviced. The position that the RS-DVR's opponents have staked out is one that could be costing the television networks additional viewers and advertising revenues. DVRs increase interest in television, an effect that is vital to broadcasters when there are so many other forms of media competing for the attention of would-be TV viewers.

Patti Santangelo v RIAA: Battle Won?

Odds are that Patti Santangelo, the New York mother who was the first RIAA victim to make a determined stand against the Big 4, helped to no small extent by p2pnet readers who put their money where their mouths were, contributing thousands of dollars towards her legal costs, has won her battle to clear her name and show up the Big 4 for the bullies they are.

She and her lawyer, Jordan Glass, have signed and submitted a stipulation to dismiss with prejudice the case lodged against her by the RIAA, clearly taking their cue from the language of US federal district court judge Colleen McMahon's response to Glass's letter of March 31. In it, he wrote Patti would stipulate to a dismissal of any sort only if she retained the right to move for legal fees.

McMahon's language seemed to indicate it was time to end the farce, and the court had the power to entertain a motion for legal fees.

But even if judge McMahon grants the dismissal, and there's every reason to believe she will, that still leaves two of Patti's children, Michelle, 20, and Bobby, 16, in the direct line of fire.

"With prejudice" means the Big 4 wouldn't be able to re-start the case at some time in the future, and if judge McMahon decides to grants fees and costs, they could be heavy.

Both Patti and Glass wanted to take this to trial. She told p2pnet, "This is the most appropriate thing to do based upon what judge McMahon wrote. It shows what we were able to accomplish by fighting back," going on:

We didn't get everything we wanted – I know how much Jordan wanted to take this to trial, and so did I – but other people like me have been fighting back since we won the first discovery objections last year.

Now I have to focus on case against my children. I think this shows what we can accomplish, but it wouldn't have been possible without all the people who funded the campaign.

I don't know how other parents are managing it without money. That's why the RIAA is picking on people without money, because people with money can beat them. But now that the other defendants have my case to refer to, maybe that will help them save money and have more power to win. I know it made a big difference regarding discovery for other defendants, so I hope this will be a good precedent for them, too.

With Patti's case out of the way, will the Elektra Entertainment Group, Virgin Records America, UMG Recordings, BMG Music and Sony BMG Music Entertainment drop their case against her children?

If they do, they'll be setting a precedent other families in the same, or a similar, boat will be quick to use. So the RIAA will probably intensify, rather than abandon, its efforts against Bobby and Michelle.

The only thing likely to give the RIAA serious pause is if RIAA victims and their lawyers launch a concerted campaign through a class action suit, or other type of action where defendants are able to join together.

Individually, the victims have little weight. But if they were able to stand as a group against the Big 4, with their legions of lawyers and bottomless pockets, it could be another matter.

There might also be similar possibilities for a class action against the units used by the RIAA to extort money from its targets.

In 2005, judge McMahon told the cartel's lawyers she'd, "love to see a mom fighting one of these," referring to the settlement centres routinely employed by the RIAA to get money out of its victims.

However, class actions are expensive costing in the region of a quarter of a million dollars to start, so the RIAA, EMI (Britain), Vivendi Universal (France), Sony BMG (Japan and Germany) and Warner Music (US) may be in effect wagering this alone will be sufficient to stop a class action from being attempted.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Files Amicus Curiae Brief in Opposition to RIAA's Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims in Lava v. Amurao
Ray Beckerman

In Lava v. Amurao, where Mr. Amurao has counterclaimed against the record companies for copyright misuse and for a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, and the RIAA has moved to dismiss the counterclaims, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the opposition papers filed by Mr. Amurao's lawyer.

The EFF argued as follows:
...this lawsuit is but one skirmish in the broader war the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) is waging against unauthorized Internet copying. Using questionable methods and suspect evidence, the RIAA has targeted thousands of ordinary people around the country, including grandmothers, grandfathers, single mothers and teenagers.....

The RIAA itself has likened its campaign to drift net fishing, admitting that “[w]hen you go fishing with a net, you sometimes are going to catch a few dolphin.” Dennis Roddy, The Song Remains the Same, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 14, 2003, available at http://www.post-gazette.com/columnis...oddy0914p1.asp.

In addition, the RIAA is attempting to expand the scope of its copyright protections beyond what the statutes provide. This copyright “grab” stems from the plaintiffs’ erroneous theories of secondary liability in copyright law. These theories, which the RIAA knows are wrong, attempt to put parents, employers, teachers, and other internet account holders on the hook for third-party computer activities—even when the defendant has no knowledge or ability to supervise the actual alleged infringers.

For example, Deborah Foster faced frivolous claims of secondary copyright liability despite the absence of any allegation, much less any fact, showing that she knew third parties were using her Internet account to engage in illegal file-sharing, or substantially participating in such file-sharing. See Capitol Records, Inc. v. Foster, No. 04-1569, 2007 WL 1028532, at *3 (W.D. Okla. Feb. 6, 2007).

The difficulties facing “the dolphins” are compounded by the challenges that individuals face when attempting to litigate in federal court. When the RIAA threatens suit against an individual, it makes sure to offer her a carefully chosen sum that is substantially smaller than the legal fees required to fight the accusations, even for defendants that are completely innocent non-infringers. Faced with the threat of costly litigation to defend their names and the possibility that many thousands of dollars in damages might be wrongly assessed against them, see, e.g. BMG Music v. Gonzalez, 430 F.3d 888 (7th Cir. 2005) (affirming $22,500 statutory damages award against a mother of five found liable for illegally downloading thirty songs), many innocent people settle because they cannot afford the legal costs to fight back.

Thus, at the heart of Defendant’s counterclaims and Plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss is the question of consequences – namely, what consequences should attach to plaintiffs who carelessly net “dolphins” in their mass litigation campaign and then walk away from these cases when a dolphin acts affirmatively to protect itself?....

Defendant has alleged that Plaintiff’s case here has no merit, has been brought to harass him, and that he has not infringed any of its legal rights. He has also alleged that by bringing this case, Plaintiff has illegally misused its government-granted copyright, thus jeopardizing its enforceability under the equitable standards of the law. ...Amicus EFF takes no position as to the actual facts of this case, but if these allegations are true, then this presents a very serious situation for the Court to consider.

If Plaintiffs have, in fact, brought such a frivolous case and are misusing their statutorily-granted copyrights, they should be held responsible for their actions. Moreover, Defendant deserves a final answer and peace of mind, rather than a voluntary dismissal that allows the specter of future litigation to linger.

Counterclaims such as those brought by Defendant—for a declaration of non-infringement and a finding of copyright misuse—will promote accountability and bring him out from under that Damoclean sword. Further, permitting the counterclaims to go forward may ultimately promote judicial economy. Careless copyright plaintiffs will think twice before filing suit if they know that voluntary dismissal will not shield them from the consequences of carelessly dragging individuals into federal court. To disallow such claims, by contrast, would allow Plaintiffs to play a nefarious “wait-and-see” game: those that expend the money on attorneys’ fees and costs to fight back against the bogus suits would find their cases voluntarily dismissed without recompense, while those who did not fight back would end up having to submit to either an unfair settlement or default judgment.

P2P Program to Match Files to Product Origin
Keiron Waites

"A program to match p2p downloads with the original products they came from has been released. ShareMonkey is free software for Microsoft Windows, with an additional plugin for the Shareaza p2p application. ShareMonkey lets you right click on a file and choose "Where is this file from?", which will direct you to a listing of products that carry the file. ShareMonkey is a service for those p2p users that download copyrighted files in a "try before you buy" capacity and is an attempt to bridge the gap between copyright infringement and subsequent purchasing of a product."

Piracy Investigators Infiltrate Private Torrent Sites

In March, TorrentFreak published an article which aimed to answer the question ‘Are Private BitTorrent Trackers Safe?’ Now, an internet piracy investigator has admitted that his organisation has successfully infiltrated private BitTorrent trackers and is actively collecting information.

Speaking with Guardian Unlimited primarily regarding piracy counter-measures, Peter Anaman, a senior internet investigator for legal firm Covington and Burling has admitted that his organisation has infiltrated unnamed private BitTorrent tracker sites and shares their method of gaining access;

“Many groups didn’t start off as private. They became private because they felt threatened, so we were able to get in when they were open” he said.

Anaman indicated that his company maintains a network of contacts who help it gain access to additional private sites, although he isn’t forthcoming about what happens while they’re there, other than information gathering.

With a nod towards the increasing difficulty of getting a membership on certain private BitTorrent trackers Anaman added, “Once you’re in, you never take action. You just listen”

In 2005, a successful infiltration operation masterminded by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led to the shutdown of the EliteTorrents BitTorrent tracker after they breached the Family Entertainment Act with their involvement in the internet pre-release of Star Wars: Episode III.

Welcome to Retroshare Instant Messenger 0.30

RetroShare Instant Messenger is the next generation sharing network, which provides:

A private Peer to Peer (P2P) Network which allows you to share information with only the friends you want to: So actually this Instant Messenger is a Friends-to-Friends Network.

Retroshare Instant Messenger offers reliable Identification and Authentication of your trusted friends (RSA-Keys).

• An Introduction Scheme to bootstrap your friends over a Distributed Hash Table (DHT), which connects you your friends and facilitates network growth by easy connecting. Friends of Friends never connect.
• Because you connect direct and enryepted only to your trusted friends, it is a fast and safe transfer of files. No other open and serverless Instant Messenger has such enhanced Filesharing capabilities like you find here.
• Encrypted Communication, ensuring all shared information is known only to you and your trusted friends (neighbour peers).
• A Communication Platform which can potentially support services such as Secure Email to all of your friends, File Sharing, Video or Voice over IP and of course Instant Messaging.
• Roundabout, it is a decentralised (serverless), open source, social Sharing Network designed *for Friends* with no dependancies on any corporate system or central servers.

While the first generation filesharing evolved to download from a server (like napster), the second generation of filesharing was decentral (=serverless) like gnutella and emule-kademlia, the third generation like JetiANts p2p or i2Phex tried to load indirect and encrypted, which means to simulate an overlay proxy network in which you download over a friend: Alice loads over Peter from Bob.

This paradigm is not wrong, were only organized with peers, with the risk: one peer going offline will destroy the whole tunnel-route and the direct neighbour (public peers!) and endpoints are always exposed for attacs.

Friend-to-Friend Instant Messengers have a more stable structure of connections to trusted persons, so even if one is offline, he can later rezume from a trusted neighbour.

This Friend-to-Friend (F2F) Network with hopping over Friends working as a proxy is so called NEW THIRD Generation.

To keep it short: The problem with existing filesharing networks is that you have no control over who you share information with. I don't want to share with the whole wide world, but I would love to share stuff with my friends. But this is not easy to do, safely and securely, over the Internet.

Retroshare Instant Messenger is the solution of these problems and worldwide one of the first serverless Friendslist with Filesharing and Chatrooms for trusted Friends only.

It is a simple Messenger & Filesharing Program which connects you and your friends together for safe and secure sharing. But even more: you can download from friends of friends, without knowing their IP adress: Alice is downloading a file from Bob by hopping over Peter, Paul and Mary. This means, in this friends-chain Alice knows only Peter´s IP and the one of Bob is hidden.

Four out of five share files

P2PNet RIAA Survey: Online Now
p2pnet.net news

I've had an online question session going for just over a couple of weeks and I've found it so interesting, and useful, that I've decided to run a series of other surveys on a various subjects and I'm calling Survey #2 The Sultans of Spin.

I think it's the first survey of its kind and obviously, the more people who respond, the better. So please tell everyone you know about it.

Spin is the, "sometimes pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one's own favor of an event or situation," the Wikipedia sums it up, continuing, spin, "often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics." And it's, borrowed, says the post, "from ball sports such as cricket, where a spin bowler may impart spin on the ball during a delivery so that it will curve through the air or bounce in an advantageous manner".

The Sultans of Spin examines spin-doctoring in the pejorative sense --- the art of presenting stuff as it isn't.

I have Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG's RIAA in mind, for this particular exercise, but it's not alone. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and most other cartel organisations are offered up as 'trade' outfits acting on various issues for, and on behalf of, 'members'.

And there are literally hundreds of them run by smooth-talking, twinkle-toed reality adjustment specialists who are so fast on their verbal feet that their words never actually touch the ground.

They're at the sharps ends of organisations such as the RIAA, MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), BPI (British Phonographic Industry), IFPI (International Federation of Phonographic Industry), CRIA (Canadian Recording Industry Association of America), BSA (Business Software Alliance), FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), and so on and so forth.

One of the most extreme examples of what spin can achieve comes in the manner in which RIAA fact realignment experts have turned a straightforward commercial concept, copyright infringement, into a major crime on a level with robbery, with which it's now equated.

In The Sultans of Spin, RIAA questions are all based on direct quotes from the highly reliable and factual RIAA site, which in Talking With Your Kids About Tough Issues still says Hilary Rosen is the 'chairman and ceo'.

She quit close to four years ago.

The results should be interesting and I'll run them in a post when I wind The Sultans of Spin up in a couple of weeks.

I'll also do a post on the results of the #1, the Reader Survey, in couple of days

Cheers! And thanks a lot for your help ...



In answer to a comment post, I've just posted this: From the results so far, the sue 'em all campaign is having almost no effect.

Here's where it was at as of 10:10 am PST on April 9:

The survey had been looked at 847 times, including half-a-dozen or so views by me, and 277 people had responded.

The first three questions are:

1. Do you share files online?
2. Have the RIAA sue 'em all lawsuits persuaded you to stop sharing?
3. How do you rate your chances of you becoming an RIAA victim?

271 people answered Q1, the same for Q2 and 272 for Q3.

For Q1, 81.9% (222) people said they shared online, and 18.1% didn't.

Are the RIAA lawsuits stopping sharing? Yes, said 13 of 271 answers, and No, said the remainder, 95.2% (258).

Of the 272 answers to Q3, 4 people (1.5%) thought the lawsuits are guaranteed to result in a court case; 2 (0.7%) believe the chances of that are high, 25 (9.2%) think the odds of becoming a victim are medium, the majority, 131 people (48.2%), think the chances are low, and 110 people (40.4%) believe there's no chance of them ending up on the wring end of an RIAA subpoena.

When I wrap the survey, I'll make all the results public so anyone can tap and/or analyse them.


Two Out of Three IT Staff Have Downloaded Software Illegally

Research finds that most of these people knowingly used illegal products
Tom Young

More than two-thirds of IT industry professionals have downloaded online content illegally, according to research collected at 3GSM World Congress.

The survey of 350 respondents by vendor Safenet found that 69 per cent of people admitted downloading or sharing content to their mobile phones or computers without checking for proper licensing or making a payment.

'Historically, download models which support legal file sharing were not easily accessible and were difficult for consumers to use,' said Simon Blake-Wilson, managing director, for digital rights management (DRM) at SafeNet.

'This has led to the proliferation of illegal download and sharing communities 'Worldwide, the music and motion picture industries alone lost a combined $22.6bn (£11.45bn) to piracy in 2005.'

Of the 69 per cent of executives who have downloaded illegal content, 70 per cent admit having done so intentionally, while the other 30 per cent state that their actions were accidental. Just 29 per cent of total respondents answered ‘never’ when asked if they have dealt with stolen digital goods, while two per cent said they ‘didn’t know’ if they have done it.

Some content distributors are now investing in Digital Rights Management (DRM), and according to a recent study, worldwide spending on the technology is growing, and will be over $1bn (£0.5bn) by the end of 2007.

'We are seeing more companies use next-generation technologies, but this investment needs to become the standard.' said Blake-Wilson. 'If inflexible and dated DRM solutions continue to be used to support the download model, illegal downloading will continue, the quality and variety of content from providers will drop, the model will fail, and everyone will lose.'

News From The North

Pirate Bay to Start a New Download Service - and Pay the Artists, Too!

Pirate Bay will soon launch a new music download service called Playble. The idea of Playble is to allow people to download music for free knowing that they will support their favorite artists economically by doing so. How is this done? By channeling half of the advertising revenue generated by the site directly to the artists, with no record companies in between. The money will be split among the participants according to their relative popularity - the more downloads, the more money.

The concept has been developed in co-operation between Pirate Bay activist Peter Sunde - who is of Norwegian-Finnish origins - and Swedish rock group Lamont:

The Pirate Bay has started a unique collaboration with the members of the Swedish rock band Lamont and their manager Kristopher S. Wilbur. After lengthy discussions about the future of the record industry and its implications for the many talented artists and songwriters around the world, we discovered that we held the same vision. The shared insight that the record industry—with its current business model—is outdated inspired the birth of Playble.com.

Rumours about Playble circulated for a couple of weeks in the Nordic pirate circles but the project gained wider publicity when Swedish Television interviewed Peter Sunde about it. Playble is presently asking for the interested artists and advertisers to contact it in preparation for the actual launching, to be announced later.

The TankGirl Diaries

A Fork in the Road for Google
Andy Kessler

Whenever companies sue each other, my ears perk up. Not that I really care who wins, but lawsuits often showcase hidden vulnerabilities. Inevitably, as the fight plays out, the market thinks a lot differently about the long-term prospects of both parties, and money often sloshes away to play elsewhere.

The Internet has been all cute and cuddly throughout its childhood, given a pass for youthful indiscretions like stealing music and video clips. That just ended with Viacom’s copyright infringement suit against Google. By the time this lawsuit and others are finished, Google may have to change its way of doing business. That would be a shock.

Viacom, which owns cable channels like MTV and Comedy Central, recently charged Google with blatant copyright infringement for hosting 160,000 clips of Viacom shows and then having the audacity to allow bored workers and kids at home to view them 1.5 billion times. Viacom had to sue to protect itself because, well, beneath the surface, Viacom and Google are both in the same business, selling ads. For all Google’s claims to be a technology company, 99 percent of its business is ads — for essentials like megapixel cameras, poker sites and ambulance-chasing asbestos lawyers.

TV attracts huge audiences with Orange County teens and Dr. McDreamies and, once our eyeballs are locked in, advertisers sell us things we’re not even sure we need. Like Budweiser Select, Dove Regenerating Hand Cream Night Care With Shea Butter and ever-less-desirable GM cars. Some $70 billion in TV advertising drives a $7 trillion consumer economy.

But TV is expensive. Shows that cost millions per week to produce may not turn profitable until they are syndicated for late-night reruns or DVD sales. It’s a tired business model ripe for change.

Megabit Internet access changes the rules by making videos available away from the controlled conduits of network TV and cable. This is scary for Viacom, because why would advertisers pay to run commercials on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” if folks can watch the show on YouTube? Proponents of YouTube claim Viacom should be happy about getting free publicity for “The Daily Show.” YouTube has a 10-minute limit on video length and claims it’s not copyright infringement, but fair use (a fuzzy loophole in copyright law). This may sound compelling, but it is nothing more than a fig leaf on piracy. Why? Because Viacom owns its programming and should get to pick where and when the shows are shown.

To remain viable, Viacom had to have its clips taken down from YouTube. In fact, all broadcasters must limit the reuse of their expensive material or their business model will implode. They must build and control their own Internet ad networks or risk going the way of trolley cars.

And Google? Internet advertising is growing like a weed. Google makes profits large enough to make Tony Soprano blush simply by scanning all the Internet pages the rest of us put up (which costs them very little), and returning the results with ads. The ads are meant to encourage impluse shopping: see it, want it, buy it, click and ship. So we click on 25-word text ads, and Google becomes a $140 billion valued behemoth. More valuable than Viacom or CBS. Hey, no one said life was fair.

But now suddenly video is cool. Sensing opportunity, the Google geek squad tried to build its own video-delivery service. It was put to shame by an 18-month-old company, YouTube, which Google then bought for $1.65 billion in shares of Google stock. By the way, in the terms of the deal, Google also set aside several hundred million dollars for potential lawsuits. Not enough as it turns out.

The success of YouTube has been nothing short of stunning. More than 100 million videos are watched every day, and probably 100,000 new clips are uploaded. So what if many of them have been highlights of “The Colbert Report” and “The Family Guy,” copyrighted material to which YouTube has no rights.

Suing YouTube as a private company only would have ruined a few venture capitalists’ tee times. Once Google, with pockets as deep as the Mariana Trench, bought YouTube, lawyers from coast to coast started salivating. Viacom is the first of many. I hear talk of giant class-action suits, for billions and billions. Maybe Viacom is thinking too small.

But here is Google’s dilemma. The company’s huge margins are the reason why it is valued at $140 billion on the stock market. If Google suddenly finds itself in a less profitable business because it has to pay for content, instead of just sponging off of SpongeBob, it could see its stock price fall faster than Katie Couric’s ratings.

Don’t get me wrong. The Internet will soon deliver all our video clips — sitcoms, sports, the whole shebang. But whoever creates and controls this content is who will make the big returns from it. Google is tops at search. It’s not yet obvious it will be tops in video. The game of lifting video clips made by others is almost over. If Google wants to stay in the game, it will need to ramp up its spending on video big time.

As consumers, I suspect, we’ll win, because we’ll have better shows delivered in new ways. But when companies start suing each other, investors should be careful. It usually means the game has changed for both sides.

Retailers Explore Movie Download Options

In Effort to Maintain Competitive Edge, Retailers Examine Movie Download Options
Joshua Freed

When movies shifted from videocassettes to DVD, retailers simply cleared the tapes off the shelves to make room for discs. That's not so easy now that movies appear poised to follow music onto the Internet.

The shift of music online has hurt stores such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Circuit City, and some retailers are looking to avoid a repeat with movies. Wal-Mart has launched its own movie download service, Best Buy is said to be in talks to start one, and Blockbuster explored buying movie download company Movielink earlier this year.

Music and DVDs are important to retailers because they've traditionally driven customers to stores. Each week's new releases give people a reason to come back. And for electronics retailers such as Best Buy Co. Inc. and Circuit City Stores Inc., discs are often a cheap impulse sale, unlike a pricey computer or TV.

But the decline in the number of CDs sold has accelerated every year since 2003, and dropped 11.7 percent last year, according to NPD Group. The number of DVDs sold grew 5 percent last year, but that was down from a 9 percent increase during the previous year. Selling prices for both music and movies have declined. And NPD said DVD sales would have slid faster if not for the growth of TV programs offered on DVD.

"They're seeing fairly rapid declines in their CD business. That's likely to happen in their DVD business," said Andrew Hargreaves, who covers electronics retailers for Pacific Crest Securities.

"There's less and less foot traffic coming in for CDs, and that's certainly hurt their traffic and hurt the conversion rates to other products," said Stacey Widlitz, who covers electronics retailers at Pali Capital. "You can be sure that they're exploring what their next move is going to be in the business."

Even if movie and music downloads don't drive shoppers into stores, they at least keep retailers like Best Buy in the movie and music business.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the farthest along after selling 3,000 movie downloads in its first month, February. Blockbuster Inc. spokeswoman Karen Raskopf said the movie rental chain intends to enter digital downloads by the end of this year, perhaps in partnership with another company.

"We don't see digital downloading becoming a huge business in the next year or two, but our view is we need to be in the business, and we don't want to be at a competitive disadvantage," she said.

Online movies have a long way to go before they're as easy-to-use as downloadable music. Even compressed movie files can be a hundred times larger than an individual song, and Wal-Mart says a full-length movie may take as long as an hour and a half to download even over a high-speed connection.

Tech-savvy listeners who load thousands of songs onto portable music players may feel less of a need to download many movies, especially if they're going to be watched on a TV anyway. And Apple Inc.'s simple buck-a-song pricing at its iTunes online store hasn't caught on in the movie world, where purchase prices vary widely and many movies aren't available at all. In many cases, movies bought online can't be burned to a DVD.

And it's not clear whether customers, once they've gone online to download a movie, will do it at the Web site of a bricks-and-mortar retailer.

"First of all Wal-Mart's typical customer isn't your leading-edge technocrat that's likely to download and store a movie on his computer," Hargreaves said. "Secondly, the quality is terrible."

Meanwhile, some online businesses already have tech-savvy customers. Netflix Inc., the online-only service that ships DVDs through the mail, is rolling out a streaming-movie option. And of course there's Apple, which has begun selling movies at its iTunes store online. Video-on-demand from cable offers another option for avoiding a trip to the store. Amazon.com Inc. offers downloadable movies that can be sent to your TiVo, and Microsoft Corp.'s XBox Live marketplace does, too, some of them in high definition.

"The advantages that a Wal-Mart or a Best Buy has in the traditional retail world really aren't there," said Prudential analyst Mark Rowen. For retailers, "their core strength is typically not technology and digital distribution."

Still, he praised Wal-Mart for trying.

"I think it's a sign that they understand that the business is going to be moving there in the next five years, and they want to be a player in it," Rowen said. Wal-Mart has its own music-download site, too, and Best Buy has partnered with Rhapsody on a music subscription site.

Best Buy thinks it can keep its DVD business going for a long time. It expects high-definition discs and traditional DVDs aimed at collectors will keep customers returning to stores.

Customers want flexibility, whether it's movies in high-definition, or on the PlayStation Portable, or downloads, said Best Buy Chief Executive and Vice Chairman Brad Anderson. "That's what the consumer is looking for. We want to do everything we can to facilitate the speed at which that becomes possible in the marketplace."

He said Best Buy is interested in downloads, but added, "We have to find a way that we're doing something that wouldn't be done otherwise. I don't think it's close."

Evan Wilson, who covers entertainment companies at Pacific Crest, said the movie and television industry believes that eventually all of their offerings will be available at the push of a button.

"One day," he said, "my kids will laugh at me for driving to a store and picking up a piece of plastic with content on it and putting it in a machine to play."

Hi-Def P2P Network Vuze Leaves Beta
Ed Oswald

P2P provider Azureus, which provides software and technology for the transfer of large media riles, said Thursday that it had launched Vuze, a legitimate service that would specialize in high-quality video content.

Vuze will feature both DVD and HD-quality content, and offer premium content from around the world. BBC's hit television series Sorted as well as original programming from premium network Showtime will also be offered.

Azureus claims that the pre-release version of the site, code-named "Zudeo," had been visited by more than two million unique visitors in just the first two months. It says its offerings are currently unmatched in the entertainment industry.

"Vuze recognizes that the next generation online video experience lies within the integration of licensed and self-published content showcased in a theater-like viewing environment," Azureus CEO Gilles BianRosa says.

Enhancements over the beta include better navigation to allow support for what is expected to be a massive influx of content, as well as more options to publishers on how they can offer their content for purchase or rent.

Video would be offered "at a very low cost," and the company plans to provide several popular television shows for free to its users. Free content from self-publishers will also be included.

Azureus' current partners include the BBC, Showtime Networks, A&E Networks, Bennett Media Worldwide, G4 TV, National Geographic, Starz Media, and some 20 other media companies.

Internet Radio May Stream North to Canada
Michael Geist

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on the legal rules surrounding Internet radio. Internet radio consists of several types of "stations" including conventional radio stations that simulcast their signal on the Internet, community and college radio stations that use the Internet to extend their signals from small communities to the entire world, and Internet-only stations that broadcast exclusively online. The Internet-only services are particularly intriguing as they include niche webcasters focused on content not found on mainstream AM/FM stations as well as customizable services such as Pandora and Last.fm, which help users identify new music personalized to their tastes.

Despite their popularity, there is growing fear that a recent U.S. royalty decision could effectively shut down thousands of webcasting services. The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board recently established a new royalty scheme that dramatically increases the fees that webcasters will be required to pay to stream music online.

Given the concern about the future viability of Internet radio in the U.S., there has been mounting speculation that some webcasters may consider setting up shop in Canada, where the U.S. rates do not apply. For example, Mercora, a service that allows individuals to launch their own webcasts, has established a Canadian site that falls outside U.S. regulatory and royalty rules.

Webcasters considering a move to Canada will find that the legal framework for Internet radio trades costs for complexity. There are two main areas of concern from a Canadian perspective - broadcast regulation and copyright fees.

Those expecting strict broadcast regulation from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will be pleasantly surprised to learn that webcasters operate outside of conventional broadcast regulation in Canada. The 1999 CRTC New Media Decision exempts webcasters, thereby relieving them of the need to obtain licenses or meet Canadian content requirements.

The copyright concerns associated with webcasting are far more challenging. While there are options that allow non-commercial webcasters to stream music without paying significant royalties - Soundclick lists more than 350,000 songs that are freely available under Creative Commons licenses - streaming commercial music will require royalty and license payments.

The Canadian fee structure is still under development with webcasters likely to face several charges. Next week, the Copyright Board of Canada begins hearings on Tariff 22, a tariff proposed by SOCAN to cover the performance of music online. The tariff actually dates back to 1995, when SOCAN endeavoured to hold Internet service providers accountable for the music available on their networks. The ISPs challenged the tariff, leading to nine years of litigation that culminated with a Supreme Court of Canada decision that exempted Internet intermediaries from liability.

Undeterred by the decision, SOCAN restructured the tariff by identifying an extensive list of online uses of music, including on-demand streaming, webcasting, music streaming on gaming sites, and other services that potentially include podcasting. SOCAN has asked the Copyright Board to grant a tariff that features a minimum monthly fee of $200 and establishes a royalty rate that runs as high as 16.7 percent of gross revenues (or gross operating expenses if those are higher) for on-demand streaming. The webcast rates vary from three to nine percent of gross revenues, depending on the type of webcaster. Several groups are challenging the SOCAN tariff request and a final decision from the Copyright Board is not expected for months.

In addition to the Tariff 22 royalties, there are at least two other potential licenses. The Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd. (CMRRA) licenses the music reproduction right. CMRRA proposed a webcasting tariff in 2005 that sought five percent of gross operating revenue (or expenses if greater) with a minimum monthly payment of $200. CMRRA voluntarily withdrew its tariff application last year and is now negotiating individual licenses for Internet-only radio stations.

The Audio-Visual Licensing Agency (AVLA), which licenses the duplication of master sound recordings, has also created a license for webcasters that copy music onto Canadian servers for webcasting to Canadians. The agreement establishes transmission and subscriber fees as well as sets limits on the number of songs that can be webcast for any individual artists (no more than four in a three hour period) and prescribes the quality of the transmission (no greater than 96 KPBS).

The net effect of these tariffs and licenses is that webcasting in Canada can get expensive, particularly for non-commercial and niche webcasters. By wisely focusing on a percentage of revenue model rather than the U.S. per-stream approach, the Canadian framework may enable webcasters to get off the ground, yet a streamlined system for streaming will be needed before Canada develops into a genuine Internet radio haven.

Newsmagazine Plans Extra Online Issue
Stuart Elliott

Readers of a weekly newsmagazine will soon be getting a bonus issue, but they will miss it if they look in mailboxes or on newsstands.

The magazine, The Week, will publish the extra issue online, rather than in its regular printed format. The special issue will feature articles on the environment - hence the decision to spare trees by publishing it just on the Internet (theweekmagazine.com).

"Bringing our readers an extra issue in a digital format echoes the environmental issues we're trying to highlight," said Justin Smith, president and publisher of The Week in New York, which is part of Dennis Publishing.

The project represents the first time The Week has produced a themed issue as well as its first online-only issue. The bonus issue will also serve as a kind of Web-based sampling program for The Week, because nonsubscribers will be able to read it on the Web site.

The extra issue is scheduled to go live on April 20 and remain online for a week. It does not replace a print issue because the magazine, which prints 48 issues a year, had originally planned not to come out that week. (A double issue, dated April 20-27, is to appear on April 13.)

The special issue is being sponsored solely by the Lexus division of Toyota Motor, as a showcase for its hybrid products. It will be Lexus's first time to advertise with The Week, and the online ads are be followed by ads in print issues the rest of the year.

The project includes an event in Los Angeles on April 25, also sponsored by Lexus, centered on a discussion of environmental issues.

The cost of the sponsorship package for Lexus is being estimated at more than $500,000.

The project offers another example of efforts by the print media to expand their digital presences in response to changing habits of both readers and advertisers. Last week, Lauren Rich Fine, who follows advertising and media stocks for Merrill Lynch, raised her estimates for the worldwide growth of online ad revenue for 2007 as well as 2008.

For example, morning newspapers like The Chicago Sun-Times and The Toronto Star have started publishing online-only afternoon editions, which can also be downloaded.

And several publishers that have recently closed magazines or announced plans to close them are keeping the publications alive in online versions. Among them are the magazines Elle Girl and Premiere, from Hachette Filipacchi; Child, from Meredith; and Life and Teen People from the Time Inc. unit of Time Warner.

"We're going to learn so much about our readers," Smith said of producing the online-only issue. "We'll take the learnings and apply them to the rest of our business."

Smith estimated that The Week typically posted 30 percent to 35 percent of its print content on the Web site, which draws about 150,000 unique users a month.

By comparison, the circulation of the print edition is 440,000 to 445,000 copies a week. The rate base for 2007 - the circulation guaranteed to advertisers - is 425,000, increased from 400,000 last year and 300,000 in 2005.

"We're trying to be as agnostic as possible about serving our readers in all the different media," Smith said. "Some people will want it in print, some will want it in digital and some will want it in a mobile format."

Executives at Lexus and its agency, Team One, part of the Publicis Groupe, have been meeting with many media companies, said Deborah Wahl Meyer, vice president for marketing at Lexus in Torrance, California, and "challenging them to help us use their media more effectively."

The Week "jumped on it, by doing something in a very different way," Meyer said. "We had not done business with them before, but we will now do a full schedule."

The Lexus ads to appear in the online issue will promote three hybrid models: the RX 400h, a crossover sport utility; the GS 450h, a sport sedan; and the LS 600h L, a sedan that is to be introduced in the summer to compete with the most expensive sedans sold by BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

The ads will direct readers to a special Web site (lexus.com/hybridliving), Meyer said, offering "practical tips and ideas" as well as podcasts, video clips and a forum for owners of Lexus hybrids.

Marketing messages that go beyond traditional pitches like print ads and television commercials are increasingly important, she added, as Lexus pursues its potential customers, who are typically ages 35 and up with household incomes of more than $100,000 a year.

"This is a wonderful time for advertisers," Meyer said, adding: "It feels like an explosion of creativity among our media partners. Their willingness to go to the next level has increased exponentially."

Lexus worked last fall with several Condé Nast and Hearst magazines, Meyer said, on a promotion in four big cities that included so-called pop-up stores, boutiques that sold products produced by three designers.

The project is the second time in five months that The Week has made a deal with an advertiser to be the sole sponsor of an issue.

An extra 100,000 copies of the Nov. 10 issue were distributed free to commuters in metropolitan New York as part of a promotion sponsored by Philips Electronics and arranged by the Philips media agency, Carat, part of the Aegis Group. The extra copies in the promotion, with a budget estimated at $500,000 to $600,000, carried no ads; in their place was additional editorial content.

Single sponsorships, in print and on TV, are becoming popular among marketers as they seek to stand out from the commercial clutter.

Philips, for instance, has made such sponsorship agreements with media outlets like CBS, Gourmet magazine, NBC and TBS in addition to The Week.

Rewriting Ethics Rules for the New Media
Greg Sandoval

Some members of the so-called old-media establishment may no longer be able to wag a finger at what they say is questionable ethics among bloggers.

Two weeks ago, ABC News video blogger Amanda Congdon's appearance in online infomercials for chemical giant DuPont was widely criticized. Now an editor at financial news site MarketWatch, owned by The Wall Street Journal parent company Dow Jones, has acknowledged bending the rules for veteran columnist Bambi Francisco.

Last September, Francisco was allowed by her bosses to accept a stake in Vator.tv, a start-up that intends to play matchmaker for other start-ups and venture capitalists by showcasing Web videos of those newcomers.

It's unclear how large a stake Francisco received in Vator, which is backed by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. In an interview with CNET News.com, she wouldn't disclose the size but acknowledged that she didn't pay anything for her share of the company.

Francisco also acknowledged that she has a hands-on role with Vator, co-hosting with Thiel a regular synopsis of the start-ups making their pitches. Her role in Vator was first reported in a little-noticed posting on gossip blog ValleyWag last fall.

That Francisco was offered and accepted a stake in a company that operates in the industry she has covered for at least a decade is rare among journalists, who usually follow strict rules to prevent even the perception of a conflict of interest. That MarketWatch signed off on the deal is, to some, an even more remarkable sign that big media organizations are bending their traditional rules when it comes to online journalism.

"Good news organizations have checks and balances that protect the independence of the journalist," said Bob Steele, an ethics adviser at journalism think tank Poynter Institute. Steele spoke generally about journalism ethics and did not specifically discuss Francisco's situation.

"Editors challenge reporters who might get too close to sources. Organizational guidelines restrict financial investments to protect against conflicts and competing loyalties," Steele said. "Those standards, practices and guidelines, while imperfect, are still important."

MarketWatch Editor In Chief David Callaway said he gave Francisco his blessing before she accepted the offer.

"Conflicts and potential conflicts are something that journalists deal with every day," Callaway said. "We often have to deal with them on a case-by-case basis and find separate solutions. We feel that the guidelines we set up work."

Francisco is not allowed to write about any of the companies that make pitches through Vator, Callaway said, and she is not allowed to be Thiel's "marketing department," a shorthand way of saying she's supposed to steer clear of writing in favor of Thiel's interests.

Callaway acknowledged that Francisco's business relationship with Vator is unprecedented at MarketWatch. But when it comes to "solutions," Callaway said some of the practices adhered to for decades by traditional newspapers, magazines and television newsrooms may not be relevant in the Internet Age.

"You can't just totally rewrite the rules," Callaway said. "But there needs to be some happy medium...the rigid rules of the past may not always apply to new media. Is there a potential for a conflict in Bambi's case? Yes. Do I think we can avoid it? Yes."

Callaway emphasized that he was speaking only for MarketWatch and not for the entire Dow Jones company.

It already appears that Francisco has had difficulty adhering to the rules Callaway described. On November 7, Francisco wrote about a company called Powerset. The piece was penned two months after Francisco entered into her business deal with Thiel.

"Now I'm not one to get overexcited about a new technology, especially when a company keeps it mysteriously in stealth mode," Francisco wrote. "But in the case of Powerset--which received loads of blogger attention about its existence without any coverage about the actual product--there actually is a lot of substance behind the intrigue...Indeed, searching with Powerset was a far richer and more liberating experience than what you get with the rivals."

In the story, she mentioned that Thiel was joining Powerset's board of directors, but Francisco doesn't disclose her business relationship with Thiel.

In her defense, Francisco said that Thiel is on the board of many companies and that she wouldn't be able to write at all if she were barred from covering them. "I've known (Powerset's founders) outside of Peter," she said. "I've known (Powerset co-founder Barney Pell) for a while."

Francisco said she has not revealed her relationship with Vator to MarketWatch readers, nor on her personal blog because she was waiting for the company to "truly get off the ground." She said she has not written about any of the companies that have posted business ideas to Vator and that she would never give Thiel or his companies favorable treatment.

Francisco added that "old-media rules" are still important but that there has "always been a problem with judging objectivity."

On December 21, Francisco also wrote about LinkedIn, a social-networking company in which Thiel was an angel investor. She has also written about social-networking site Facebook, of which Thiel is a director. The venture firm he founded, The Founders Fund, is also a Facebook investor.

High-profile blogger Michael Arrington, who has received plenty of criticism about conflicts of interest in his tech news blog TechCrunch, said he was surprised by Francisco's deal. (Arrington proudly says his blog is all about "insider information and conflicts of interest" but argues that it's acceptable because he discloses his investments on his site.)

"Why would you give stock to a journalist?" Arrington asked. "Put it this way: I've stopped accepting jobs as an adviser for companies. These companies don't want me to be an adviser. They don't need me advising them. What they want is coverage on TechCrunch."

The issue, said Poynter's Steele, comes down to credibility and whether journalists surrender it by entering business agreements with people or companies they may have to cover.

"People practicing journalism, be it a newspaper or Web site, should adhere to the practice of independence," he said. "Journalists should have no competing loyalties."

Of course, one doesn't have to look hard to find signs that high-minded standards and practices haven't saved big media companies from questionable conduct by reporters in recent months.

Jim Cramer, host of CNBC show Mad Money, recently offered a quick tutorial on cheating the stock market, which included leaking false rumors to the press, during a recent video interview on financial news site TheStreet.com.

CNBC news anchor Maria Bartiromo caused a furor earlier this year when it was revealed that she accepted a free ride to China on Citigroup's private jet. Despite the acknowledgement of CNBC executives that they approved the trip, Bartiromo's ability to fairly cover Citigroup or its competitors was questioned.

ABC's Congdon hardly acted like a journalist caught with her hand in the cookie jar when asked about her work for DuPont. "I am not subject to the rules traditional journalists have to follow," she wrote on her blog. ABC editors fobbed off the issue, saying that since Congdon was technically a contractor, she wasn't held to the strict conflict-of-interest standards of other ABC reporters.

But for all the hand-wringing, do readers care?

"Part of fairness involves disclosure of the relationships between the reporter and the reported, particularly if payment in money or influence is involved," said Craig Newmark, founder of online-classifieds powerhouse Craigslist and the member of an investment group that's starting a news aggregation site called DayLife.

"I'd suggest anyone just state it," Newmark said, "and leave judgment to the mass of readers who are smarter than usually credited."

Telecom Italia Chairman Resigns in Dispute
Eric Sylvers

Guido Rossi, the chairman of Telecom Italia, resigned Friday after clashing with the company's largest shareholder, capping a week that began with AT&T and America Móvil offering to buy control of Telecom, the biggest Italian telecommunications company.

The announcement, made by Telecom Italia in a one-sentence statement, brought an end to Rossi's seven-month stint at the helm of the struggling phone company. Rossi, a former chairman of the stock market regulator who helped write Italy's antitrust law, is considered to be a specialist at turning around troubled companies and had been brought on in September to help Telecom Italia find an effective strategy to reduce debt while confronting increasingly stiff competition in its home market.

Rossi's resignation was not entirely unexpected because earlier in the week Olimpia, a holding company through which Pirelli controls an 18 percent stake in Telecom Italia, omitted Rossi from a list of proposed new board members to be voted on at a shareholders' meeting April 16. The chairman will be picked from among that list .

Rossi and Marco Tronchetti Provera, the chairman of Pirelli, have been feuding since last month, when the two openly disagreed on strategy. Rossi wanted to considerably reduce Telecom Italia's dividend, which normally equals about 90 percent of profit, so that more money would be available to pay back debt and invest in new technology.

Tronchetti Provera - who himself resigned as Telecom Italia chairman last September after arguing with the government over strategy - has insisted on the high dividend payments so that Olimpia can service its debt load.

AT&T and America Móvil, based in Mexico and the largest cellphone company in Latin America, offered to buy two-thirds of Olimpia for €4.5 billion, or $6 billion, in a deal that Pirelli has already accepted. Tronchetti Provera has announced that he wants to sell Olimpia's stake in Telecom Italia, which he bought in 2001 and which has steadily dropped in value since then. The price AT&T and America Móvil are prepared to pay values Telecom Italia at well above the company's market price.

Several Italian politicians have criticized Pirelli's plan to sell most of Olimpia to the two North American companies, and the chief executive of one of Italy's largest banks made a thinly veiled call for a group of domestic companies to band together to buy control of Telecom Italia.

Italian media have tipped Pasquale Pistorio, a longtime former chief executive of the French-Italian chip maker STMicroelectronics, as the likely next chairman of Telecom Italia. Pistorio is on the list submitted by Olimpia.

Rossi said during an interview with the daily la Repubblica on Friday that Tronchetti Provera had decided to fired him because Rossi had not defended the interests of the phone company's controlling shareholder and had become "dangerous."

European Court of Human Rights: Personal Calls and Internet Usage from Work are (Maybe) Protected
Nate Anderson

A Welsh university employee has successfully sued the UK government in the European Court of Human Rights over surveillance that was conducted while the woman was an employee at Carmarthenshire College. According to the complaint, the woman's e-mail, phone, Internet, and fax usage were all monitored by the Deputy Principal (DP) of the college, who appears to have taken a sharp dislike to her. According to the complaint, the DP believed that the woman was using college facilities for personal use too often, and began collecting evidence about her activity. The woman claimed that her human rights were being abused, and pointed specifically to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (PDF), which governs private and family life.

The woman alleged that the DP began a campaign back in 1999 to discredit her. This campaign involved phone calls to numbers that the applicant had called in an attempt to find out who she had been speaking with, and apparently extended even to reading faxes that she sent to her solicitors from the office.

The case was made tricky by the fact that England lacked two things in 1999: a privacy law and a law governing employers' rights in monitoring their own employees. Because England had no general right to privacy enshrined in the law, the judges might seem to favor the government; but because employers had no law that gave them rights to monitor their workers, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights became important. That article says that "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."

The government argued that the surveillance had been legitimate because it only involved the monitoring of the woman's communications, not the interception of them. That is, phone numbers were retrieved from telephone bills sent to the college, and the IT department logged e-mail addresses and web sites visited, but the contents of the phone calls and the e-mails were not recorded. Further, the government argued that it was pursuing "the legitimate aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of others by ensuring that the facilities provided by a publicly funded employer were not abused."

The court disagreed in a judgment handed down last week. According to its own case law, "telephone calls from business premises are prima facie covered by the notions of 'private life' and 'correspondence' for the purposes of Article 8." Because the woman had not been warned that she might be monitored at work, she had a "reasonable expectation as to the privacy of calls made from her work telephone." Internet usage received the same protection. In 2000, the UK did pass legislation that gave businesses certain rights with which they could monitor the e-mail and phone usage of their employees, but the law had not come into force when the surveillance in question took place.

The ruling may set only a limited precedent, however, since the legal situation in the UK has since changed. The ruling does suggest that all European employers need to make their employees aware of any monitoring that is taking place, but it sets no rules against monitoring in general.

The court granted the woman €3,000 for the "stress, anxiety, low mood and inability to sleep" that she complained about, but it granted her only €6,000 for legal fees. The woman claimed that her total legal bills amounted to nearly €14,000, so she made no money on the case, though her vindication will certainly come as a relief. The court also noted that the DP of the college has since been suspended, but the woman continues to work there.

PhotoBucket Videos Blocked on MySpace
Michael Arrington

Sometime around 10:30 pm PST tonight, MySpace began blocking videos embedded on MySpace pages that originate from Photobucket. This is a major blackout, affecting millions of embedded videos. Photobucket images and slideshows are not affected. Videos from competitors like YouTube are still working fine.

As with previous outages, embedded videos work fine until the user makes any edit to their profile. At that time, links to Photobucket are automatically replaced with “…” or removed, causing the embed to fail.

Photobucket has north of 40 million registered users.

This is turning into a habit for MySpace, which usually claims bugs, security issues or terms of service violations were the cause of a shut down. In January MySpace mysteriously shut down all Flash widgets on the site for 2.5 hours. An Imeem blockade came next. Vidilife, Stickam and Revver have been permanently banned.

Today’s shutdown of Photobucket comes suspiciously close to news that Photobucket is up for sale (Fox, MySpace’s parent company, was notoriously rumored to be furious when YouTube sold to Google). It seems that just when a company starts to break out from the pack, MySpace finds a security breach and shuts them down. Even though MySpace has flat out denied it to us, it is our belief that these blockages are meant to send a clear message to widget companies - don’t forget that MySpace is in charge.

More as this develops. I have a request for comment into MySpace PR, but I don’t expect to hear back from them until the morning.

Update: see The Photobucket blog for more details (read the comments to that post - Photobucket users are really angry.

Update: Photobucket CEO Alex Welch just sent me the following email:


Tonight MySpace took the decision to prevent Photobucket users from posting certain types of media to their MySpace pages.

This action by MySpace means that millions of pieces of content created by our users may no longer be available on MySpace. This content represents hundreds of thousand hours of effort on the part of our users – hours invested using the editing, remixing and management tools and features available only on Photobucket. Conservative estimates put one in every two page views on MySpace containing content from Photobucket users. This step will have a drastic affect on the usability and appeal of MySpace.

More importantly, by limiting the ability of its users to personalize their pages with content from any source, MySpace, is contradicting the very ethos of personal and social media. MySpace became successful because of the creativity of its users and because it offered a forum for self-expression. By severely restricting this freedom, MySpace is showing that it considers its users a commodity which it can treat as it sees fit.

Faced with the prospect of recreating their content using only the limited resources available on MySpace, we believe users will vote with their feet (and their keyboards) and turn instead to the other sites that Photobucket links to on a daily basis. Photobucket users link to 300,000 different Web sites every day from their Photobucket albums – MySpace is just one of those sites. This action by MySpace in no way affects Photobucket albums. The content remains available in user albums for linking to other Web sites, discussion boards, forums, e-commerce sites and blogs.

At Photobucket, we’ve seen a steady and growing trend by users towards linking to a range of social networks – not just MySpace. If MySpace persists in blocking Photobucket and other personal media sites, users will transfer their loyalties to a combination of these networks. Photobucket’s business model is built on allowing users to support multiple identities by providing a central resource for creating, enhancing, managing and sharing their content. Our business is in no way dependent on being able to link to MySpace alone.

We believe this action by MySpace is a retrograde step in the evolution of the Web and an unacceptable attempt to limit the freedom of the very people who are its lifeblood – its users.



YouTube Offers to 'Educate' Thai Authorities About Web Site

Officials with the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube say they have offered to "educate" Thai authorities about how the service works, in the hopes of ending a ban on the site.

The head of global communications for YouTube, Julie Supan, said Saturday it is up to the Thai government to decide whether to block specific videos. But she says the government's technical team was having difficulty understanding how to block individual videos.

Supan said YouTube will not take down videos that do not violate the company's policies.

Thailand blocked YouTube Wednesday after the company refused to remove a slideshow of King Bhumibol Adulyadej juxtaposed with what Thais view as offensive images.

The anonymous user removed the clip, but several more videos mocking the king appeared on the Web site soon after.

Insulting the monarchy in Thailand is a criminal offense.

Indonesian Court Finds Playboy Editor Not Guilty of Indecency
Peter Gelling

An Indonesian court found the editor in chief of Playboy magazine in Indonesia not guilty of indecency on Thursday, angering conservative Muslims who have been fighting to ban the magazine since its appearance last year.

The trial, which lasted months, highlighted growing divisions here between a rising conservative movement and the majority moderate Muslim population. Hundreds of conservative Muslims, most of whom belong to the Islamic Defenders Front, a hard-line Islamic organization that has led the fight against Playboy, protested outside the courtroom on Thursday, blocking traffic and shouting, "This country has become a pornographic country!" Hundreds of police officers, armed with water canons, were also stationed nearby.

The prosecution had argued that Erwin Arnada, the magazine's editor in chief, was guilty of indecency for selling pictures of naked women and sought a jail term of more than two years.

But the presiding judge, Erfan Basuning, rejected the prosecution's arguments, noting that the Indonesian version of Playboy did not include nudity and that shutting it down would have violated laws guaranteeing freedom of the press.

"This is not only a victory for Playboy, this is a victory for all of the press in Indonesia," Arnada said in an interview after the verdict. "This decision will become a legal precedent."

Playboy Indonesia, which has been published monthly since April 2006, carries photos of scantily, but not un-clad, women, and predominantly runs articles about Indonesian politics and culture. Far racier magazines and newspapers are available on street corners in all of Indonesia's major cities.

But a growing number of Islamic conservatives, who wield a powerful voice in a country that is about 85 percent Muslim, have zeroed in on Playboy as evidence of declining morals.

The magazine's offices were moved to the mostly Hindu island of Bali last year after they were pelted with stones by members of the Islamic Defenders Front, who also regularly harassed the magazine's employees and advertisers.

Playboy's initial publication prompted the Justice and Prosperity Party, which advocates strict Islamic Sharia law, to introduce a sweeping pornography bill in Parliament. It called for the banning of all pornographic materials and stipulated how women should dress and even dance. But the legislation has since been watered down considerably and is languishing in Parliament. Arnada, 41, said he was relieved by the decision, and impressed.

"The judge remained objective throughout the trial, even though there was so much pressure from hard-line Muslim organizations," he said.

Putin Tightens Internet Controls Before Presidential Election
Henry Meyer

President Vladimir Putin has already brought Russian newspapers and television to heel. Now he's turning his attention to the Internet.

As the Kremlin gears up for the election of Putin's successor next March, Soviet-style controls are being extended to online news after a presidential decree last month set up a new agency to supervise both mass media and the Web.

``It's worrying that this happened ahead of the presidential campaign,'' Roman Bodanin, political editor of Gazeta.ru, Russia's most prominent online news site, said in a telephone interview. ``The Internet is the freest medium of communication today because TV is almost totally under government control, and print media largely so.''

All three national TV stations are state-controlled, and the state gas monopoly, OAO Gazprom, has been taking over major newspapers; self-censorship is routine. That has left the Internet as the main remaining platform for political debate, and Web sites that test the boundaries of free speech are already coming under pressure.

In December, a court in the Siberian region of Khakassia shut down the Internet news site Novy Fokus for not registering as a media outlet. The site, known for its critical reporting, reopened in late March after it agreed to register and accept stricter supervision.

Plug Pulled

Anticompromat.ru, which wrote about Putin's pre-presidential business interests, had to find a U.S. Web server after a Russian service provider pulled the plug March 28, saying it had been warned by officials to stop hosting the site.

Last year, the authorities shut down a Web site called Kursiv in the city of Ivanovo, northeast of Moscow, that lampooned Putin as a ``phallic symbol of Russia'' for his drive to boost the birthrate.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia isn't restricting media freedom and that the new agency isn't aimed at policing the Web.

``If you watch TV, even federal TV channels, you'll hear lots of criticism of the government,'' Peskov said in an interview. ``This new agency will be in charge of licensing. It's not about controlling the Internet.''

Putin, 54, isn't allowed to run for re-election in 2008 under Russia's two-term constitutional limit. Instead, he is promoting two potential successors: First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a 41-year-old lawyer, and Sergei Ivanov, 54, a KGB colleague of Putin who oversees much of Russian industry, including transport and nuclear power. The two, who both come from Putin's hometown of St. Petersburg, have become fixtures on state-controlled television.

Gorbachev's Complaint

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose policy of glasnost, or openness, ushered in media freedom in the late 1980s after decades of Soviet censorship, has condemned the state propaganda on the airwaves.

``The one thing I can say is that it's pointless today to watch television,'' Gorbachev, 76, said on the 20th anniversary of the launch of ``perestroika,'' his drive to allow more political and economic freedom that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

While most Russians rely on television for news, increasing numbers are turning to the Internet. Around a quarter of the adult population -- 28 million people -- are regular Internet users, according to the Public Opinion Foundation, a Moscow-based research organization. In 2002, only 8 percent fell into that category.

A Mass Medium

``When the Internet becomes more of a mass medium, then governments start getting worried, and they start treating it like the mass media,'' said Esther Dyson, who helped establish the Internet's system of domain names and addresses, and has consulted extensively in Russia.

``You can't control the Internet, but you can control people,'' she said in a telephone interview during a visit to Moscow.

Oleg Panfilov, head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations in Moscow, predicted in a telephone interview that ``pressure on the media is going to worsen'' as the presidential succession draws nearer.

Reporters who write critically about government policies are subjected to intimidation, arrests, attacks and other forms of pressure, the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights said March 27 in its annual report.

Facing Prison

Viktor Shmakov, editor of the newspaper Provintsialny Vesti in the oil-rich Bashkortostan republic, is facing up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors charged him with inciting mass disturbances after his weekly urged readers to attend an opposition rally last year.

Russia is the second most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq, with 88 killed in the past 10 years, according to the Brussels-based International News Safety Institute.

Last October, Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent reporter and Kremlin critic who uncovered human-rights abuses by security forces in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building in Moscow.

A journalist for the Kommersant daily, Ivan Safronov, who was investigating Russian weapons sales to Iran and Syria, fell to his death from a window in his Moscow apartment March 2.

The government, meanwhile, has been expanding Gazprom's media role. The company already took control of independent channel NTV in 2001 and bought long-established Russian daily Izvestia in 2005.

Last year, Kommersant, once owned by tycoon and exiled Kremlin critic Boris Berezovsky, was sold to Alisher Usmanov, a steel magnate who is head of a Gazprom subsidiary. And Gazprom said in November it will acquire Russia's biggest-selling daily, Komsomolskaya Pravda, which has a circulation of 800,000.

Vladimir Rakhmankov, editor of the Web site that lost its Russian server after mocking Putin, said the Web crackdown is part of the final phase of a campaign to stifle free speech.

``Thank God the Internet is difficult to close down, but I think they will go after journalists who write things they don't like,'' he said.

McConnell Seeks to Boost U.S. Spy Powers
Katherine Shrader

President Bush's spy chief is pushing to expand the government's surveillance authority at the same time the administration is under attack for stretching its domestic eavesdropping powers.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has circulated a draft bill that would expand the government's powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, liberalizing how that law can be used.

Known as "FISA," the 1978 law was passed to allow surveillance in espionage and other foreign intelligence investigations, but still allow federal judges on a secretive panel to ensure protections for U.S. citizens — at home or abroad — and other permanent U.S. residents.

The changes McConnell is seeking mostly affect a cloak-and-dagger category of warrants used to investigate suspected spies, terrorists and other national security threats. The court-approved surveillance could include planting listening devices and hidden cameras, searching luggage and breaking into homes to make copies of computer hard drives.

McConnell, who took over the 16 U.S. spy agencies and their 100,000 employees less than three months ago, is signaling a more aggressive posture for his office and will lay out his broad priorities on Wednesday as part of a 100-day plan.

The retired Navy vice admiral recently met with leaders at the National Security Agency, Justice Department and other agencies to learn more about the rules they operate under and what ties their hands, according to officials familiar with the discussions and McConnell's proposals. The officials described them on condition that they not be identified because the plans are still being developed.

According to officials familiar with the draft changes to FISA, McConnell wants to:

_Give the NSA the power to monitor foreigners without seeking FISA court approval, even if the surveillance is conducted by tapping phones and e-mail accounts in the United States.

"Determinations about whether a court order is required should be based on considerations about the target of the surveillance, rather than the particular means of communication or the location from which the surveillance is being conducted," NSA Director Keith Alexander told the Senate last year.

_Clarify the standards the FBI and NSA must use to get court orders for basic information about calls and e-mails — such as the number dialed, e-mail address, or time and date of the communications. Civil liberties advocates contend the change will make it too easy for the government to access this information.

_Triple the life span of a FISA warrant for a non-U.S. citizen from 120 days to one year, allowing the government to monitor much longer without checking back in with a judge.

_Give telecommunications companies immunity from civil liability for their cooperation with Bush's terrorist surveillance program. Pending lawsuits against companies including Verizon and AT&T allege they violated privacy laws by giving phone records to the NSA for the program.

_Extend from 72 hours to one week the amount of time the government can conduct surveillance without a court order in emergencies.

McConnell, Alexander and a senior Justice Department official will appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on April 17 to discuss whether to amend the FISA law. Chad Kolton, McConnell's spokesman, declined to comment on the director's proposals.
Government officials have been publicly and privately discussing changes to FISA since last year. A senior intelligence official said the goal is to update the law to ensure Americans' constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure, while improving use of government resources to pursue threats against U.S. interests.

Critics question whether the changes are needed and worry about what the Bush administration has in store, given a rash of allegations about domestic surveillance and abuse of power. "Congress should certainly be very skeptical about proposals to give this government greater powers to spy on its own citizens," said Caroline Fredrickson, the Washington legislative office director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The proposed changes to domestic surveillance would be so broad that "you have basically done away with the protections of the FISA," said Kate Martin, head of the Center for National Security Studies.

Rep. Heather Wilson (news, bio, voting record), R-N.M., who unsuccessfully sponsored legislation last year to update FISA, said Congress must act because current court orders bolstering the president's terrorist surveillance program are legally shaky. She wants the law to be rewritten to ensure the NSA can continue the program.

Bush has faced months of criticism for his 2001 decision to order the NSA to monitor the international calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when terrorism is suspected. More recently, the Justice Department and FBI have been sharply rebuked for bad bookkeeping and other mistakes involving their powers under the USA Patriot Act to secretly demand Americans' e-mail, financial and other personal records through so-called national security letters. Top government officials have tried to dampen the outrage by promising accountability and have argued that the letters are essential tools to protect against terror threats.

McConnell hinted at his discomfort with current laws last week during a speech before an audience of government executives, saying he worries that current laws and regulations prevent intelligence agencies from using all of their capabilities to protect the nation.

"That's the big challenge going forward," he said, acknowledging changes would require significant congressional debate.

Librarian Warns Against Secrecy in Terrorism Investigation
Andrew Miga

A Connecticut librarian who fended off an FBI demand for computer records on patrons said Wednesday the government's secret anti-terrorism investigations strip away personal freedoms.

"Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free," George Christian told a Senate panel.

In prepared testimony, Christian said his experience "should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution" about the strain that the government's pursuit of would-be terrorists puts on civil liberties.

The government uses the Patriot Act and other laws to learn, without proper judicial oversight or any after-the-fact review, what citizens are researching in libraries, Christian said.

A recent report by the Justice Department's inspector general that found 48 violations of law or rules in the FBI's use of documents, known as national security letters, during 2003 through 2005. Some congressional critics want to tighten legal safeguards on the letters.

"`Trust us' doesn't cut it when it comes to the government's power to obtain Americans' sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage," Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said in prepared remarks. He heads the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution.

Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can use the letters to acquire telephone, e-mail, travel and financial records without a judge's approval. Letter recipients are not allowed to disclose their involvement in a request.

Prosecutors have said secrecy in their demands for records is needed to avoid alerting suspects and jeopardizing investigations.

In July 2005, the FBI issued a national security letter to Christian and three other Connecticut librarians. Christian is executive director of Library Connection, Inc., a consortium of 27 libraries in the Hartford, Conn., area that share an automated library system.

The letter sought computer subscriber data for a 45-minute time period on Feb. 15, 2005, during which a terrorist threat was transmitted. A gag order prevented the librarians from talking about the letter.

The librarians refused to comply with the FBI's request.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal challenge on the librarians' behalf, but did not name them.

A federal judge ruled that the gag order should be lifted, saying it unfairly prevented the librarians from participating in debate over how the Patriot Act should be rewritten. Prosecutors appealed, but in April 2006 said they would no longer seek to enforce a gag order.

Last year, federal authorities dropped their demand for library patrons' computer records, saying they had discounted a potential terrorism threat that had led to the request.

The Patriot Act was rewritten last year and includes a way for letter recipients to challenge the gag order.

A Giant Leap Forward in Computing? Maybe Not
Jason Pontin

DID D-Wave Systems achieve the incredible — a startling advance in computing that would radically expand human capacities for industrial activity and scientific discovery, long before experts believed it possible?

It says it did, and many concurred. According to the company and publications like The Economist, D-Wave, a start-up company in Burnaby, British Columbia, demonstrated “the world’s first commercial quantum computer” in February.

Something certainly happened. At a crowded event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., in the heart of Silicon Valley, a proud and beaming Geordie Rose, the company’s founder and chief technology officer, showed how the Orion computer could search for a protein in a database and find the closest match, figure out the optimal seating arrangement for wedding guests and solve a Sudoku puzzle.

The purpose of the demonstration, Dr. Rose told me, was “to run commercially relevant applications on a quantum computer, which has never even been done before — not even close.”

Quantum computing is powerfully glamorous stuff: it partakes of the unworldly weirdness of quantum mechanics, and it promises a new class of quantum algorithms that could solve certain problems exponentially faster than any computer today.

If a “practical quantum computer” — as Dr. Rose, who has a doctorate in physics, often describes Orion — had been built and demonstrated, it would be a wonderful thing: analogous, according to quantum computing’s most ardent promoters, to the development of the transistor, or even the harnessing of electricity.

But as soon as D-Wave completed its demonstration, there were indignant objections from the people who know quantum computing best: the scientists who spend their lives thinking about such a machine. That’s because most academics believed that it would be many more years before anyone could construct one.

What was more frustrating, D-Wave provided no evidence to back up its claims: it has released only the sketchiest details about the inner workings of Orion. Something solved the problems at the demonstration, but it might not have been a quantum computer.
Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist at the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Canada, fired the first shot. He wrote in his much-read blog, called “Shtetl-Optimized,” that Orion would be as useful at problem-solving as “a roast beef sandwich.” In an e-mail message to me, Dr. Aaronson denounced Orion as “hype.” He said that he could not “think of any interpretation under which” Dr. Rose was “telling the truth.”

Many quantum mechanics — as some like to call themselves — agree.

“D-Wave is misleading the public by calling their device ‘a practical quantum computer,’ ” said Umesh Vazirani, a computer science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “The whole point of quantum computing is achieving a large speedup over classical computers, something that D-Wave hasn’t accomplished.”

Dr. Rose dismissed such criticism. He characterized D-Wave’s approach as bluntly commercial: he expects the marketplace to endorse Orion and doesn’t care about evaluations in peer-reviewed journals.

“Our approach is to have it start solving problems; how fast it does that becomes the metric by which you’re judged,” he said. “Compared to the academic approaches, ours is quick and dirty, although I don’t think it’s any less careful.”

The high emotions inspired by the D-Wave controversy derive, perhaps, from the almost metaphysical allure of the field, an allure that has existed since the physicists Paul Benioff and Richard P. Feynman proposed the idea of quantum computing in the early 1980s.

In theory, a quantum computer in less than a minute could solve problems that would take millennia for a classical computer to solve.

For instance, a practical quantum computer could easily factor large integers, allowing them to break most cryptographic systems. A quantum computer could also simulate the behavior of nanosized structures like drug molecules; such “quantum simulations” would mean that biotechnologists could model drugs outside of a laboratory, potentially helping them to develop new therapies.

Dr. Rose is not shy about making even grander assertions. He said he believes that a bigger and better Orion computer could also speedily provide optimal solutions to difficult problems with many variables, potentially reshaping such diverse activities as investment, scheduling, logistics, and supply chain management. (Most computer scientists are more cautious: they say the dramatic speedups that Dr. Rose dreams of may be impossible with any quantum computer with a design similar to the Orion.)

But real, useful quantum computers, for all their interest and potential, have proved fiendishly difficult to build. To date, quantum computers have been more-or-less successful lab experiments.

D-Wave says it has succeeded where others have failed by using a simple design, derived from technologies already used to make standard computer chips. The company describes the Orion as built around a chip made from a superconducting metal called niobium, which becomes a superconductor when chilled to nearly minus 273 degrees Celsius in a bath of liquid helium.

Herb Martin, the chief executive of D-Wave, contends that this uncomplicated design will allow the Orion to expand its computing powers so that, by mid-2008, it will be able to tackle real commercial applications. He says D-Wave would earn money by renting time on the Orion as a Web service to businesses that need the power of quantum computing. Additionally, the company might build and rent quantum machines.

BUT does Orion work as advertised? No one knows, except for the people at D-Wave. According to the most skeptical of D-Wave’s detractors, because Orion can function as a slow analog computer, it’s possible that Orion was not really performing quantum operations at all when it was demonstrated at the Computer History Museum.

Dr. Rose concedes that his machine is still primitive. “In terms of the actual time it takes to solve problems, Orion as it currently stands is about 100 times slower than a PC running the best algorithms,” he says. But he argues that the demonstration in February showed that quantum computing was not merely a research project, and proved that there was a real and imminent value to businesses.

At the very least, his investors agree. Dr. Rose has raised $44 million in funding since starting his company in 1999, attracting the backing of venture capitalists like Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

At this point, we can say that Orion may be a demonstration of a quantum computer that can solve a limited set of specific problems. One day, it may offer significant increases in speed.

But for now, in lieu of direct evidence, it is very slow and not very useful. When D-Wave begins to allow outsiders to play with the Orion later this year, and if its inventors explain how the marvelous machine actually works, the company’s critics may become more generous.

Apple's Long Shadow Over Mobile Music
Marguerite Reardon

The wireless industry is finally offering a long list of phones with the music features some pundits have long predicted would diminish Apple's control of the market for digital music.

Last week at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Orlando, Fla., Sprint Nextel reduced the price of its over-the-air music downloads to 99 cents per song, while AT&T announced it would offer new subscribers free access to the Napster music service for a year. Handset makers Samsung and Sony Ericsson introduced their latest music-focused phones, and mobile virtual network operator Helio introduced a new device specifically designed for tunes.

But guess what? The most talked-about and sought-after device at the three-day conference was Apple's iPhone, which wasn't showcased at CTIA and doesn't even ship until June.

"I think 2007 will be a huge year for mobile music," said John Burris, vice president of data services at Sprint. "There won't be anyone who doesn't know that a mobile phone will be able to play music."

But will they want it if it's not made by Apple? There are still lots of issues that need to be worked out before mobile music can really live up to the hype, say experts. From their difficulties with incompatible digital rights management technology to their struggles with short battery lives and poor user interfaces, mobile operators and handset makers have a long way to go before the experience of purchasing and listening to music on mobile phones--even the ones made by Apple--lives up to consumer expectations.

"Apple is known for hitting home runs consistently," said Suzanne Cross, head of marketing for Sony Ericsson. "But I think the hype around the iPhone has confused people, because many consumers aren't aware of what music phones can and can't do. So (phone makers) have to make sure expectations are met and the consumer experience is positive."

The wireless and handset industry has been trying to jump on the mobile music craze for years. In 2005, Cingular Wireless, now the new AT&T, launched Motorola's Rokr, a music phone that allowed subscribers to play songs from the iTunes music store. But the Rokr was a major flop. The phone had limited memory capacity and allowed only 100 songs to be stored.

Other phones have been introduced that also offer music-playing capability, such as Motorola's Razr and Krazr, but few consumers believe they are replacements for an iPod or any other MP3 music player. When used to play music, most of these phones run out of battery life very quickly. Using them to navigate through the music library can also be difficult, and loading songs can be cumbersome.

Mark Nagel, director of premium content at AT&T, said the company learned a lot from the Rokr experience. As a result, AT&T is not only adding new phones, such as the iPhone, to its lineup, but it's also introduced a subscription-model service that will allow consumers to pay a monthly fee to listen to as much music as they like from services like Napster and Yahoo. To promote this business, the company is offering new subscribers a free subscription to Napster for a year.

Mobile music ready for prime time?
There are signs that mobile music is catching on. Record companies' digital music sales are estimated to have nearly doubled in value in 2006, generating about $2 billion in revenue, according to the industry group IFPI, which is affiliated with the Recording Industry Association of America. Mobile music accounted for half of this revenue. The split varied greatly among markets around the world, with Japan leading the pack with around 90 percent of its digital music sales accounted for by mobile purchases.
New phones specifically designed for music will likely fuel the trend. At least three new music phones were introduced at CTIA. The Ocean, a new handset manufactured by Pantech for Helio, is designed to help alleviate some of the issues plaguing earlier phones, such as short battery life. For example, it uses a separate microprocessor to run the media player, which Helio claims allows the device to play up to 15 hours of music on a single battery charge. The phone will be available later this year and will cost about $295 with a two-year contract.

Samsung's Upstage, available through Sprint, is a "flip" phone with one side designed to be a regular phone and the other designed to play music. The regular phone side has a number pad and small screen for dialing calls and typing text messages. The other side looks like an MP3 music player, with a large screen and touch-sensitive controls that allow the user to navigate through a song library and view videos. There's a button that lets users switch between the sides and functions of the phone, which costs $149 with a two-year Sprint contract.

Sony Ericsson, which has already been selling its Sony Walkman phones in the U.S. through AT&T, introduced its latest addition to the music playing family of phones this week. The W580 is a slider phone that the company claims can offer up to 30 hours of music playing time. Sony Ericsson didn't provide pricing information, and it hasn't announced which carrier will sell the phone. But given the company's relationship with AT&T, it's likely the phone will appear there first.

Then, of course, there is the iPhone, which, despite its absence at CTIA, still created a buzz. AT&T's COO Randall Stephenson said during a speech at the convention that 1 million people had already signed up on the Web asking for more information about the iPhone.

While new music-playing phones should spur excitement among consumers, there are still issues that need to be worked out. One of the major hurdles will be making sure people can buy and transfer music easily onto their wireless devices. The ability to download music over the air is seen as a crucial piece of this puzzle--and it's something the iPhone can't do.

"Isn't the whole point of putting music on a wireless device so you can download tracks over the air?" asked Sky Dayton, CEO of Helio. "I think that is a glaring omission in terms of the iPhone. It's great for side loading, but the lack of over-the-air downloading will be a huge disappointment to people."

Right now, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Helio offer their own music stores with over-the-air downloads. Sprint announced this week that it has reduced the price of songs sold this way from $2.49 a song to 99 cents a song. Meanwhile, AT&T does not yet offer over-the-air downloads. This means subscribers use their PCs to purchase individual songs or access subscription services like Napster; then they can sync their phones to the PC to load the music onto their devices.

But Cross of Sony Ericsson said the industry is not quite ready for over-the-air downloads, because today songs purchased over a cellular network can be used only on specific handsets. The limitation is due in large part to the fact that mobile operators use different digital rights management technology to distribute copyrighted songs.

"The song is only playable on your phone," she said. "You can't transfer it to another MP3 device or burn it onto a CD. So the music has very limited use. And I don't think that is what consumers want."

Operators have tried to get around this limitation by sending copies of songs to subscribers' PCs. But Cross said the industry needs to rally around some sort of DRM standard so there is interoperability among devices. Until that happens, she doesn't believe mobile music will live up to its fullest potential.

"Over-the air downloading isn't nirvana, but it's necessary to grow the market," she said. "And today when people download music on their laptops, they expect to reuse it on other devices. As an industry, we have to be careful about educating people what they can and can't do with their music or risk disappointing them."

Only 10% of MP3 Players Support AAC

Although the iPod dominates the MP3 player market (especially outside of Asia), Billboard writes

"...less than 10% of the digital music players in the market currently support AAC, according to digital music retailer estimates. And meeting the level of penetration that MP3 currently enjoys -- support by tens of thousands of devices -- will require years to catch up."

In an article Rob Beschizza of Gear Factor and I posted two days ago, we postulated that Apple and EMI's decision to sell music in the unprotected AAC format would hurt Microsoft, because device manufacturers will now have a big incentive to support AAC rather than WMA (both require per-unit licensing fees). Commenters have correctly pointed out that EMI and other labels could decide to sell music in the unprotected WMA format as well, and that EMI said the Apple deal was only the first of its kind. But Apple's dominance of digital music sales means that AAC support will become a crucial feature on any MP3 player.

Susan Kevorkian, audio analyst for IDC, agreed with me that manufacturers now have an incentive to add AAC to their players. I am in contact with Creative, which does not currently support AAC on its Zen line of MP3 player, to find out whether they plan on adding AAC support, and will post their plans here if I hear anything.

A Hundred Million iPods!

Back in January, 2004, Apple released a press statement trumpeting the fact that it had sold over two million iPods. Neat. A year later, it bragged that it had sold ten million of 'em. Even more impressive.

And today, it's telling the world that it's sold a hundred million iPods since the first one appeared a bit over five years ago, which it says makes its iconic little gadgets the fastest-growing music players in history. (I'm assuming that it's including music players of all sorts in there, including Walkmans (Walkmen?); it's kind of a given that the iPods has been a tad more successful than any digital audio player with another company's logo on it.)

The Apple press release has an aw-shucks sound bite from Steve Jobs about how the company is pleased to help folks rediscover their music, and also quotes Mary J. Blige, John Mayer, and Lance Armstrong (fascinating fact: Lance likes to listen to music when he runs) and doesn't otherwise have much to say other than obvious factoids about iPods, iTunes, and another Apple music product it's going to release later this year (apparently the company plans to release a phone--who knew?).

Some of the things I'd like to know about those sales probably won't show up in any Apple statement. Such as....

* How many of those 100,000,000 iPods are sitting in drawers?

* How many broke and were replaced by other iPods?

* What's the exact figure of how many iPods have been lost (I once left mine on an Air France flight) or stolen?

* How many cumulative scratches are there on all those iPods?

* What are the total number of songs stored on the 100,000,000 iPods, and how many were bought from Apple, ripped from CD, downloaded from P2P networks, etc., etc.?

* How long will it take Apple to get to 200,000,000 iPods, assuming that it does, eventually? 300,000,000? A half a billion?

Unknown Musician Tops iTunes Chart
Ruth Lumley

A classically trained pianist turned acoustic guitar player who does not even own an iPod is heading for stardom after her homemade album topped the national iTunes chart.

Folk singer Kate Walsh, 24, of Brighton, knocked Take That from the top of the album chart just over a week ago with the songs she recorded in her producer's bedroom.

Lacking a major record deal, Kate made the record available in digital form only but soon won devotees after placing songs on her MySpace web page.

She persuaded iTunes to sell the album, called Tim's House, and last week it topped the online store's UK download album chart, displacing Take That and Kaiser Chiefs.

Not that Kate was a regular iTunes customer.

Kate, who trained at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, was given her first iPod when she was invited to perform at Apple's main London store to celebrate hitting the top of the charts.

Since then, she says, she has downloaded everything onto it but her own album.

She said: "Since iTunes became involved the album has been noticed by lots of people who have really loved it and bought it.

"It has been a bit of a whirlwind and since then I have been on tour. I am also still working part-time while all this is going on but it is just lovely to know that people know the album's out there and they are enjoying it."

The homemade quality of the album reflects the fact it was recorded at the home of producer and musician Tim Bidwell, of the Brighton band Hardkandy.

He created a sound-insulated vocal booth in the bedroom of his home in Kemp Town, Brighton, with velvet curtains he bought for £580 from Debenhams.

Kate, whose musical influences include Joni Mitchell, The Longpigs and Tori Amos, brought the album out on her own record label, Blueberry Pie, with Tim's help.

She said: "I really liked what he did and by the time I decided to release the album myself I really wanted him to produce the record."

Oliver Schusser, director ofiTunes Europe, said: "This is an incredible achievement when you consider Kate Walsh is unsigned and still outsold several major international artists."

Kate will spend this week touring the country supporting British artist Aqualung in Birmingham, Manchester, London and Glasgow before starting her first headline tour at the end of May.

She will play at an uncut night at the Red Roaster Cafe on St James's Street, Brighton, on May 17, as part of The Great Escape Festival which runs over three days next month.

To find out more about Kate and her music go to www.myspace.com/katewalsh

Thanks Daddydirt! – Jack.

iPod Saves Soldier’s Life in Iraq
Stevie Smith

It’s not often that a piece of modern everyday consumer technology actually becomes involved in a genuine bona fide miracle while out in the big bad world, but that’s exactly what happened to an Apple iPod as it was innocently occupying the upper left chest pocket of a patrolling American soldier based in Iraq.

This tragic tale of electronic self-sacrifice unfolds thanks to a post appearing on the popular public imagery website Flickr, which relays the story of Kevin Garrad of the American 3rd Infantry Division, who amazingly survived a close quarter exchange of gun fire with an Iragi insurgent… thanks to his conveniently placed iPod music player.

According to the post, Garrad rounded a corner while on routine patrol in Tikrit, only to come face to face with an insurgent armed with a Russian-made AK-47 (Kalashnikov) assault rifle. With only a matter of a few feet separating the two unwitting duellers, frantic shots were exchanged, subsequently leaving the insurgent dead and Garrad struck in the chest.

At such close range, the 7.62x39mm calibre bullets discharged from an AK-47 are likely to pass through the protective standard-issue body armour that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are fitted out with, and in normal circumstances the abrupt gunfight would have left Garrad dead if not mortally wounded.

Yet the lucky American serviceman took no wound from the exchange, thanks to his brave Apple (HP edition) iPod music player, which successfully slowed the incoming round and prevented it from passing through the armour plating and finding its fleshy target.

Further to Garrad’s already overwhelming rush of good fortune, an update on the Flickr post has revealed that an amazed engineer at Apple Inc. has shown images of the mangled iPod around the office and a replacement iPod could soon be winging its way to a now empty left breast pocket in Iraq.

An Apple a day, in this case, quite literally keeps the reaper at bay.

iPod Tells Soldier He Was Shot

I talked to Kevin Garrad this afternoon and here’s the story firsthand:

The armor stopped the bullet.

The iPod was how Kevin Garrad found out he was shot. This is the real story.

Kevin said he got into the fight with the insurgent and afterwards he did not know he was even shot. He said he returned to his bunk after the patrol, put on his earbuds and began to clean his weapon.

He said: “you get into a ritual out there.”

No music came on. He dug around in the pockets where he kept the iPod and pulled out the twisted hunk of metal that is in the pictures. He said that was how he found out that he had been shot during the fight. He was happy that his armor worked.

He said the upgraded armor he was wearing could stop the AK-47 round. It was not the newest armor that is in Iraq now, but it was an upgrade. This was his second iPod that he had brought to Iraq. The first had been damaged earlier and the store would not replace it, even with the additional warranty he purchased.

The pictures are what happens when an AK-47 bullet hits an iPod.

He’s talked to Apple and is happy that they sent him another iPod. He’s gone through two already. If any others send him iPods he’ll put them in care packages back to friends in his unit who don’t have them.

Kaspersky Lab Discovers First iPod-Specific Virus
Bryan Gardiner

Russian computer security company Kaspersky Lab announced on Thursday that it had discovered the first virus designed specifically to infect iPods. The catch? You actually have to put it on your iPod-and your iPod needs to have Linux installed on it. The virus, dubbed Podloso, is what's known as a "proof of concept" virus-or one that is created in order to demonstrate that it is possible to infect a specific platform. As such, the company said that it does not pose any real threat. If installed on an iPod, Podloso proceeds to further replicate itself to the folder that contains program demo versions, according to Kaspersky Lab. "Once launched, the virus scans the device's hard disk and infects all executable .elf format files," the company said in a statement. "Any attempt to launch these files will cause the virus to display a message on the screen which says 'You are infected with Oslo the first iPodLinux Virus.'"

Kaspersky Lab stressed that Podloso does not carry a malicious payload and is unable to spread. Despite Kaspersky's claim that Podloso is the first iPod virus discovered, a small number of iPods were actually shipped with a Windows virus installed on them last October. Less than 1 percent of the video iPods sold after Sept. 12 were infected with the Windows RavMon.exe virus, Apple said. Furthermore, it only affected Windows computers and was easily detected and removed with up-to-date anti-virus software.

The Blogs That Ate Cyberspace
Dan Silkstone

Still blogging: Jorn Barger, who created the term weblog.

IT HAS been the most extraordinary rise, and it happened while you probably weren't even looking. In just under a decade, the blog has swamped the virtual world, multiplying at a rate usually seen only inside Petri dishes. Some now say it is poised to deliver a killer blow to mainstream media, others reckon it to be a fad that will soon be forgotten.

Welcome to the blogosphere, home to 70 million blogs, splogs, vlogs and moblogs. It's enough to make you slightly groggy. And of course make you wonder: where did all of this come from? Perhaps more importantly, where is it going?

Last week, News Limited papers suggested the blog might be set for lean times. Unnamed "analysts" described a "cultish enthusiasm for self-expression" that was "rapidly wearing off". Anonymous forecasters predicted the fad would soon be superseded by newer media forms such as the online meeting place MySpace.

But some of blogging's most famous exponents believe otherwise, and the figures appear to back them up. In the minute or so you have been reading this story, more than 80 new blogs have been created. Apparently, there's life in the old blog yet. Take Jorn Barger, one of the digital world's true eccentrics. Even on the internet, where quirkiness is a badge of honour, he stands out.

In the mid-1990s, Barger was one of a handful of computer geeks who started collecting links to all the cool stuff he had found on the internet. In 1997, he gave his creation a name. He called it his weblog.

"I was overwhelmed with the sense that there was much more out there on the web than I knew how to find — like being in a giant treasure house with only a candle for light," he told The Age. "My motive was just to explore and share my explorations."

Barger searched day and night for interesting material, adding it incessantly. He had been impressed by a young woman named Anna Voog — a "camgirl" who filmed her every moment and posted it online. "She was trying to live her life 100 per cent openly, which I thought was a righteous ideal," he says. "I wanted to emulate it in my own way by logging everything I found interesting, whether art or politics or silliness or even occasionally good porn."

Barger's site, Robot Wisdom, compiled matter-of-fact lists of eclectic links — summed up by short descriptive phrases. It still follows this form (witness recent posts such as "Overview of Chavez's radical policies" or "Great long Scorsese interview".)

For a year or so, little changed. Barger gradually attracted more readers and a few started sites of their own. One day, he stumbled across one called Honeyguide Weblog. His name was catching. Excited, Barger began compiling a list of all the webloggers he could find. By 1998 he had about 100.

Among the pioneers was Peter Merholz, a San Francisco-based designer who entertained his workmates by emailing them lists of links to cool and funny websites. In 1998, to save time, he started posting them online in a weblog, but the moment that changed his life came a year later. While editing his page, Merholz hit the space bar on a whim — changing the title from weblog to we blog. With this keystroke, the blog was born. "I think we did have a sense of being at the forefront of something," Merholz told The Age. "We all talked to each other."

In those early days, he knew about 20 pioneers like himself and excitedly shared links with them. Now he calls it "ye olde school". This cross-linking would become one of blogging's defining traits and a key ingredient of its success.

On the fast-moving web this is ancient history, so it's somewhat bizarre to realise how recently it happened — such is the extent to which blogging is now etched into our language and consciousness. In 1999, the Kangaroos and Wayne Carey ruled the AFL and The Matrix dominated the box office, offering a future in which identity was virtual and fluid. Alone in their bedrooms, Jorn Barger and Peter Merholz were already there.

So was David Sifry. You can't ask the question about how many blogs there are and where they all came from without asking Sifry, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of blog-monitoring company Technorati. In 2002, the long-term blogger wanted to know what others like him were writing and (more importantly) who was reading it. Conventional search engines weren't good at finding this out, so Sifry retreated to his basement with four computers over a long weekend and created Technorati. Six months later his "science project" became a company. Now it is the Google of blogging (a claim to fame that would have made little sense a decade ago).

By November 2002, Technorati had identified 30,000 blogs worldwide and ranked them for popularity according to how many other blogs linked to them. The emergence of easy-to-use programs such as Blogger and LiveJournal meant anyone could blog. You didn't need to be a computer geek, you could just type in the text box and hit "publish". Millions did. In 2003, the word "blog" debuted in the Oxford Dictionary and by February last year the Washington Post wondered aloud if the blogging fad had plateaued, noting that Technorati had tracked more than 38 million blogs. "There are indications the numbers are peaking," the newspaper said. A year later, the figure is more than 70 million.

Then came last week's shrill warnings, cribbed selectively from a four-month-old report by US technology consultants Gartner. The report estimates there are now 200 million dead blogs, basing this on a creative reading of data from Technorati. David Sifry disagrees. "I don't know where they get those figures from," he says.

The News Limited story suggested that net-savvy types were giving up on blogging and turning their attention to MySpace. The owner of Myspace is, of course, News Limited. Also conveniently not disclosed was the fact that, according to the Gartner report, use of MySpace has been falling steadily during the past year.

Now some disclosure of my own. To borrow from Peter Merholz, I blog (or should that be iBlog?). I've never been a computer guy, and it seemed a trifle nerdy at first, but it was one of those things you fall into — in this case coming along with membership of a rock'n'roll band who choose to communicate with each other (and their vast army of fans) by blogging.

It turned out to be fun. Important issues I have posted about in the past few weeks include getting my guitar fixed, the best song on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and my favourite animal name of all time (it's Nubian Wild Ass — thanks for asking). You might find these things trivial but they aren't to me. And that is the whole point.

Blogs give you voice and validation. Say anything you like and if you are lucky, somebody will hear you and leave a reply. Once upon a time people wrote their most private thoughts in a diary and hid it in their top drawer. Now they post them for all the world to see. Then, the writer's warning was publish and be damned. Now, the great fear is publish and be ignored.

I return hungrily to my posts, looking for comments, and there's one from a stranger, Meva, which is warmly positive. A quick click on her name takes me to Meva's blog. Her favourite song of the week is Man of the World by Fleetwood Mac. I loathe Fleetwood Mac but should I tell her? Are we friends now? Would she be offended?

Meva has also linked to a "free David Hicks" blog and a bunch of stuff about refugee rights. She prefers an untidy house to a tidy one and she currently has an ear infection. These appear to be the two most interesting things about her.

On the right side of the page is a list of about 50 other blogs she endorses. I think about choosing Lady Pirates but instead select Jabberwocky, which transports me to an account of a recent trip to Teotihuacan, Mexico: "I've quit my job, kissed my boy goodbye and I'm off … on the other side of the world."

From the list of recommended blogs, I opt for Bland Canyon — "ravings and whingeing from a 26-year-old girl who spends far too much time surfing the interweb and watching TV".

Here I find a surprisingly funny dissection of the TV show Next Top Model as well as an amusing summary of the junk mail in the writer's mailbox. From Bland Canyon I jump again, via the recommended list to Much Ado about Sumthin, "Gobsmackingly banal rantings, of a vapid, attention seeking, famewhore". Said famewhore writes vividly about coming home from a weekend wedding to find her cousin asleep on her couch and vomit all over her bed. Suddenly I wish I'd chosen the lady pirates.

Originally, blogging was about making the net's limitless tumult easier to navigate, trusting a more dedicated or resourceful web surfer to guide you to the newest, coolest sites. But the proliferation of blogs means any such function has long disappeared behind a wall of noise. Now sites such as Technorati are required to help the overloaded surf through an ocean of blogs.

But while blogging must certainly slow as it matures (exponential growth cannot continue forever), it's not happening yet, says Rebecca Blood, a pioneering blogger, cyber-commentator and author of the bestselling Weblog Handbook. "At the moment, I think the reach of blogging is still widening, as new people discover blogs and start their own," she says. It may be true that more people are starting blogs than keeping them up, Blood says, but that's always been true of any form of expression.

And starting them they are. Every single day, all around the world, 1000 new blogs spring to life. "It continues to catch on, not just in terms of the number of new blogs but in terms of posting volume," Sifry says. Six months ago, the world created 1.1 million posts a day. Now it is 1.4 million. That's 58,000 posts an hour.

It is true, though, that many blogs are dead or inactive. Of the 70 million Technorati identifies, just 55 per cent have been updated in the past three months. About 11 per cent are updated weekly or more often.

But not all abandoned blogs are debris left by disenchanted confessionalists. Many were always intended to have fixed life spans — tied to conferences, academic courses or specific projects. Often, though static, they remain useful resources.

Some in mainstream media have cast blogging as the new journalism, but there is little support for the idea in the blogosphere. While some blogs aim for genuine news reporting or informed comment, just as many or more are about wine appreciation, football fandom, conservative politics or kinky erotica. In the US, bloggers have only occasionally broken big news — most famously unravelling the career of veteran newsman Dan Rather by revealing he had been hoaxed by fake documents about George Bush's war record.

Sifry says blogs can't really replace traditional news sources, but they are starting to cut into their revenue. "Not everybody cares about breaking news. Some just want to talk about golf or music or whatever," he says. "If there are enough of those people gathering somewhere, advertisers will want to market to them."

If webloggers aren't apeing mainstream media, the reverse is certainly happening. Publishers such as The Age now run whole stables of bloggers on their online sites. One of The Age's blog posts — Jack Marx's masterful backstab of Russell Crowe, won a Walkley Award last year. But only after editors realised how good it was and stuck it in the paper.

So who is blogging? It's hard to break down the numbers by nation; the internet just doesn't work that way. But if you look at language groups, the picture gets interesting. Astonishingly, 37 per cent of all blogs are now written in Japanese. "It has now become the single largest language in terms of posting numbers," David Sifry says. English runs second at 36 per cent. Chinese is third with just 8 per cent. Plenty of room to grow. According to Technorati, the most linked-to blog last year was that of Chinese actress Xu Jinglei.

The biggest threat is spam blogs (or splogs), a nuisance that has multiplied in recent times. "We have definitely seen an increase of those in the last four or five months," Sifry says. Canny sploggers create multiple blogs, using them to manipulate search engine results, artificially boosting their rankings at Google or Yahoo.

But while some fear splogs could threaten the form that spawned them, Sifry says he and others are racing to create better filters that will weed out junk. "It's a threat, but all healthy ecosystems have parasites," he says.

Technorati gets 10 million unique visitors each month. Traffic to the site has doubled in the past four weeks. For your blog to make its top 10 rankings it must be linked to by tens of thousands of others.

By contrast, Jorn Barger's once swollen readership has shrunk. Now only 100 or so regulars link to his site and he has barely made a cent from his labours. He is a wild figure — bushy-bearded and occasionally homeless — who devotes himself to his blog and his life's other work — compiling a fully annotated online version of James Joyce's indecipherable masterpiece Finnegan's Wake. Barger's fans go into apoplexy when he periodically vanishes (sometimes for months at a time). During one absence, in mid-2005, a writer for internet style mag Wired encountered him on a San Francisco street. A dishevelled-looking Barger was carrying a cardboard sign that read "Coined the term 'weblog', never made a dime."

Given all this, you might expect Barger to be pessimistic or bitter about the future of blogging. He is the opposite. "What could be bleak?" he says. "If they try to suppress minority viewpoints, it will just make the game that much more exciting. In other words, I can't see anything but rosier and rosier."

For Peter Merholz, blogging has been more lucrative. Handsome and smooth, he is now president of San Francisco consultancy Adaptive Path — a juggernaut that advises some of America's biggest companies on how to adapt to the digital age. "I don't know what the future holds for blogging," he says. "I don't think it's a passing fad. As long as there are people who want to communicate, there will be things like blogs. Now, as the technology evolves, blogging will likely evolve with it."

Already there are videologs (vlogs), photoblogs and podcasts (audio blogs). Then there are the moblogs, those written from a phone or PDA device. In one respect, the naysayers may be right. Blogging might not be dying, but it is always morphing into new forms: "Young people today expect to have their own place on the web, and they will always find a way to have one," Rebecca Blood says.

What this all means is still very much up for grabs. A common charge levelled against bloggers is that their lives are boring and they should stop inflicting them on everybody else. But from the start, there have been different ideas of what a blog might be. Many blog analysts evoke the wunderkammer, an idea with roots in Europe's renaissance. Gentlemen would collect and compile items of exotic interest for a "cabinet of wonders" (usually an actual room). Skins and horns of exotic animals, artworks, strange machines — all were sought and hoarded. The idea was to show off your own eclectic taste, to amuse your friends and yourself with a bunch of wacky stuff.

Many bloggers use this as a metaphor for their own collecting and sharing of links, an idea first put forward by early blogger Jason Kottke, who has now reached such levels of fame that he blogs for a living. Kottke responded to The Age's queries by saying he was not "doing any media at the moment" (but sweetly wished us luck).

Then there are the diarists who post pictures of their cats, details of last night's dinner and other random thoughts, as though they were papal pronouncements. In the early days, some called themselves escribitionists — surely one of the more painful examples of the internet's insatiable invention of new words.

Peter Merholz says he has gradually moved from sharing links on his blog to sharing his thoughts, though he thinks both forms are valuable and important. Others aren't so sure and many bloggers give themselves self-deprecating titles, drawing attention to the vanity and possible pointlessness of their craft.

So are many bloggers deluded when they think their lives and thoughts are interesting or worthy of recording? "Of course they are," Rebecca Blood says. "But Paris Hilton's life isn't particularly interesting either and the mainstream press is infatuated with her."

To be fair, Blood says, most bloggers' everyday lives are interesting to the people who are close to them. For the vast majority, this is the only audience ever sought or found. But there are also a large number of personal blogs with significant readerships. Maybe it's just voyeurism.

In the end, Blood says, the "who cares?" question is probably the wrong one to ask — betraying an old-fashioned, mass media assumption that success relates to audience size. "The blogs that will survive are the ones whose creators find them to be rewarding," she says. "A blogger doesn't have to have a single reader in order to continue publishing every day."

Of course it's not just nobodies who blog, celebrities are in on it too. On hers, actress Pamela Anderson reveals that her favourite albums are Led Zeppelin IV and 50 Cent's The Massacre. Her favourite books include works by Herman Hesse, Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller, as well as … herself.

Former child star Wil Wheaton is now almost as famous for his blog as he once was for roles in Stand by Me and Star Trek. Readers flock to hear him riff about his online poker habit and the bunch of old Star Trek props stashed in his basement.

Speaking of Star Trek — and on the internet it's never far away — William Shatner's page, BillSpace, carries the breathless update: "Bill Shatner addresses the rumour that Leonard Nimoy and he met recently with the production team of the new Star Trek movie." (for the record, nothing happened). Sheryl Crow had a blog but it died of neglect. Same with Mariah Carey and Barbara Streisand (what, these people don't have enough free time on their hands?) Hillary Clinton has been busy too. She hasn't posted on her Blog for Hope since September 2005.

Jorn Barger says "lazy and sensational" journalists have dismissed blogs as mere diaries, neglecting the social benefit of collecting a network of links to information sources — archiving and drawing connections between items that would otherwise be scattered and soon-forgotten. Peter Merholz reckons most blogs should probably have a readership of about five people but thinks there's nothing wrong with that.

For two regular geeks who were there at the start, life has thrown up wildly divergent paths. But a decade on, Barger and Merholz are still blogging. And people still read them.

"It's very nice to hear of people I admire starting blogs, or to see the word in comics, songs, etc," Barger says. "But if that's all I'm remembered for, it wasn't worth the bother." Merholz is, not surprisingly, more content with his place in history. "I am jazzed that I was able to be at the start of something that became so big," he says in Silicon Valley hipster slang. "I'm even more jazzed that the word I coined entered into the lexicon."

A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs
Brad Stone

Is it too late to bring civility to the Web?

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

A recent outbreak of antagonism among several prominent bloggers “gives us an opportunity to change the level of expectations that people have about what’s acceptable online,” said Mr. O’Reilly, who posted the preliminary recommendations last week on his company blog (radar.oreilly.com). Mr. Wales then put the proposed guidelines on his company’s site (blogging.wikia.com), and is now soliciting comments in the hope of creating consensus around what constitutes civil behavior online.

Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself.

“If it’s a carefully constructed set of principles, it could carry a lot of weight even if not everyone agrees,” Mr. Wales said.

The code of conduct already has some early supporters, including David Weinberger, a well-known blogger (hyperorg.com/blogger) and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “The aim of the code is not to homogenize the Web, but to make clearer the informal rules that are already in place anyway,” he said.

But as with every other electrically charged topic on the Web, finding common ground will be a serious challenge. Some online writers wonder how anyone could persuade even a fraction of the millions of bloggers to embrace one set of standards. Others say that the code smacks of restrictions on free speech.

Mr. Wales and Mr. O’Reilly were inspired to act after a firestorm erupted late last month in the insular community of dedicated technology bloggers. In an online shouting match that was widely reported, Kathy Sierra, a high-tech book author from Boulder County, Colo., and a friend of Mr. O’Reilly, reported getting death threats that stemmed in part from a dispute over whether it was acceptable to delete the impolitic comments left by visitors to someone’s personal Web site.

Distraught over the threats and manipulated photos of her that were posted on other critical sites — including one that depicted her head next to a noose — Ms. Sierra canceled a speaking appearance at a trade show and asked the local police for help in finding the source of the threats. She also said that she was considering giving up blogging altogether.

In an interview, she dismissed the argument that cyberbullying is so common that she should overlook it. “I can’t believe how many people are saying to me, ‘Get a life, this is the Internet,’ ” she said. “If that’s the case, how will we ever recognize a real threat?”

Ms. Sierra said she supported the new efforts to improve civility on the Web. The police investigation into her case is pending.

Menacing behavior is certainly not unique to the Internet. But since the Web offers the option of anonymity with no accountability, online conversations are often more prone to decay into ugliness than those in other media.

Nowadays, those conversations often take place on blogs. At last count, there were 70 million of them, with more than 1.4 million entries being added daily, according to Technorati, a blog-indexing company. For the last decade, these Web journals have offered writers a way to amplify their voices and engage with friends and readers.

But the same factors that make those unfiltered conversations so compelling, and impossible to replicate in the offline world, also allow them to spin out of control.

As many female bloggers can attest, women are often targets. Heather Armstrong, a blogger in Salt Lake City who writes publicly about her family (dooce.com), stopped accepting unmoderated comments on her blog two years ago after she found that conversations among visitors consistently devolved into vitriol.

Since last October, she has also had to deal with an anonymous blogger who maintains a separate site that parodies her writing and has included photos of Ms. Armstrong’s daughter, copied from her site.

Ms. Armstrong tries not to give the site public attention, but concedes that, “At first, it was really difficult to deal with.”

Women are not the only targets of nastiness. For the last four years, Richard Silverstein has advocated for Israeli-Palestinian peace on a blog (richardsilverstein.com) that he maintains from Seattle.

People who disagree with his politics frequently leave harassing comments on his site. But the situation reached a new low last month, when an anonymous opponent started a blog in Mr. Silverstein’s name that included photos of Mr. Silverstein in a pornographic context.

“I’ve been assaulted and harassed online for four years,” he said. “Most of it I can take in stride. But you just never get used to that level of hatred.”

One public bid to improve the quality of dialogue on the Web came more than a year ago when Mena Trott, a co-founder of the blogging software company Six Apart, proposed elevating civility on the Internet in a speech she gave at a French blog conference. At the event, organizers had placed a large screen on the stage showing instant electronic responses to the speeches from audience members and those who were listening in online.

As Ms. Trott spoke about improving online conduct, a heckler filled the screen with personal insults. Ms Trott recalled “losing it” during the speech.

Ms. Trott has scaled back her public writing and now writes a blog for a limited audience of friends and family. “You can’t force people to be civil, but you can force yourself into a situation where anonymous trolls are not in your life as much,” she said.

The preliminary recommendations posted by Mr. Wales and Mr. O’Reilly are based in part on a code developed by BlogHer, a network for women designed to give them blogging tools and to guide readers to their pages.

“Any community that does not make it clear what they are doing, why they are doing it, and who is welcome to join the conversation is at risk of finding it difficult to help guide the conversation later,” said Lisa Stone, who created the guidelines and the BlogHer network in 2006 with Elisa Camahort and Jory Des Jardins.

A subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors. They say that bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive.

That may sound obvious, but many Internet veterans believe that blogs are part of a larger public sphere, and that deleting a visitor’s comment amounts to an assault on their right to free speech. It is too early to gauge support for the proposal, but some online commentators are resisting.

Robert Scoble, a popular technology blogger who stopped blogging for a week in solidarity with Kathy Sierra after her ordeal became public, says the proposed rules “make me feel uncomfortable.” He adds, “As a writer, it makes me feel like I live in Iran.”
Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said. “Free speech is enhanced by civility.”

Research Finds Opera Users are Most Satisfied
Daniel Goldman

Researchers at NetApplications found that Opera has the most satisfied users of all other browsers.

“When the browser share is factored into the best browser voting, the analysis is even more revealing. The results imply that Opera has the most satisfied user base, followed by Firefox and [Apple’s] Safari,” according to NetApplications.

“Opera is retaining its status as one of the internet’s best-kept secrets - less than one per cent of surfers worldwide use the browser.”

I don’t find this report surprising at all. I’ve been a fan of Opera for more than 6 years already, and I truly notice the superiority of Opera when I use other browsers here and there.

Web Browser Shows Glance of 9 Favorites
Anick Jesdanun

Forget the bookmarks.

The latest version of Opera's Web browser lets visitors see mini versions of their nine favorite sites at a glance. Click on any thumbnail to load the full site.

The Speed Dial feature also lets people access the site by typing its corresponding numeral -- 1 to 9 -- in the address bar.

"Speed Dial is a fresh way to call up the top sites you enjoy throughout the day," Jon von Tetzchner, chief executive of Opera Software ASA, said in a statement. "It's a cool, new way to access those sites."

Users still have the option of typing in the entire Web address or calling up the site using a traditional bookmark.

The feature, available in the 9.2 version of the Opera browser released Wednesday, represents the Norwegian software maker's latest attempt to distinguish itself from more popular rivals like Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox.

Opera's free software is available for the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

Best version yet. Speed Dial is a great idea that works. – Jack

Five Critical Reasons to Update Windows Today
John Leyden

Microsoft has released six bulletins, five covering critical vulnerabilities, as part of its latest Patch Tuesday update.

The critical list includes flaws in Universal Plug and Play, Windows CSRSS, Microsoft Agent and Microsoft Content Management Server that create a means for hackers to inject code into vulnerable systems.

The security update follows last week's patch (MS07-017) for the ANI vulnerability, which Microsoft released early amidst reports of widespread hacking attacks targeting the flaw. Redmond also pushed out a hot-fix for this top priority patch designed to resolve conflicts with other applications. There's also an "important" patch designed to address a vulnerability in Windows Kernel that might allow privilege elevation.

Security vendors said Microsoft had done the right thing in releasing patches early, despite the application glitch problems. Alan Bentley, managing director of PatchLink EMEA, said: "Microsoft is becoming more adept at dealing with vulnerabilities by releasing key ones early, even when they are only a week before. It is also an indication that Microsoft is listening to its customers and responding to them rather than sticking to its own agenda."

Both the ANI vulnerability and CSRSS patch affect Windows Vista as well as other Windows operating systems, Bentley notes.

"Organisations need to take notice that although Vista is more secure, it is certainly not immune from vulnerabilities. PatchLink recommends that organisations prioritise deploying the Vista-related patches ASAP," he said.

"Since all five critical patches are for remote code execution, which is oftentimes a vehicle for botnets and other targeted attacks, it is essential that organisations remediate these vulnerabilities quickly."

Users are advised to update systems promptly. There's more information in Microsoft's security bulletin summary here (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sec.../ms07-apr.mspx) and an advisory by security clearing house US CERT here (http://www.us-cert.gov/cas/techalerts/TA07-100A.html).

Windows XP to be Phased Out by Year's End Despite Customer Demand
Angus Kidman

Computer makers have been told they'll no longer be able to get Windows XP OEM by the end of this year, despite consumer resistance to Vista and its compatibility problems.

By early 2008, Microsoft's contracts with computer makers will require companies to only sell Vista-loaded machines. "The OEM version of XP Professional goes next January," said Frank Luburic, senior ThinkPad product manager for Lenovo. "At that point, they'll have no choice."

Despite Microsoft's relentless promotion of Vista, manufacturers are still seeing plenty of demand from customers for systems preloaded with XP, especially in the finicky SOHO market.

In a recent post on its Direct2Dell blog, Dell reaffirmed to concerned customers that it wasn't about to force small business users -- who typically purchase PCs piecemeal, rather than in large enterprise-style orders -- to shift to Vista, which has experienced a less-than-stellar reaction from many buyers because of driver issues and moderately beefy hardware requirements.

"Dell recognizes the needs of small business customers and understands that more time is needed to transition to a new operating system," the post read in part. "The plan is to continue offering Windows XP on select Dimension and Inspiron systems until later this [northern] summer."

"From a local perspective, the post was a reminder more than an announcement," Dell ANZ corporate communications manager Paul McKeon told APC.

"This was something we'd always planned during the transition phase since businesses will have different time frames to adopt the new OS. If you're a consumer, you're unlikely to be managing more than say 2.4 OS images at home, so it's less of an issue"

There's general agreement amongst PC resellers that Vista has provided a minor boost to PC sales, but hasn't produced blockbuster numbers. A similar story applies in the retail space. Figures from marketing consultancy GfK suggest that after an initial sales surge, around 1500 copies of Vista are now being sold through Australian retailers each week, according to a recent report in the AFR.

While Dell's post suggested it wouldn't be promoting Vista systems to the home market, manufacturers still have the option of selling XP-based systems for consumers this year.

FTC Official: Let's Imprison Spyware Distributors
Anne Broache

Steep fines are nice, but one of the best weapons against spyware purveyors is locking them up, a federal regulator told senators on Tuesday.

At a morning Senate Commerce Committee hearing here, Federal Trade Commissioner William Kovacic said most wrongdoers in the spyware arena "can only be described as vicious organized criminals."

"Many of most serious wrongdoers we observed in this area, I believe, are only going to be deterred if their freedom is withdrawn," so it's important for the FTC to collaborate on its cases with criminal law enforcement authorities, Kovacic said.

Kovacic's remarks came in response to a question from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), who was presiding over Tuesday morning's hearing, about whether the FTC is sufficiently equipped to combat the scourge of software planted surreptitiously on a user's computer.

"It's a real source of frustration for my constituents, my family, my office...basically anyone who has a computer," Pryor said.

Congress has been trying for years to pass legislation aimed at curbing spyware and adware, but most of that activity so far has occurred in the House of Representatives, as opposed to the Senate.

FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz repeated his agency's call for Congress to elevate what it perceives as limited fining powers--not just in spyware cases, but in other situations within the FTC's enforcement range, such as when a person is caught using false pretenses, or pretexting, to obtain telephone records.

The purpose of Tuesday's hearing--which lasted about 90 minutes and featured appearances from only four senators on the 22-member committee--was to allow the FTC commissioners to update the Senate on their progress and to request $240 million for next year's budget--an increase of $17 million from last year. The event marked the first appearance by all five FTC commissioners before the panel since an identity theft hearing in June 2005.

Federal Government Sees Modest Computer Security Gains
Brian Krebs

The federal government earned an overall grade of "C-minus" last year for securing its computer systems and networks from hackers, viruses and insider threats, a slight improvement from its performance in 2005.

According to data to be released by a House committee today, the Department of Defense led a group of eight agencies that received failing marks for computer security. Also receiving that dubious distinction were the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Interior, State and Treasury, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Department of Homeland Security earned a D, although its overall performance improved since 2005. The Department of Veterans Affairs did not provide enough data to earn a grade. In 2005, it received an F.

While the government-wide grade improved from a D-plus in 2005, nine agencies earned lower scores than they did the previous year, with some falling behind considerably. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was awarded a grade of B-minus in 2005 and dropped to a D-minus in 2006. The Department of Education was assigned a failing grade for 2006, after earning a C-minus the prior year.

Eight agencies earned grades ranging from A-minus to A-plus, with some showing strong improvement. The groups leading this year's report card were the Agency for International Development, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, the departments of Justice and Housing and Urban Development, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Social Security Administration.

The grades were based on the agencies' internal assessments and information they are required to submit annually to the White House Office of Management and Budget. The letter grades depended on how well agencies met the requirements detailed in the Federal Information Security Management Act.

The 2003 law, known as FISMA, requires agencies to meet a wide variety of computer security standards, ranging from operational details -- such as ensuring proper password management by workers and restricting employee access to sensitive networks and documents -- to creating procedures for reporting security problems.

The scores will be handed out today by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and author of the FISMA law.

Critics of the process have called the annual FISMA reports more of a paperwork exercise than an accurate representation of the security of federal agencies' computers and networks. They say the reports do not require or give agencies credit for taking certain types of security precautions, such as penetration tests to locate gaps in security defenses.

Davis Staff Director David Marin said the congressman plans to address those criticisms by awarding extra credit points in next year's grades to any agencies that beat a White House deadline for meeting new federal computer security standards. An administration memo issued last month requires agencies to ensure that any existing or newly purchased personal computers that use Microsoft Windows XP or Vista software platforms include certain default settings designed to decrease time and money spent securing those personal computers and in repairing systems that have been compromised by hackers or viruses.

Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, a security training group based in Bethesda, Md., has been a vocal critic of how FISMA measures security at federal agencies. But Paller said Davis's incentive program could have "a profound effect" on the level of computer security at federal agencies.

"Shifting even half the money from report writing to actual security improvements could enable the government to lead by example in cyber security and provide the critical mass of incentive to integrators and system and software vendors to bake security into every product they sell," Paller said.

Protected Memory Stick Easily Cracked
Martin_Sturm writes

A $175 1GB USB stick designed to protect your data turns out to be a very insecure. According to the distributer of the Secustick, the safety of the data is ensured: "Due to its unique technology it has the ability to destroy itself once an incorrect password is entered."

The Secustick is used by various European governments and organizations to secure data on USB sticks. Tweakers.net shows how easy it is to break the protection of the stick. Quoting: "It should be clear that the stick's security is quite useless: a simple program can be used to fool the Secustick into sending its unlock command without knowing the password. Besides, the password.exe application can be adapted so that it accepts arbitrary passwords."

The manufacturer got the message and took th[e] Secustick website offline. The site give a message (translated from Dutch): "Dear visitor, this site is currently unavailable due to security issues of the Secustick. We are currently working on an improved version of the Secustick."

New Technology Aims to Bore Impatient Spammers
Brian Krebs

Spammers are impatient, so a Canadian company has developed new technology to capitalize on that impatience to cut the volume of unwanted e-mail messages flooding the Internet.

For spammers, volume is king; the more e-mails sent advertising penny stocks or miracle cures, the higher the odds that someone, somewhere will open the message and buy the "product." Thus, the spammers focus on sending as many unsolicited e-mail messages as possible in the shortest amount of time.

MailChannels of Vancouver, Canada, found that by forcing e-mail programs to wait a few seconds before being allowed to communicate with Internet servers handling the recipients' incoming mail, most spammers give up and move on.

Normally, when an e-mail server receives a request to accept incoming messages, it quickly agrees. But MailChannels' product, Traffic Control, changes that dynamic by meting out that digital handshake very slowly, a few bits at a time. The receiving server normally would acquiesce to the incoming request in less than two seconds, but Traffic Control's software lets e-mail administrators extend that communication gap anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple of minutes.

Based on data collected after deploying Traffic Control, MailChannels co-founder Ken Simpson said 90 percent of spammers give up trying to send their message after 10 seconds of being "on hold"; legitimate e-mail senders, however, tend to persevere and eventually get their message through.

"Even after eight minutes [of waiting], 60 percent of legitimate e-mail senders are still hanging on trying to get their message delivered." Simpson said. "This is the technique spammers are really only going to get hurt by, because if we just build a better spam filter, the spammers will respond by increasing the amount of junk mail they're blasting out. But if you throttle them, there really is nothing they can do except persist like legitimate senders, but if they do that then the economics of spamming goes out the window."

The company has secured customers in a wide range of fields since its founding in 2003. The city of Richmond in British Columbia reported halving its spam volume after deploying the company's software across its government networks. Cornell University and Northeastern University also are clients.

The service has been a boon to Frank Wiles, information technology manager for Sunflower Broadband, a cable-based Internet service provider. Wiles said his Lawrence, Kan., company is locked in a daily battle against junk e-mail, noting that spam makes up 97 percent of the average one million e-mails his company's 20,000 customers receive daily.

Without MailChannels' software, Sunflower would have had to invest at least $50,000 in new hardware to deal with the huge increase in spam over the past year, Wiles said.

Forcing e-mails to wait around for many seconds to determine their legitimacy can quickly create a backlog of messages, especially since many e-mail networks receive hundreds or thousands of messages per minute. To get around that problem, Traffic Control offers the added feature of helping e-mail servers operate more efficiently.

E-mail servers operate by addressing sequentially each message's meet-and-greet. That means that tiny pauses in the communications process on either end can quickly add up and slow the receiving mail server to a crawl. Think of it as a digital square dance where each dancer's hand hovers in the air for a brief moment before grasping onto the next partner's hand. MailChannels' software looks for those handshake gaps. It then reassigns each message in the queue to a different incoming connection until the original connection is completed.

If more and more companies deploy Traffic Control, the technology could fall victim to its own success, as some experts maintain that MailChannels' technology is effective only if it is not widely adopted. Lawrence Baldwin, chief forensics officer for myNetWatchman.com, a company investigating malicious software that often usurps PCs for nefarious uses, said spammers are constantly tweaking their networks to evade the latest anti-junk mail techniques.

"I'm of the mindset that every action we take to fight these guys just serves to make the attackers smarter," Baldwin said.

New Hampshire resident Bill Stearns, a spam researcher and volunteer for the anti-spam group SURBL.org, attended a talk by Simpson at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Spam Conference last month. Stearns said he was impressed at the volume of spam that Traffic Control was able to filter out.

Stearns said even if a large number of companies begin adopting the software, the technique should remain effective in the short run.

"In one sense this is a little bit like your house being the only one with a locked door on a street full of nice homes, because the spammers are just going to start ignoring you and move on to the next target," Stearns said. "It's going to take a long time before a technique like this becomes useless."

As the recipient of the MIT conference's Best Paper prize, MailChannels was awarded a decorated can of SPAM. Simpson said he is grateful, but that he has no plans to consume his trophy: He is a lifelong vegetarian.

Warner’s Plea to EMI Investors
Paul Durman and Dominic Rushe

WARNER MUSIC is considering pursuing a merger with EMI by making a direct appeal to its rival’s shareholders in an attempt to undermine the opposition of EMI’s management. The EMI board last month rejected what it described as a “preconditional offer” pitched at 260p per share. Any deal between the No 3 and No 4 recorded music companies would require clearance by competition regulators.

Warner remains keen to press ahead because it believes the European Commission’s review of the Sony BMG merger provides an opportunity to reshape the global music industry, creating three strong “majors” and a vibrant independent sector.

Warner sources said the American company’s planning was given fresh urgency last week after EMI announced an initiative to scrap copyright protection on digital music. Although the move was widely praised by technology and consumer commentators, Warner is concerned that EMI could be making a grave mistake. Its management was astonished that EMI had made a decision with such potentially far-reaching consequences while it was a bid target.

Some of EMI’s shareholders were similarly shocked. Hugh Hendry, chairman of Eclectica, an investment fund, said he was “aghast that they could get away with it”. Given EMI’s uncertain future, Hendry said: “It seems like a very, very big decision in a company where shareholders such as ourselves have such a low opinion of management.”

Under Eric Nicoli, who recently took over as EMI’s chief executive after a long spell as chairman, the music group has endured years of problems, including two recent profit warnings. Nicoli made the announcement to drop digital rights management in a briefing alongside Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, the owner of iTunes, the dominant online music store.

David Pakman, boss of eMusic, another online music retailer, said EMI’s move was “terribly exciting”.

Last.FM Quietly Unveils Subscription... Guess What Else

Yesterday, I met with Martin Stiksel, one of the three founders of Last.FM, the popular interactive radio service, for a briefing on what the site is up to. Among other things, he said the site recently stealth-launched a subscription service (you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to see it).

Before I get to the details, let me pose a question... Stiksel said that Last.FM is planning 2 or 3 new features by the summer. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to what they might be? (The last time I posed a question like that, I got a pretty decent answer.)

On to the tidbits. Here's a paraphrased summary of what Stiksel had to say.

- Last.FM has an ad-free subscription service that costs $3/month, and offers more interactivity, including the ability for registered users to stream their own custom radio station to anyone. He said a "full-fledged" Last.FM subscription service would be available by the summer, and that the site had recently made content deals with EMI, IODA, The Orchard, and Warner Music Group.

- The site differs from its competitor Pandora (he called it a "friendly rivalry"), because Pandora hires experts to classify music, while Last.FM tracks users' collections in order to generate associations between songs. Stiksel compared Last.FM's system to democracy, and Pandora's to aristocracy. He also said this approach makes Last.FM more scalable than Pandora, and that the inspiration for this feature came from the way the original Napster let you search for a band liked, and then browse the other songs shared by users who had that song.

- Last.FM's catalog includes currently over 10 million artists and 65 million songs (iTunes has about 3.5 million), amassed through its "scrobbling" software, which tracks what users play in iTunes, Winamp, and Windows Media Player and adds it to their profile, in order to generate recommendations (granted, some of these are probably duplicates). A decent percentage of these are in languages other than English, according to Stiksel (Last.FM currently scrobbles in ten languages).

- Someone from Nick Cave's office complained to Last.FM that album information was available there before a Cave album was released. However, this was due to someone with one of three three copies of the album in existence having Last.FM's scrobbling software installed.

- The Copyright Royalty Board's decision to back SoundExchange's webcasting royalty rate proposal could be a boon to subscription services, because, he said, charging $5 a month would allow a company to pay the rates and stay profitable. However, he said, "by hiking up the rates so much, they're punishing people for doing the right thing," and that the higher rates would drive people to illicit services that pay no rates at all. Finally, he said, "music has to stay free to listen to, at least at the ground level."

- Last.FM is so-named because it's designed to be "the last music station you'll ever need." (The ".FM" comes from the fact that they registered in Micronesia.)

- I mentioned that native American reservations might be exempt from webcasting laws, which he found interesting (I am not implying that Last.FM will pursue this strategy... just thought I'd point out that Stiksel is now at least aware of the potential option).

- Last.FM has asked EMI and Warner Music Group for a mash-up license that would allow its users to create "1,000 Grey Albums." About online music creation and collaboration, Stiksel said, "I believe this will be the next major development in music" (stay tuned for more in this topic).

- Bands or labels can designate some of their uploaded tracks as available for free as an MP3 download. Last.FM says "thanks" by promoting those tracks within the system. There are currently over 120,000 free MP3s available for download on the site, and users have ten free recommended MP3s show up on their Last.FM dashboard each week.

- There's more of an emphasis on live music. Bands and labels can upload live shows to Last.FM. In addition, a new Events section can match you up with shows in your area based on the music you like. He said this feature will be much more useful than TimeOut, which requires too much drilling down.

- Apple's and EMI's decision to sell unprotected music is "a move in the right direction," but the associated price hike (to $1.29 a track) is "a bit cheeky."

- Last.FM is looking at its portable hardware options, but has nothing to announce about that now.

Google Settles Suit by French News Agency

The Web search engine was accused of copyright infringement for posting AFP material without permission.

Global news agency Agence France-Presse has settled its lawsuit against Google Inc. and will allow the Internet search leader to post news and photos from AFP journalists.

The deal, announced Friday, settles the copyright infringement lawsuit that Paris-based AFP filed in March 2005 accusing Google of posting news summaries, headlines and photos without permission.

Financial details of the settlement weren't disclosed.

The deal will allow Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to use headlines and photos on Google News and other services that drive online traffic to sites displaying AFP news.

The companies declined to disclose where else AFP's news would be used by Google.

Google settled a separate dispute with the Associated Press last August. At that time the two companies disclosed a new business relationship under which Google would pay the New York-based wire service for news and photos, but financial details of that arrangement weren't disclosed.

Eric Scherer, AFP's director for strategic planning and partnerships, said the French news agency was pleased because "the work of our journalists and photographers will be recognized in a normal way."

"With the other major Internet players like AOL, Yahoo or MSN, we have been licensing our content to them for years and years," he said.

Scherer said Google would make use of AFP news in novel ways, but he declined to provide details.

Google said in a statement that the deal would "enable the use of AFP's newswire content in innovative, new ways that will dramatically improve the way users experience newswire content on the Internet."

The company is still fighting copyright suits on other fronts. Copiepresse, a group representing French- and German-language newspapers, has sued Google for copyright infringement for including links to newspapers.

In February a Brussels court ruled that Google violated the newspapers' copyrights and ordered the company to remove the links. Google is appealing that decision.

Google Tests Directory Assistance for Phones
Eric Auchard

Computer Web search leader Google Inc. on Friday stepped up an experiment to use speech recognition on telephones so consumers can ask for local information, in a challenge to directory assistance providers.

The company is inviting U.S. callers to dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone to test a voice-activated service free-of-charge that it calls Google Voice Local Search, which is available on its experimental Google Labs site.

"Using this service, you get fast access to the same local information you'd find on Google Maps," an explanation of the new experiment said on the Google Labs site. "You don't need a computer, you don't need an Internet connection, and you don't even need to use your cellphone keypad," it said.

Details are available at http://labs.google.com/goog411/.

Google's experiment comes weeks after Microsoft Corp. agreed to acquire voice search firm Tellme Networks, in a deal sources said is valued at more than $800 million. The transaction is Microsoft's largest acquisition in five years.

Improving quality and falling costs of voice search technology are enticing Internet players Google, Microsoft, and rival Yahoo Inc. to expand beyond pay-per-click Web search advertising business into pay-per-call marketing.

Kelsey Group analysts estimate the U.S. directory assistance market generates $9.4 billion a year. Worldwide, the market rings up $13 billion, according to data published by Opus Research.

Google has staged on-and-off again tests stretching back to 2002 of ways to allow phone users to use their voices to ask for information, rather than telephone keypads or other more cumbersome approaches. The prior test remains up on the Web at: http://labs1.google.com/gvs.html/

Matt Booth, an analyst with Kelsey Group in Pasadena, said Google's potential entry into the directory assistance market could transform the economics of the business, where callers to conventional "411" services can expect to pay $1 or more.

Booth said it costs such services at least 16 cents per call to pay human operators to answer such calls.

By hooking the automated service into advertising-supported local business information, Google could be able to slash the costs of providing directory assistance to around 2 cents per call, while generating around 10 cents for each business referral, Booth said, citing estimates by investment bank Thomas Weisel.

"This would allow Google to put its Internet ad business onto mobile phones," Booth said. "It's voice in and data out," he said, contrasting the voice search service to how users type keywords into a browser using classic Google search services.

Start-ups that offer free directory assistance include 1-800-FREE411, a service Jingle Networks Inc.

In a blog post, Booth said Google is running advertising tests on Jingle Networks (800-Free411) in two local markets.

Google Voice Local Search can be used from either mobile phones or land lines. Mobile phone callers can request listing details to be sent as a text message to their phones.

Callers dial the Google number and can ask for a pizza parlor, dry cleaner other business by name, Google said. The service runs on computers and uses no human operators.

"Eventually, I think you will be able to call up and do a voice search and have general Google results come back," said in a phone interview.

Google said it is seeking to fine-tune the computerized system to improve how the service recognizes users' requests. Voice Local Search is available in English, in the United States, and offers only U.S. local business listings for now.

The Mountain View, California-based company cautioned that Google Voice Local Search remains an experiment: "It may not be available at all times and may not work for all users."

Google doesn't charge users for the toll-free call or for connecting the caller to the business. Regular phone charges may apply, depending on the user's telephone service provider.


Webcams Help Families Stay Connected to Loved Ones
Heather Barr

In the past six months, Jeff Heyel and his son, Ryan, 11, have assembled a model train town they call "Bedford, U.S.A."

It has mountains and trees, and a main street with buildings and little people.

Heyel showed his son how to build the train layout, which is about 10 feet in width by 12 feet in length, as well as how to electrically wire all the components, design the structure and detail the scenery.

They created the little town together, even though they are not in the same town themselves.

Heyel is in Danbury, while Ryan lives with his mother, Kelly, Heyel's ex-wife, in Springfield, Ill.

Heyel, a local attorney, and his son visit each other on some holidays and in the summer.

But through the eyes of inexpensive Web cameras, or Webcams, on their computers, they can see and talk to each other whenever they want.

"I like designing the railroad and placing the buildings, tracks and roads," Ryan said.

He points out details for his dad's advice, to make sure the set looks realistic. They are trying to make the scene look like a New England mill town in the 1970s.

"It is surreal, almost," Heyel said of the experience. "Sometimes I forget we are 1,000 miles apart. I'm in his living room and he is in mine. I can't express in words how important that connection is."

Heyel got the Webcam in August 2006.

Webcams have been growing in popularity as a way for people to stay in touch. Some states even order virtual visitation rights for divorced parents and children.

Some people use Webcams to talk with loved ones in the military. College kids far away from their families have them in their dorm rooms, and people in other countries waiting for their visas stay in touch with relatives already in America with Webcams.

Grandparents use them to stay in touch with their children or grandchildren in other states.

Ryan said his best friend at school has a Webcam, but like Ryan, he uses it only with parental supervision.

Webcams range in price from $30 to more than $100. Salesman Paul Wang at PC Warehouse on White Street said he sells 10 to 15 Webcams a week.

"Sometimes they will get them for their family in a different country. Brazilians, Spanish, a lot of people in the area," said Wang.

"We sell A4 Technology," said Wang of a popular Webcam priced at $35. One doesn't need to spend a lot of money to get a decent Webcam, he added.

And the great thing about a Webcam is that it "is not hard to set up," because all you have to do is install the hardware and connect the Webcam. To operate a Webcam, one needs high-speed Internet capability, with a cable modem and a USB (Universal Serial Bus) connection.

Kathy De Santi of Brookfield has shared Christmas and his recent 25th birthday with her son, Specialist Rickey Olivier, a Connecticut National Guardsman stationed with Alpha Company 1-102nd Infantry Battalion in Afghanistan.

Being able to stay in contact with him has been a godsend, she said. "I couldn't have lived without that Webcam."

They talked a few times a week. Even though the Webcam had delays and sometimes the picture was still, "at least I knew he was safe every time I saw him," said De Santi.

She also liked that he could see things at home, like their Christmas tree -- "it brings a piece of home to him. I think everybody in the service should have one and have one back home. It makes the time (away) more easy to handle."

Heyel has been able to share everyday events with his son, too. The two play chess and strategy games online together.

"I can beat him!" Ryan said.

Heyel also can help his son with homework using the Webcam.

On Halloween, Ryan, a fifth-grader, showed his dad his Halloween costume before going out. Ryan dressed up as someone in his father's profession -- a lawyer, complete with a briefcase he borrowed from his dad.

"To be able to participate with him in something as simple as that, it literally changes lives," Heyel said.

When Heyel graduated with his master's degree from Pace University in White Plains, N.Y., his son got to participate because the university used Webcams.

"He may as well have been three feet from me," said Heyel. "It was really cool. Even more important than earning my degree was being able to share that moment with my son. Otherwise, families apart can't share these events."

To Heyel, while the technology is years away from the 1940s, a Webcam gives the same feeling as when families gathered around the radio together to listen to news and music.

"It is so intimate," he said.

Making sure he stays close to his son is important to him, and being able to see and interact with him this way helps builds their relationship.

"There is no rule book for parenting," said Heyel, but with "more communication and more access (to one another), only good things can come. It is a positive thing."

Jeff Heyel's parents got a Webcam about a year ago that they plan to continue using when they retire next year and move to North Carolina.

At Christmas, Heyel and Ryan give Heyel's brother and wife, Jeremy and Kris, of Danbury and kindergarten-age daughter, Kelsey, a Webcam. The couple are expecting their second child soon, and the Webcam will help them share the new baby with relatives and friends.

"As the country is growing farther apart and people go in different directions," Heyel said, "technology is bringing people closer."

Ryan said he wishes he had $1 million to buy everyone in the world a Webcam so they could experience all the great things he has with his.

The Internet Study: More Detail
Press Release

What do users do on the Internet?

We asked each of our 4000 respondents to select among a list of 17 common internet activities and tell us which they did or did not do. This is what we found:
E-mail is by far the most common Internet activity, with 90% of all Internet users claiming to be e-mailers. (Note: the corresponding table has been updated from the previous version of the press release)

For the most part, the Internet today is a giant public library with a decidedly commercial tilt. The most widespread use of the internet today is as an information search utility for products, travel, hobbies, and general information. Virtually all users interviewed responded that they engaged in one or more of these information gathering activities.

A little over a third of all Internet users report using the web to engage in entertainment such as computer games (such as online chess, role games, and the like). Thus, the current Internet is also emerging as an entertainment utility.

Chat rooms are for the young and the anonymous. While a quarter of internet users claim to have used chat rooms, this activity substantially decreases after age 25. And the chatters report that the overwhelming portion of their chat room interaction is with anonymous others whose identities remain unknown.

Consumer to Business transactional activity-- purchasing, stock trading, online auctions, and e-banking--are engaged in by much smaller fractions of Internet users, with only a quarter reporting they make purchases online and under fifteen percent doing any of the other transactional activities. Despite all of the sound and fury, business to consumer commercial online transactions are but in their earliest stages.

How many different activities do Internet users engage in?
Building from the data in chart B, we find that the average Internet user reports engaging in 7.2 different types of activities. While there is probably some double accounting due to our attempt to be comprehensive in our list activities, the average user is engaging in at least 5 distinct types of activities on the Web: a combination of different types of information searches, entertainment and games, and for one quarter, some commercial transactional activity.

Length of use correlates with amount of use.
The Internet has been around for about five years now, and the longer people have been web users the more hours and the more activities they report engaging in. While self-selection may be playing a role with early adopters, the data in Chart, along with the generational data presented here and in the press release, strongly suggest a model of social change with not only a growing number of Internet users, but with web users doing more and more things on the internet in the future.

Myth and Reality of the 'Digital Divide':
There are some demographic differences in Internet access.

21 percent of differences in Internet access can be explained by demographic factors. By far the most important factors facilitating or inhibiting Internet access are education and age, and not income - nor race/ethnicity or gender, each of which account for less than 5 percent change in rates of access and are statistically insignificant. By contrast, a college education boosts rates of Internet access by well over 40 percentage points compared to the least educated group, while people over 65 show a more than 40 percentage point drop in their rates of Internet access compared to those under 25. Age really reflects generational differences, and thus shows what to expect in the future.

There are few demographic differences in Internet use.

Only 6 percent of differences in Internet use can be explained by demographic factors: Thus, once people are connected to the Net they hardly differ in how much they use it and what they use it for - except for a drop-off after age 65, and a faint hint of a gender gap. Demographic differences in Internet use involve at most an hour and a half a week, mainly reflecting people's time budgets and work status; and they involve hardly more than half an additional Internet activity, in the latter case reflecting levels of education. Instead - and above all - Internet use increases dramatically, both in terms of amount of time and in terms of range of activities, the longer people have been connected to the Internet, and this fact will make for steady growth in the future.


The more time people spend using the Internet …
... the more they lose contact with their social environment.

This effect is noticeable even with just 2-5 Internet hours/week, and it rises substantially for those spending more that 10 hours/week, of whom up to 15 percent report a decrease in social activities. Even more striking is the fact that Internet users spend much less time of talking on the phone to friends and family: the percentage reporting a decrease exceeds 25 percent - although it is unclear to what extent this represents a shift to e-mail even in communicating with friends and family, or a technical bottleneck due to a single phone line being preempted by Internet use.
... the more they turn their back on the traditional media.

This effect increases proportionally with hours of Internet use: for every additional hour on the Net, people report further decreases in time spent with traditional media, reaching 65 percent for those spending more than 10 hours a week on the Net. Clearly the media are competing with the Internet for time, especially in the case of television where even with as little as two hours/week on the Net, a quarter of Internet users report decreases in TV viewing - you can't surf the web and watch TV at the same time. For newspapers, the same effect is less dramatic and may also reflect the fact that people could substitute reading the news on the web for reading the paper.

... the more time they spend working at home - and at the office.

Even with less than 5 hours/week of Internet use, about 15 percent of full-time or part-time workers report an increase in time spent working at home. And as their amount of Internet use rises above 5 hours/week, a growing number - up to an additional 12 percent - even report spending more time working at the office, as well as at home. For heavy Internet users with regular jobs, a substantial portion of their total Internet use is likely to take place at the office to begin with - and it seems to be keeping them there for longer hours, in addition to invading their home. There are at present no indications suggesting the beginnings of telecommuting.

... the less time they spend shopping in stores and commuting in traffic.

This effect grows with the number of Internet hours/week, and as might be expected, stands out particularly clearly for people who use the web for researching product information or for actually making purchases online, thus saving trips to the store. But it does not affect time spent commuting in traffic, which decreases with the number of Internet hours for the non-working population only, whether or not they shop on the web - working Internet users drive to work just as much as before.

"Grindhouse" Suffers Box Office Horror

Bad-boy directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez fell victims to a box office bloodbath on Sunday as their ambitious double feature ``Grindhouse'' bombed during its first weekend of release.

The three-and-a-quarter hour film -- actually a package of two movies honoring the low-budget horror movies of the 1970s -- opened at No. 4 with three-day ticket sales of just $11.6 million, distributor Dimension Films said. Box office forecasters had expected it to hit the $20 million level.

``Are we disappointed about the gross?'' studio co-chairman Harvey Weinstein told Reuters. ``I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't. I am disappointed.''

The $53 million project consists of Rodriguez' zombie thriller ``Planet Terror'' and Tarantino's slasher picture ``Death Proof,'' complemented by ersatz trailers and scratchy prints that give a period feel to the undertaking.

Critics raved but moviegoers were evidently underwhelmed, opting to give the Will Ferrell ice-skating comedy ``Blades of Glory'' a second weekend at the top with sales of $23 million.

Weinstein said the public is always demanding new moviegoing experiences, ``and then it takes a while to educate them.''


``What Robert and Quentin did was a very noble attempt to re-educate American cinema-goers as to what's good and what was great about seeing those old double bills,'' Weinstein said. ''They tried and the story's not written in one week when you do something this bold.''

The movies will be released individually overseas, beginning May 31, and Weinstein said ``it's certainly something we could consider'' for North American moviegoers, although there are no current plans for such a reissue.

Dimension is a unit of the Weinstein Co., which Harvey and brother Bob launched in 2005 after they left Miramax Films. The studio has struggled to find its footing at the box office. but the Weinsteins said ``Grindhouse'' would be a financial success after foreign and DVD sales are included.

``Grindhouse'' was one of four new entries vying for the attention of moviegoers over the Easter holiday.

The best of the bunch was the family comedy ``Are We Done Yet?'' at No. 3 with $15 million. The film, starring pioneering rapper Ice Cube, has earned $19.1 million since opening on Wednesday to get an early start on the holiday.

The Hilary Swank horror movie ``The Reaping'' opened at No. 5 with $10.1 million for the three days and $12 million since opening on Thursday. Another family comedy, ``Firehouse Dog,'' failed to ignite, coming in at No. 10 with $4 million, and $5.3 million since Wednesday.

``Blades of Glory'' has earned $68.4 million after 10 days. It was released by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. The animated ``Meet the Robinsons'' held steady at No. 2 with $17 million, also in its second weekend. The Walt Disney Co. release has earned $52.2 million.

``Are We Done Yet?'' was released by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp. ``The Reaping'' was released by Warner Bros. Pictures, a unit of Time Warner Inc. ``Firehouse Dog'' was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.

Films From the Weinsteins Falter, but the Brothers Stay Focused
Michael Cieply

As last weekend’s box-office take for the heavily promoted “Grindhouse” tumbled in at just $11.6 million, a chilly realization came with the numbers: Not all is well with the Weinstein Company.

Indeed, the namesake entertainment boutique founded by Bob and Harvey Weinstein as they acrimoniously left Miramax and the Walt Disney Company two years ago has seen its highly visible movie operation suffer humiliations that might have sunk a less tenacious start-up.

Marquee filmmakers like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, with “Grindhouse,” and Anthony Minghella, with “Breaking and Entering,” have tanked. Michael Moore has yet to unveil “Fahrenheit 9/11.5” and “Sicko,” a pair of films that were supposed to yield tens of millions of dollars in profit by now.

Meanwhile, “Factory Girl” and “Shut Up and Sing” had plenty of media sizzle as last year’s awards season got going, but they missed the Oscars and sold barely $3 million in tickets between them.

“It could be better, obviously,” said Bob Weinstein, speaking by telephone from New York. “Our drive and ambition are to be better than perhaps we’ve been.”

Yet Mr. Weinstein was also markedly buoyant, insisting that the ministudio had not so much failed in its aims as succeeded in ways not widely understood. If “Grindhouse” had people asking “ ‘Wow, what’s going on with the Weinstein Company?’ ” he said, “I’ll use the opportunity to say, ‘Wow, the kids are all right.’ ”

More to the point, Mr. Weinstein described a strategic shift that, only shortly after its birth, began transforming the Weinstein Company. Instead of acting as a minor league film producer and distributor, exposed to market risk and filmmaker whims, the brothers are trying to create a somewhat less minor media conglomerate, one that may be equipped to survive the vicissitudes of show business.

The underlying logic has been somewhat obscured by a blizzard of announcements connecting the fledgling company to deals with partners as far-flung as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Cablevision, Blockbuster, the aSmallWorld Web site, the Ovation cable channel and the Halston couture house, in which the Weinstein Company acquired a stake in March.

At least one of the Weinstein Company’s private investors — which include Goldman Sachs, the French television broadcaster TF1 and the advertising company WPP Group — expressed wariness at that flurry.

“My only concern is that they may be taking on too many challenges outside their core business,” said that investor, Mark Cuban, whose other interests include the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and the HDNet high-definition television network, in an e-mail exchange this week. He added: “That said, I have confidence in them.”

Asked if he was comfortable at this point with WPP’s investment in Weinstein, Martin Sorrell, the company’s chief executive, said: “Very much so. It’s the early days.”

Mr. Weinstein said that his company’s most significant step had been its acquisition last summer of a 70 percent stake in Genius Products, a Santa Monica, Calif., video distributor.

Genius, said Mr. Weinstein, distributes the company’s movies at half the 10 percent fee he would pay a major studio for the service. (In fact, the Weinstein Company paid no cash for the distributor, but received the stake in return for rights to its products, according to a person involved with the transaction.)

Genius has grown rapidly in the last year — and has predicted as much as $800 million in revenue this year — as producers like ESPN and Robert Halmi Inc. signed on, in part because high-profile Weinstein films had opened the doors to major retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. The operation provides the kind of stable income that larger film companies get from their film libraries, while providing a pipeline for the release of older films that have been acquired by the Weinsteins. In a further twist, the Weinsteins have quietly been building a direct-to-video business that is intended over the next several years to produce dozens of films that may not be distinguished. (Mr. Weinstein, who fostered the “Hellraiser” series while still with Miramax, talks of keeping a Romanian-based crew in permanent production.)

Such films, with an expected profit of $1 million or $2 million each on minuscule budgets, would provide regular income.

“We want to be very much like the bigger companies, in a humble boutique way,” Mr. Weinstein said. He called the direct-to-video gambit, helped by a deal under which Blockbuster contributes a substantial share of production costs for exclusive rental rights to the films, “a sneaky little business.”

That emphasis on the small was not widely expected when the Weinsteins parted with Disney in March 2005, in a highly public rift over spending at their Miramax unit, which Disney had acquired in 1993. Under an unusual arrangement, the brothers remained at Miramax for six months while building their own company, which amassed $1.2 billion in financing from various sources, including $490 million from its equity investors.

Mr. Weinstein said his company has sufficient financing and does not expect to recapitalize itself soon, despite widespread talk in the film industry that new money would be needed to maintain a release schedule that is still reckoned at 15 to 20 theatrical films a year.

He also pointed to bright spots in the box-office record, which, by his tally, added up to $311 million in ticket sales last year. “Scary Movie 4,” split with Disney, took in nearly $180 million in worldwide ticket sales last year. And “Hoodwinked,” he noted, cost the company less than $10 million, and far exceeded expectations when it took in $100 million at the global box office, showing a path toward success in animation, where the brothers had never been a presence.

But for all that, the theatrical film business remains the public face of the company, and that has been plagued by hitches aplenty.

Mr. Weinstein acknowledged, for instance, having delayed production on “Opus: The Last Christmas,” an animated film that has long been in the works.

Another such kink occurred when the director Kevin Smith, the director of films like “Clerks” and one of the Weinsteins’ showcase talent relationships, first delayed, then dropped out of the coming “Fletch Won” in a dispute over casting. It became another Weinstein Company film to falter on the way to the screen.

The film, set for release this year, was taken over by Bill Lawrence, the writer and producer of the “Scrubs” television series.

Mr. Smith, whose “Clerks II” became one of the Weinstein success stories when it took in about $24 million at the domestic box office last year, said he expected to work with the brothers on a pair of coming films.

“It really feels like the long, sharp knives are coming out,” Mr. Smith said, speaking on Wednesday of the shock that accompanied the failure of “Grindhouse.” “Everybody’s entitled to an off year.”

Porn Could be the Key to Next-Generation DVD War
Michael Kahn

In the battle over next generation DVDs, pornography could prove to be the XXX factor that helps determine a winner.

Thirty years ago, VHS toppled Betamax in part because of the adult film industry, and now some see blue movies playing a key role again as backers of HD-DVD and Blu-ray maneuver to make their formats the standard.

The stakes are high. As prices of high-definition televisions and DVD players fall, backers of the rival -- and incompatible -- formats are looking to tap a home and rental DVD market approaching $25 billion.

Yet so far, neither next-generation format has been able to land a knock-out blow.

James McQuivey, a principal analyst at technology research firm Forrester, said in the VHS-versus-Betamax war, porn provided a significant boost for the winning format.

He also noted the adult entertainment industry has often paved the way with new uses of technology -- such as streaming video on the Internet -- and said porn could help tip the scales in the current DVD format battle.

"If the porn industry wanted to break the logjam of HD-DVD and Blu-ray, it could," McQuivey said. "If they said 'We are going to go with HD-DVD' you would see a few million homes immediately go out and buy HD-DVD players. They have that power."

It is a potential weapon that one side, at least, has ignored. Instead, Blu-ray backer Sony Corp.(6758.T: Quote, Profile, Research) blocked manufacturers from producing porn DVDs in that format -- a move that some say has pushed adult film studios into the camp of HD-DVD camp led by Toshiba Corp. (6502.T: Quote, Profile, Research)

Steven Hirsch, founder of Vivid Entertainment Group, said Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) also refuses to use DVD makers -- known as replicators -- that press porn titles.

This makes finding a Blu-ray replicator willing to alienate Sony and Disney almost impossible for porn studios because the format requires costly new equipment and there are only a handful of replicators able to make such DVDs.

That isn't a problem for HD-DVD because that technology is based on previous-generation standards, which makes it far simpler and cheaper for companies to hire replicators to press their DVDs.

Hirsch said that Vivid -- home to adult film stars such as Jenna Jameson, Tera Patrick and Briana Banks -- found a willing manufacturer to press "Debbie Does Dallas ... Again," which the company plans to issue in April.

But the cost and difficulty of doing so for the sequel to the 1978 adult film classic "Debbie Does Dallas" clouds whether more adult films in Blu-ray will follow, said Hirsch, who declined to provide details on who is pressing the movie.

"We have been able to find a replication facility to do our title but it wasn't easy and it has deterred us for the most part from releasing titles on Blu-ray," Hirsch said. "That can be potentially problematic for Blu-ray."

Studios like Vivid say they have been shooting films in high-definition for years to build up a library, but so far the number of titles is only a trickle as the industry weighs the advantages of each format.

HD-DVD machines are cheaper but Blu-ray has backing of a majority of the mainstream studios and an advantage in that the format is compatible with the PlayStation 3, the latest version of Sony's popular series of video game consoles.

The founder of adult studio Digital Playground -- whose films include "Island Fever 3" and "Pirates" -- believes Blu-ray backers are erring in not embracing porn as they fight over billions of dollars in royalties.

"The reason they should want to work with us is that they are in a war with HD-DVD and in a war you would want as many people in your corner," said Joone, the Digital Playground founder who goes by one name.

Joone said in an ideal world Digital Playground would offer films in both formats. Instead, he sees Sony and other Blu-ray backers pushing the adult entertainment industry toward HD-DVD, whose supporters he said have welcomed porn producers.

"In general we need to have one format because it cuts down the confusion in the marketplace for the consumer," Joone said. "HD-DVD has helped us tremendously to get titles out."
http://www.reuters.com/article/techn...o_on_ reuters

Joost Scores First Deal with Major Broadcaster, CBS
Ken Fisher

CBS has been something of a leader in embracing new distribution models for content, turning to embrace webcasting back when few major players were interested. Now CBS is at it again, this time hooking up with Joost, the P2P "Internet TV" platform spearheaded by the Skype guys.

CBS is the first national broadcaster to ink a deal with Joost, but it isn't an exclusive deal. CBS will be distributing content on a number of web portals as well, including AOL and MSN. The company also hopes to strike a deal deal with the new News Corp/NBC joint venture. As you would expect, CBS will be licensing shows that have already aired on television. Early titles will include the original CSI, NCIS, and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

Rather than try to control each distribution point, CBS is willing to license its content to "secure" partners like Joost in exchange for a favorable cut of the ad revenue. The WSJ cites "people familiar with the matter" who put CBS' asking price at about 90 percent of ad revenues, but it is not yet clear what CBS actually scored. Still, this is the general lay of the land for these deals, and it's quite aggressive. In fact, CBS and others must expect significant revenues from this approach to distribution, because 10 percent doesn't leave much for its partners unless they're splitting a really big pie. Of course, these broadcasters wouldn't be running to the web were they not chasing the advertising revenues that area already headed in that direction.

CBS was not party to the creation of News Corp. and NBC's so-called YouTube killer, which CBS executives have painted as perhaps an overzealous move. From watching CBS operate, it's clear that they intend to focus on their core business and license content whenever possible. The Journal claims that there are fears inside CBS that the News Corp./NBC joint venture won't work out.

The news is yet another boost for Joost, who had recently worked a deal with Viacom to secure content from smaller networks like MTV, BET, and Comedy Central. That deal will also see full-length movies from Paramount on Joost, too.

Joost itself is still in beta, available on both the Mac and the PC. In our testing, the application has performed well, and the selection of content seems to be getting better each day. The video quality is a bit of a downer, however, as it is something less than standard TV quality. However, you can't complain about the cost, as there is none: Joost is advertising-supported.

Nielsen to Get Off Sofa, Into Bars and Gyms
Louise Story

Who watches more television — the business traveler or the sports fan?

The Nielsen Company, the longtime arbiter of television viewing, may soon suggest an answer.

Beginning in September, Nielsen will release national ratings for television viewing outside the home in places like bars, hotels, gyms and offices, the company announced today. For decades, Nielsen has rated television viewing based only on what viewers in its panel watch while they are home. The moment those viewers traveled or went to the gym, however, any television they watched was not recorded.

For some types of television programs, the new ratings may provide a significant boost. Sports fans, for example, often watch games in restaurants or bars, and business people often watch the news in airports, their offices or at hotels.

Television networks like ESPN, CBS and CNN have complained for years that out-of-home viewing was not counted because they are generally paid by advertisers only for the viewers counted by Nielsen. The move by Nielsen is a step in the rating company’s larger plan to measure television viewing everywhere it occurs, whether on televisions, computers and mobile devices.

“Nielsen has a mandate to follow the video wherever it goes,” said Sara Erichson, executive vice president for client services at Nielsen Media Research North American, a unit of the Nielsen Company. “A lot of where video is going is outside the home.”

The ratings will be calculated using cellphone tracking devices that recognize programs by sounds. The cellphone will be provided free to 4,700 participants, who will be paid a small fee each month. The participants pay their own cellphone bills. Integrated Media Measurement has recruited 3,000 people who are in six cities — New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Houston — and Nielsen will recruit 1,700 others, aiming for them to be demographically representative.

Nielsen will sell the national ratings as an additional product to television networks and advertising agencies and deliver regular reports. Ratings will also be available for the six cities with the majority of the cellphone participants. Nielsen will share income from the out-of-home ratings with Integrated Media Measurement, a company based in San Mateo, Calif., that developed the phone technology. Eventually, Nielsen plans to integrate the out-of-home ratings with its standard at-home ratings.Network executives said the new ratings are an important step in following television consumption wherever it occurs. As much as 20 percent to 30 percent of people watching major sports events may view them away from their houses, said David Poltrack, the chief research officer of CBS Corporation.

CBS, Fox, NBC and other television networks have already been buying data from Integrated Media Measurement as they tried to track the viewership of their programs and their commercials. The company helps networks and movie studios determine whether their commercials or radio ads drive viewers to watch their shows or movies, said Tom Zito, the company’s chairman and chief executive.

Mr. Zito’s company will continue to offer its custom services to advertisers separate from its deal with Nielsen.

Television networks have tried to measure television viewing outside of the home on their own, and some networks have presented their findings to advertisers, hoping to persuade them to pay for those viewers.

But Nielsen will be the first neutral source that produces the ratings nationally on a regular basis, and advertisers might be more inclined to pay for out-of-home viewing when they can compare that viewing across all television programs.

“This is the first time there will be broad-based measuring of out-of-home viewing,” said Taddy Hall, chief strategy officer at the Advertising Research Foundation, a nonprofit group in New York that studies advertising. “Think of it as a streetlamp on a dark street. This just expands the area on which there’s some lighting.”

New WiMAX Broadband Technology a Boon for Labels
Antony Bruno

If you've never heard the term "WiMAX" before, don't sweat it. You're probably not alone.

But in the hyper-wonk, tech-speak jargon of the wireless industry, WiMAX is the latest thing making its way through the byzantine maze of acronyms and buzzwords used to remind the rest of the world (with all apologies to Chevy Chase), "We're wireless, and you're not."

But WiMAX sometime soon is likely to be one of those terms that the music industry, and others in the content world, will need to know all too well as wireless technologies become an increasingly important distribution channel.

Simply put, WiMAX (also known as 4G, or "fourth generation") is a wireless Internet broadband technology similar to Wi-Fi, but with a much greater range. While Wi-Fi access points have a range of about 100 feet, WiMAX base stations can cover an area roughly the same as existing cellular networks, making it relatively easy to blanket an entire metropolitan area with just one provider.

However, unlike Wi-Fi, WiMAX networks require dedicated, licensed wireless spectrum to use -- in the expensive 2.5GHz band. Many operators are willing to pay for this spectrum as it is available now, while the international standard bodies are dragging their feet in offering more high-bandwidth wireless spectrum.

So what does all this mean to the music industry? This bastard cousin of Wi-Fi and wireless networks has the potential to solve several problems that have plagued the evolution of mobile entertainment. First, it costs much less to transmit data over a WiMAX connection than a traditional cellular network. Cheaper distribution means cheaper prices, which in turn likely means more people buying mobile music. Taken together, the result would be a greater slice of the revenue pie for wireless operators and record labels to share.

"Then we're negotiating over a much larger number, rather than the tight margins we have today," Warner Music Group senior VP of digital strategy/business development Michael Nash said at a panel discussion at the recent CTIA Wireless conference.

Second, WiMAX networks can transfer high-bandwidth content much faster and in bigger packets. That means faster download times for not only single tracks but also full albums and video content.

The wireless operator most bullish on WiMAX's potential is Sprint. The company says it will spend $1 billion this year alone, and another $2 billion next year, to build a WiMAX network in 19 cities by April 2008, covering more than 100 million people. It plans to test mobile WiMAX networks in Chicago and the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area by the end of the year.

Virtually every wireless network infrastructure provider is actively producing equipment for these new services. Samsung, Nortel, Alcatel, Nokia and Motorola are all involved in deploying the technology on a global scale.

With this on the horizon, content producers are already planning to create more sophisticated fare. MobiTV, a producer of mobile video programming, in January began demonstrating high-definition-quality programming on a WiMAX demo network at the Consumer Electronics Show.

And according to MobiTV CEO Phillip Alvelda, WiMAX has the added benefit of supporting multiple delivery functions, not just mobile. So, a service provider can broadcast content over a WiMAX network, which consumers can then access on a mobile phone, home computer or eventually a set-top box at one price through one service.

"We are changing the economics of the mobile and broadband market," Alvelda says. "You'll see a tremendous reduction in cost (and) better access to your fans."

But WiMAX is no slam-dunk. Overlaying existing wireless networks with new technology is not cheap, and building a whole new network is even more costly. For wireless operators still losing sleep over how to pay off their existing third-generation (3G) networks, this is a headache many don't need.

But to be fair, WiMAX networks are much cheaper. Compared with the approximately $40 billion that Verizon is expected to pay to build its FiOS IPTV network, WiMAX seems like a steal.

Another challenge will be the process of outfitting potential customers with new devices that can access WiMAX networks. Reseeding the market with new devices takes about 18-24 months. For content providers, the plus side is that operators will be relying on more sophisticated content to drive this migration--much like entertainment services have spurred people to buying new 3G phones.

However, it's not limited to mobile phones. WiMAX enthusiasts, including several Sprint executives, see video players, digital cameras and even automobiles connecting to the WiMAX network.

For these reasons and others, Ericsson believes WiMAX revenue will account for only about 5%-10% of global broadband wireless revenue by 2010, and as such has opted to focus its efforts on traditional 3G services.

But make no mistake: WiMAX is coming, and coming soon.

"It would not be accurate to call 2007 'the year of mobile WiMAX,'" says Tammy Parker, an analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media. "But it's clear that the future of this technology in the U.S. will be built upon the foundation being created this year."

Silicon Valley Moneymen Make a Play for Airwaves
John Markoff

Some of Silicon Valley’s most powerful venture capitalists and technology investors have joined an investment group that is preparing to challenge cellphone carriers, cable and satellite companies for valuable radio spectrum that will be freed when television broadcasters convert to digital signals.

The government mandated the transition to digital, to be completed by Feb. 19, 2009, so it could reclaim a broad swath of radio spectrum and reallocate the frequencies to public safety organizations and commercial broadband networks.

The venture capitalists L. John Doerr and James L. Barksdale have joined an investment group that is promoting a plan that would open a portion of the radio spectrum for both uses, through technologies flexible enough to support both next-generation wireless Internet devices and public safety emergency communications.

The plan is being put forth by Frontline Wireless, formed earlier this year by Reed E. Hundt, the former Federal Communications Commission chairman. Frontline Wireless is one of several potential bidders for spectrum in the 700 MHz band, used until now by UHF television, that is being opened up by the move to digital.

Mr. Hundt said that Frontline had begun building an investor group, which would ultimately include large banking partners, to participate in the auction. Significantly, the company’s first public investor was K. Ram Shriram, an early Google investor and board member and managing partner of Sherpalo Ventures.

Cellular carriers and their rivals covet the spectrum because it has significant capacity and greater range and can easily penetrate buildings and other structures.

But Frontline’s backers argue that their plan is unique because it would be more accessible than today’s commercial wireless networks, which are tightly controlled by their licensed operators. The auction, which will be governed by rules that the F.C.C. is expected to issue this month, could generate up to $30 billion in revenue for the federal government, by some estimates.

The F.C.C. has a range of options to consider, including breaking the spectrum up for regional purchases or creating a single nationwide license.

The rule-making process is being watched closely by all sides because those regulations will determine whether several ideas for exploiting the spectrum with advanced technologies will be accepted.

The Frontline proposal, for example, calls for flexible access by public safety agencies to a wide section of spectrum in the event of emergencies. That makes it significant that Vanu Bose, an entrepreneur and technologist, is investing in the consortium along with Mr. Barksdale and Mr. Doerr, who were both involved in the creation of Netscape Communications, the pioneering Web browser company.

Mr. Bose, son of the audio designer Amar G. Bose, is pursuing an advanced radio technology known as software-defined radio, which controls frequencies through software rather than hardware.

In principle, this would permit much more efficient use of radio spectrum, allowing the sharing of frequencies through a variety of techniques .

Frontline proposes to create a large spectrum block that could be sold wholesale to companies that are building services for new portable Internet devices for receiving and transmitting voice, video and data. In the event of public safety emergencies, however, the spectrum could be reclaimed for use by the police, firefighters or medical emergency workers.

Mr. Doerr, who is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm, has previously invested in M2Z Networks, another technology-based proposal to build a wireless broadband network that is being promoted by Milo Medin, a well-known Silicon Valley computer network designer, a potential competitor to Frontline with a different business strategy.

Along with Mr. Barksdale, the two men were partners in @Home, the early and ultimately financially unsuccessful effort to build a nationwide Internet-based network in alliance with cable companies.

“I think we’re starved for spectrum for digital applications in this country,” said Mr. Doerr. “The idea that we can have one or more great new digital networks is very exciting.”

He noted that the United States was ranked 12th in the world last year in broadband penetration by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Mr. Hundt said that Mr. Barksdale was an important addition for the Frontline group because he had been working on public safety issues and his background was in the cellular telephone industry. After Hurricane Katrina, he was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi to lead the governor’s commission on the recovery, rebuilding and renewal of the state.

Having Mr. Doerr and Mr. Barksdale as a part of his investment group is a bit like “a reunion of Shaq and Kobe,” said Mr. Hundt, referring to the basketball stars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, who once played together for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last week, several trade publications reported that Kevin J. Martin, the F.C.C. chairman, was preparing to include the Frontline proposal, or something similar, in setting the guidelines for the auction. If that framework is announced this month, the auction could take place as early as this fall.

In anticipation of the F.C.C. ruling, a number of companies and industry associations have filed comments with the agency. Last week, Steve Largent, president of CTIA, a trade group for the wireless industry, questioned the legality of the Frontline proposal in a letter to Mr. Martin, while Google filed a letter supporting the Frontline proposal and urging the F.C.C. to avoid further delays in the auction process.

This year the F.C.C. rejected a competing plan put forward by Morgan O’Brien, founder of Nextel Communications. Called Cyren Call, it would have set a portion of the spectrum aside for a nonprofit organization, with priority for public service organizations in emergencies.

Virgin Group Ties up Console Radio Deal
Stevie Smith

Opening with the truly bizarre (and, we might add, monetarily inaccurate) boast of: “We can turn your two-hundred-quid Wii, or your three-hundred-quid PlayStation 3, into a five-quid radio” the Virgin Group has this week revealed a history-making deal that will bring streamed radio direct to Nintendo and Sony’s next-generation videogame consoles.

As of yesterday, users of the Nintendo Wii (£180 GBP) and PlayStation 3 (£425 GBP) have been able to access various broadcasting Virgin Radio stations thanks to the Web browsers imbued within the hardware of each console – though notably Microsoft’s Xbox 360 misses out on the radio opportunity as it presently doesn’t offer its users a dedicated browser.

As neither of the consoles is compatible with streams provided via Windows Media or RealPlayer, they will both stream signals through Virgin Radio’s online 128Kbps player. The stations on offer will include mainstream Virgin Radio UK, the timeless sounds of Virgin Radio Classic Rock, new music temptation through Virgin Radio Xtreme, and the laidback soul of Virgin Radio Groove.

“It’s great for us to achieve another new media first and be the only UK radio station available on both of these massively popular games consoles,” enthused James Cridland, director of digital media, reports Radio Today. “People are treating the [videogame] consoles as part of their home entertainment media centre and now Virgin Radio will be part of that experience. This platform has great growth potential, particularly among early-adopters and the 25 - 44 audience popular with advertisers,” he added.

Beyond the attraction of listening to Virgin Radio through their Wii or PlayStation 3 (though it should be noted that the radio reception cannot be enjoyed while playing videogames), gamers will also be able to purchase concert tickets, CDs, and downloadable tracks through Virgin Radio’s online Ticket Store.

And what of the Xbox 360? Virgin Radio is apparently “working on a solution” that will bring the radio service to Microsoft’s next-gen monster at some point.

Virtual Museum Preserves New England's Musical Scene
Mark Pratt

From the power chords of Aerosmith to the jazz beats of Roy Haynes and the funky dance rhythms of the Tavares, New England has been home to a diverse and vibrant music scene for decades.

Until recently, however, there has never been a single repository for that musical history.

A few men with deep roots in the region's music scene have set up a Web site to celebrate some of the area's greatest artists. Their goal is to one day open a bricks and mortar museum.

"We want to preserve all of this rich musical history," said Harry Sandler, one of the founders of the Music Museum of New England and drummer for the 1960s band Orpheus. "We're doing it for the love of music."

Sandler, now the vice president of a speakers' booking agency who's still performing with some original members of Orpheus, has been a part of Boston's music scene for more than four decades. His first band opened for the Rolling Stones when they played the Manning Bowl in Lynn in 1966. Orpheus played with Cream, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and The Who, among others.

He's known Steve Nelson since the '60s when Nelson was manager of the legendary Boston Tea Party concert venue.

Sandler and Nelson, along with friends Michael Fondo and Gary Sohmers - an expert on pop culture collectibles - came up with the idea for the museum.

"Whenever we'd get together for dinner, the conversation would always turn to music and this idea of a museum was always kicking around," said Nelson, now a business video producer. "After we'd talked about it so much, we thought we'd better do this."

The evolving site, online since November, has biographies of 52 artists. It also features sound and video clips, a list of some of the region's top concert halls and links that take visitors to the artists' official sites.

"We want people to hear this stuff, and see this stuff and bring it to life," Nelson said.

The only qualification for inclusion: Artists must have made a "substantial contribution" to the region's music scene. The site includes those born in New England, including Connecticut native and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Gene Pitney; those who made their name here, including New Wave pioneers The Cars; and those who made the area their home, including folk singer James Taylor.

The artist bios represent the wide spectrum of the region's music - rock, jazz, folk and more.

"We really want to be broad based, and that is a reflection of the New England music lover, who tends to be a bit more eclectic, more so than in other areas of the country," Nelson said.

There are plans to add more bios. The founders originally came up with a list of about 400 artists to include on the site.

The original foursome make selections along with an advisory board.

Fondo, an executive at Fidelity Investments, got involved in Boston's music scene while attending Boston University in the 1970s. Although not a musician - he's a self-described "accomplished air guitarist" - he's a music fan.

"This really taps into that vein of emotion and nostalgia that people have for these artists and those times," he said.

The next step for the museum is applying for grants and doing some fund raising. Fondo envisions a physical museum within three to five years that would house their own memorabilia along with loans or donations from the artists themselves.

New England's music scene has been one of the most influential in the country.

"Boston and New England have always been underestimated when compared to New York and LA and even Nashville," said Rob Rose, vice president for special programs at Berklee College of Music, who has no association with the museum but has looked at the site. "But a lot of artists from this area were pioneers in their genre."

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the finest orchestras in the nation, Rose said, adding that Aerosmith, The Cars, disco queen Donna Summer, even boy band New Kids on the Block paved the way for dozens of followers.

"People from this area helped shape the music of this country," Rose said.


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Chaos at the Line Where Performer and Audience Blur
Ben Ratliff

A show by the reunited Stooges deals with the boundaries of the self; it’s about private-made-public and public-made-private. It airs ideas (and parts of the body) that usually aren’t laid open, and turns the hey-ho communal experience of rock into an inner monologue.

Over tribal drum rhythms and monstrous guitar riffs, it’s also a choreographed re-enactment of chaos, rude and simple and immaculate. It represents a total thesis on rock ’n’ roll — not by any means the only possible one but a great one. And the Stooges’ show at the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights on Monday night was an argument, too: for the re-uniting of old bands without shame or second thought, once they figure out what, philosophically, they were all about in the first place.

Iggy Pop, now 59, is the captain of these inside-outside actions. Try to take your eyes off him. How he re-enacts fear, rage, sex, abject boredom, universal love and lethal cynicism, while dancing with originality, remembering lyrics and maintaining the delicate middle-state between having pants on and not having pants on, is why he is he, and you are merely you.

On Monday, he sang in girlish screams or hypermasculine croons from the center of his psyche, then pushed outward, imposing himself on the music and the audience. “I took a trip down to the mind room,” he sang during an interlude with ringing guitar harmonics and cymbal crashes, “to see what I could find.” At another point, during an improvised free-rock section — the kind of thing the Stooges did routinely when they first started in 1967, before they wrote actual songs — he went inward again. “I’m sick!” he screamed. “I’m in pain!” He shoved the microphone into his mouth and bellowed, then rolled on the floor, then butted his torso against a stack of amplifiers. And once standing again, he started a freakish benediction, intoning “I am you.” It was all id-language, if blocked and rehearsed; this Stooges show followed the contours of other recent ones.

Iggy repeatedly asked for the house lights to be turned on: more boundary-ruptures. At one point, lights fully on, the band started “Real Cool Time,” and Iggy brought the audience into his world, or so it seemed. “Invade the stage!” he begged. “Fly!” About a hundred did, many of them dancing, many trying hungrily to kiss him or pile on him. The road crew suddenly had to protect the band, the backline of amplifiers and Iggy himself, who nonchalantly reached for the arm of a roadie at critical moments. (The mob stayed onstage for “No Fun” as Iggy dodged feet and hands while singing “no fun to be around/walking by myself/no fun to be alone ...”) Iggy Pop is all right with physical danger and leapt into the crowd several times to prove it. One of those times, memorably, was a dead-man dive: he just tipped over into the front rows, face-first.

Most of the set, rendered fast and loud, came from the first two Stooges albums: “The Stooges,” from 1969, and “Fun House,” from 1970. (They don’t play anything from “Raw Power,” their third album.) But the rest of the show — about a third of it — was recent Stooges, since their reunion in 2003, either from the band’s brand-new record “The Weirdness,” or from Iggy Pop’s last solo record, “Skull Ring.” The group seems to have forsworn slow tempos and those wrinkles on the Bo Diddley drum pattern in favor of a fast and generic four-four, which could be an act of abnegation, a necessary anti-nostalgia exercise or both.

The bad news is that the new songs lack grace and sensuality. The good news is that they sound much better live. The band threw its weight behind these grooves: Scott Asheton slammed the downbeats on the snare drum; his brother, the guitarist Ron Asheton, made the songs cohere with the drone of his open E string; the tenor saxophonist Steve Mackay blew serrated, trashy R&B riffs, sometimes run through waves of digital echo. And the bassist Mike Watt — the only nonoriginal member, replacing the deceased Dave Alexander — followed Iggy’s physical cues with half-crazed concentration, like a fisherman refusing to let go of a dangerous catch.

One of the show’s best moments came with no music at all. It was at the end of the new song “I’m Fried.” The band snapped it shut, but Iggy Pop kept dancing: grotesque and pretty, whirling, contorting and pivoting. Either by accident or design, he did what he was trying to do: he got outside himself.

The Loft Where Time Stood Still
Gabriel Rotello

I RECENTLY sat in Los Angeles, staring at an article describing plans to build a residential tower on 10th Avenue on the Far West Side of Manhattan. Nothing new there. Except that the developer doesn’t realize that his tower is destined to obliterate a strange and unexpected thing: my time capsule. Or, as some people used to call it, my mausoleum.

New York has never been kind to struggling young musicians who have to scrape together money to rent rehearsal space. So when I was a struggling young musician back in 1979, I dreamed of living in an isolated loft where I could rehearse for free.

Hard to find even then. But one day I stumbled onto the spacious second floor of a dilapidated two-story building on 10th Avenue and West 38th Street. The loft, which sat above an old Irish pub, had Midtown views and a door leading to a tar “patio” in the back. Its tin ceiling was rusty from leaks, its floors sagged, the wind whistled through cracked windows. No kitchen, no real bathroom. Not a fixer-upper, but rather a disaster area.

I told the pub’s owner, Hugh, that I had to think about it, but I didn’t think long. That evening, I saw a vision of my entire future life unfolding in that loft, a vision so vivid that I couldn’t sleep. The next morning I raced over with my deposit. Then the first of several odd things happened.

Hugh told me that a young woman had just put down a deposit. That, I insisted, was impossible. I “knew” that my destiny was to live and work in that loft. Hugh looked at me as if I were nuts. But my vision was so striking that I returned every day with my check. Two weeks later, Hugh told me that the woman had just come in, weeping, asking for her deposit back. The loft was mine.

My dad drove into the city from Connecticut to help me fix it up, and I adopted a cat to chase out the rats dancing above the tin ceiling. Then the second strange thing happened. My life unfolded in that loft almost exactly like my “vision” that first night.

Having free rehearsal space changed everything. The loft became home to a succession of projects, from my first band, Brenda and the Realtones, to gigs with legendary figures like Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love, Rufus Thomas and Solomon Burke. Dozens of projects sprang to life primarily because I had free rehearsal space.

By the mid-1980s I was producing the “Downtown Divas” revues at Limelight and the Palladium. A critic wrote that these revues were helping to revive the local music scene, but if anything it was the loft that was doing that. David Johansen, leader of the New York Dolls, described the place as “Gabriel’s basement in the sky.”

Finally, in 1987, I was forced out because a developer planned to demolish the building and replace it with a residential tower. And that’s when the really strange thing happened.

Now prosperous, and headed for an apartment in Chelsea, I decided to leave my funky furniture, carpets, equipment and pretty much everything else behind. I told friends that I’d buy new, start fresh. There was no reason to clean things out, since the next tenant would be a wrecking ball. When I left that last day, the place looked as if I were going for a walk instead of departing forever.

A month later, the crash of 1987 put plans to demolish the building on indefinite hold. The next time I passed, the street-side entrance had been bricked up. According to Hugh, the new owners feared that crack addicts might break in.

Through the windows, you could see my old posters on the walls, my curtains and lamps, even my dishes on the shelves. And there it sat. A time capsule. Or, as some friends began to call it, “Gabriel’s mausoleum in the sky.”

Over the next few years, I left music, became an AIDS activist, founded OutWeek magazine, became a columnist for New York Newsday. Jam sessions and gigs faded into ancient history. But my past life was perfectly preserved in the loft, jarring me every time I whizzed by in a cab.

The situation felt so weird that I began having recurrent dreams. In these dreams, I would break into the building and creep up the stairs, past fading posters for CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, to reclaim my rock ’n’ roll life. I would live in the loft surreptitiously, tiptoeing so people didn’t hear me. But the dreams always ended in cold sweat. Police officers would come storming in. Or I’d remember that I had left my cat in Chelsea.

Then the final strange thing happened. On a warm Sunday in 1993, riding my bike up 10th Avenue to Central Park, I looked up and noticed something odd: a window in my old loft was open. As I stood there mystified, Hugh popped his head out.

“Gabriel, we just opened it up yesterday,” he called down. “You’ve got to come up and see this. It’s like you never left.”

FADED posters greeted me as I walked up the stairs, just as in my dreams: “New Year’s Eve 1980 at Max’s Kansas City, featuring Brenda and the Realtones!” “Gabriel Rotello Presents the Mamas and the Papas at the Palladium!”

Inside the loft, under six years of dust, my former life sat silent, entombed.

I needed to touch everything. Ratty old microphones and amps. My bed with its comforter that reminded me of a dead lover. An old bass drum, weighted down with a brick inside. I could almost see Ronnie Spector rehearsing “Be My Baby,” right on that rug, Solomon Burke crooning “Cry to Me,” right in that chair.

I thought of dead friends for whom this little world had been their final world. It seemed as if I could make a few phone calls and pull together a rehearsal and no time would have passed at all, except that in the world outside, no one would have answered the phone.

I briefly considered renting a van to take out the important stuff. But in a way everything was important, and nothing was. It was only through the whim of the real estate gods that all this had survived so eerily intact. Everything had been meant to disappear when I left the loft the first time. Leaving, I chose one souvenir. Hours later, somebody swiped it in Central Park.

Years later the building was turned into a restaurant, and a friend suggested a reunion dinner there when I came in from Los Angeles. A few months later, some middle-aged musicians gathered there with me to reminisce. But now the loft was no longer a time capsule, just another New York renovation. We hardly noticed the setting. We were simply glad to see each other.

And now, sometime in the next few months, the interrupted wrecker’s ball will finally knock down my loft. That’s fine. I love my house in Los Angeles, which has a real garden in back, not a tar patio. But the past is hard to shake. On my visits to New York, I still can’t get used to the absence of the World Trade Center. Now there will be another void.


Kurt Vonnegut, Novelist Who Caught the Imagination of His Age, Is Dead at 84
Dinitia Smith

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.

Mr. Vonnegut suffered irreversible brain injuries as a result of a fall several weeks ago, according to his wife, Jill Krementz.

Mr. Vonnegut wrote plays, essays and short fiction. But it was his novels that became classics of the American counterculture, making him a literary idol, particularly to students in the 1960s and ’70s. Dog-eared paperback copies of his books could be found in the back pockets of blue jeans and in dorm rooms on campuses throughout the United States.

Like Mark Twain, Mr. Vonnegut used humor to tackle the basic questions of human existence: Why are we in this world? Is there a presiding figure to make sense of all this, a god who in the end, despite making people suffer, wishes them well?

He also shared with Twain a profound pessimism. “Mark Twain,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote in his 1991 book, “Fates Worse Than Death: An Autobiographical Collage,” “finally stopped laughing at his own agony and that of those around him. He denounced life on this planet as a crock. He died.”

Not all Mr. Vonnegut’s themes were metaphysical. With a blend of vernacular writing, science fiction, jokes and philosophy, he also wrote about the banalities of consumer culture, for example, or the destruction of the environment.

His novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation, like the Tralfamadorians and the Mercurian Harmoniums. He invented phenomena like chrono-synclastic infundibula (places in the universe where all truths fit neatly together) as well as religions, like the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent and Bokononism (based on the books of a black British Episcopalian from Tobago “filled with bittersweet lies,” a narrator says).

The defining moment of Mr. Vonnegut’s life was the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, by Allied forces in 1945, an event he witnessed firsthand as a young prisoner of war. Thousands of civilians were killed in the raids, many of them burned to death or asphyxiated. “The firebombing of Dresden,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote, “was a work of art.” It was, he added, “a tower of smoke and flame to commemorate the rage and heartbreak of so many who had had their lives warped or ruined by the indescribable greed and vanity and cruelty of Germany.”

His experience in Dresden was the basis of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which was published in 1969 against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, racial unrest and cultural and social upheaval. The novel, wrote the critic Jerome Klinkowitz, “so perfectly caught America’s transformative mood that its story and structure became best-selling metaphors for the new age.”

To Mr. Vonnegut, the only possible redemption for the madness and apparent meaninglessness of existence was human kindness. The title character in his 1965 novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” summed up his philosophy:

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

Mr. Vonnegut eschewed traditional structure and punctuation. His books were a mixture of fiction and autobiography, prone to one-sentence paragraphs, exclamation points and italics. Graham Greene called him “one of the most able of living American writers.” Some critics said he had invented a new literary type, infusing the science-fiction form with humor and moral relevance and elevating it to serious literature.

He was also accused of repeating himself, of recycling themes and characters. Some readers found his work incoherent. His harshest critics called him no more than a comic book philosopher, a purveyor of empty aphorisms.

With his curly hair askew, deep pouches under his eyes and rumpled clothes, he often looked like an out-of-work philosophy professor, typically chain smoking, his conversation punctuated with coughs and wheezes. But he also maintained a certain celebrity, as a regular on panels and at literary parties in Manhattan and on the East End of Long Island, where he lived near his friend and fellow war veteran Joseph Heller, another darkly comic literary hero of the age.

Mr. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922, the youngest of three children. His father, Kurt Sr., was an architect. His mother, Edith, came from a wealthy brewery family. Mr. Vonnegut’s brother, Bernard, who died in 1997, was a physicist and an expert on thunderstorms.

During the Depression, the elder Vonnegut went for long stretches without work, and Mrs. Vonnegut suffered from episodes of mental illness. “When my mother went off her rocker late at night, the hatred and contempt she sprayed on my father, as gentle and innocent a man as ever lived, was without limit and pure, untainted by ideas or information,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote. She committed suicide, an act that haunted her son for the rest of his life.

He had, he said, a lifelong difficulty with women. He remembered an aunt once telling him, “All Vonnegut men are scared to death of women.”

“My theory is that all women have hydrofluoric acid bottled up inside,” he wrote.

Mr. Vonnegut went east to attend Cornell University, but he enlisted in the Army before he could get a degree. The Army initially sent him to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh and the University of Tennessee to study mechanical engineering.

In 1944 he was shipped to Europe with the 106th Infantry Division and shortly saw combat in the Battle of the Bulge. With his unit nearly destroyed, he wandered behind enemy lines for several days until he was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp near Dresden, the architectural jewel of Germany.

Assigned by his captors to make vitamin supplements, he was working with other prisoners in an underground meat locker when British and American warplanes started carpet bombing the city, creating a firestorm above him. The work detail saved his life.

Afterward, he and his fellow prisoners were assigned to remove the dead.

“The corpses, most of them in ordinary cellars, were so numerous and represented such a health hazard that they were cremated on huge funeral pyres, or by flamethrowers whose nozzles were thrust into the cellars, without being counted or identified,” he wrote in “Fates Worse Than Death.” When the war ended, Mr. Vonnegut returned to the United States and married his high school sweetheart, Jane Marie Cox. They settled in Chicago in 1945. The couple had three children, Mark, Edith and Nanette. In 1958, Mr. Vonnegut’s sister, Alice, and her husband died within a day of each other, she of cancer and he in a train crash. The Vonneguts took custody of their children, Tiger, Jim and Steven.

In Chicago, Mr. Vonnegut worked as a police reporter for the City News Bureau. He also studied for a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Chicago, writing a thesis on “The Fluctuations Between Good and Evil in Simple Tales.” It was rejected unanimously by the faculty. (The university finally awarded him a degree almost a quarter of a century later, allowing him to use his novel “Cat’s Cradle” as his thesis.)

In 1947, he moved to Schenectady, N.Y., and took a job in public relations for the General Electric Company. Three years later he sold his first short story, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” to Collier’s magazine and decided to move his family to Cape Cod, Mass., where he wrote fiction for magazines like Argosy and The Saturday Evening Post. To bolster his income, he taught emotionally disturbed children, worked at an advertising agency and at one point started a Saab auto dealership.

His first novel was “Player Piano,” published in 1952. A satire on corporate life — the meetings, the pep talks, the cultivation of bosses — it also carries echoes of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” It concerns an engineer, Paul Proteus, who is employed by the Ilium Works, a company similar to General Electric. Proteus becomes the leader of a band of revolutionaries who destroy machines that they think are taking over the world.

“Player Piano” was followed in 1959 by “The Sirens of Titan,” a science-fiction novel featuring the Church of God of the Utterly Indifferent. In 1961 he published “Mother Night,” involving an American writer awaiting trial in Israel on charges of war crimes in Nazi Germany. Like Mr. Vonnegut’s other early novels, they were published as paperback originals. And like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” in 1972, and a number of other Vonnegut novels, “Mother Night” was adapted for film, in 1996, starring Nick Nolte.

In 1963, Mr. Vonnegut published “Cat’s Cradle.” Though it initially sold only about 500 copies, it is widely read today in high school English classes. The novel, which takes its title from an Eskimo game in which children try to snare the sun with string, is an autobiographical work about a family named Hoenikker. The narrator, an adherent of the religion Bokononism, is writing a book about the bombing of Hiroshima and comes to witness the destruction of the world by something called Ice-Nine, which, on contact, causes all water to freeze at room temperature.

Mr. Vonnegut shed the label of science-fiction writer with “Slaughterhouse-Five.” It tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, an infantry scout (as Mr. Vonnegut was), who discovers the horror of war. “You know — we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves,” an English colonel says in the book. “We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. My God, my God — I said to myself, ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade.’ ”

As Mr. Vonnegut was, Billy is captured and assigned to manufacture vitamin supplements in an underground meat locker, where the prisoners take refuge from Allied bombing.

In “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Mr. Vonnegut introduced the recurring character of Kilgore Trout, his fictional alter ego. The novel also featured a signature Vonnegut phrase.

“Robert Kennedy, whose summer home is eight miles from the home I live in all year round,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote at the end of the book, “was shot two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes.

“Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes. And every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes.”

One of many Zenlike words and phrases that run through Mr. Vonnegut’s books, “so it goes” became a catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam war.

“Slaughterhouse-Five” reached No.1 on best-seller lists, making Mr. Vonnegut a cult hero. Some schools and libraries have banned it because of its sexual content, rough language and scenes of violence.

After the book was published, Mr. Vonnegut went into a severe depression and vowed never to write another novel. Suicide was always a temptation, he wrote. In 1984, he tried to take his life with sleeping pills and alcohol.

“The child of a suicide will naturally think of death, the big one, as a logical solution to any problem,” he wrote. His son Mark also suffered a breakdown, in the 1970s, from which he recovered, writing about it in a book, “The Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity.”

Forsaking novels, Mr. Vonnegut decided to become a playwright. His first effort, “Happy Birthday, Wanda June,” opened Off Broadway in 1970 to mixed reviews. Around this time he separated from his wife and moved to New York. (She remarried and died in 1986.)

In 1970, Mr. Vonnegut moved in with the author and photographer Jill Krementz, whom he married in 1979. They had a daughter, Lily. They survive him, as do all his other children.

Mr. Vonnegut returned to novels with “Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday” (1973), calling it a “tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.” This time his alter ego is Philboyd Sludge, who is writing a book about Dwayne Hoover, a wealthy auto dealer. Hoover has a breakdown after reading a novel written by Kilgore Trout, who reappears in this book, and begins to believe that everyone around him is a robot.

In 1997, Mr. Vonnegut published “Timequake,” a tale of the millennium in which a wrinkle in space-time compels the world to relive the 1990s. The book, based on an earlier failed novel of his, was, in his own words, “a stew” of plot summaries and autobiographical writings. Once again, Kilgore Trout is a character. “If I’d wasted my time creating characters,” Mr. Vonnegut said in defense of his “recycling,” “I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter.”

Though it was a best seller, it also met with mixed reviews. “Having a novelist’s free hand to write what you will does not mean you are entitled to a free ride,” R. Z. Sheppard wrote in Time. But the novelist Valerie Sayers, in The New York Times Book Review, wrote: “The real pleasure lies in Vonnegut’s transforming his continuing interest in the highly suspicious relationship between fact and fiction into the neatest trick yet played on a publishing world consumed with the furor over novel versus memoir.”

Mr. Vonnegut said in the prologue to “Timequake” that it would be his last novel. And so it was.

His last book, in 2005, was a collection of biographical essays, “A Man Without a Country.” It, too, was a best seller.

In concludes with a poem written by Mr. Vonnegut called “Requiem,” which has these closing lines:

When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.


Works by Kurt Vonnegut. All are books unless otherwise noted:

''Player Piano,'' 1951

''The Sirens of Titan,'' 1959

''Canary in a Cat House,'' 1961 (short works)

''Mother Night,'' 1961

''Cat's Cradle,'' 1963

''God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,'' 1965

''Welcome to the Monkey House,'' 1968 (short works)

''Slaughterhouse-Five,'' 1969

''Happy Birthday, Wanda June,'' 1971 (play)

''Between Time and Timbuktu,'' 1972 (TV script)

''Breakfast of Champions,'' 1973

''Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons,'' 1974 (opinions)

''Slapstick,'' 1976

''Jailbird,'' 1979

''Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage,'' 1981 (essays)

''Deadeye Dick,'' 1982

''Galapagos,'' 1985

''Bluebeard,'' 1987

''Hocus Pocus,'' 1990

''Fates Worse than Death: An Autobiographical Collage of the 1980s,'' 1991 (essays)

''Timequake,'' 1997

Award-Winning Cartoonist Johnny Hart, Creator of 'B.C.' and 'Wizard of Id,' Dies at 76
Mary Esch

Cartoonist Johnny Hart, whose award-winning "B.C." comic strip appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers worldwide, died Saturday while working at his home in Endicott. He was 76.

"He had a stroke," Hart's wife, Bobby, said Sunday. "He died at his storyboard."

"B.C.," populated by prehistoric cavemen and dinosaurs, was launched in 1958 and eventually appeared in more than 1,300 newspapers with an audience of 100 million, according to Creators Syndicate Inc., which distributes it.

"He was generally regarded as one of the best cartoonists we've ever had," Hart's friend Mell Lazarus, creator of the "Momma" and "Miss Peach" comic strips, said from his California home. "He was totally original. 'B.C' broke ground and led the way for a number of imitators, none of which ever came close."

After he graduated from Union-Endicott High School, Hart met Brant Parker, a young cartoonist who became a prime influence and co-creator with Hart of the "Wizard of Id" comic strip.

Hart enlisted in the Air Force and began producing cartoons for Pacific Stars and Stripes. He sold his first freelance cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post after his discharge from the military in 1954.

He has won numerous awards for his work, including the National Cartoonist Society's prestigious Reuben Award twice for Cartoonist of the Year.

Later in his career, some of Hart's cartoons had religious themes, a reflection of his own Christian faith. That sometimes led to controversy.

A strip published on Easter Sunday in 2001 drew protests from Jewish groups and led several newspapers to drop the strip. The cartoon depicted a menorah transforming into a cross, with accompanying text quoting some of Jesus Christ's dying words. Critics said it implied that Christianity supersedes Judaism.

Hart said he intended the strip as a tribute to both faiths.

"He had such an emphasis on kindness, generosity, and patience," said Richard Newcombe, founder and president of Creators Syndicate in Los Angeles.

Newcombe said Hart was the first cartoonist to sign on when the syndicate was created 20 years ago. "Traditionally, comic strips were owned by syndicates," Newcombe said. "We were different because we allowed cartoonists to own their own work. It was because of Johnny's commitment to this idea that made us a success."

Newcombe credits Hart with the fact that most cartoonists today own their own work. "I don't think the young cartoonists realize that they have Johnny Hart to thank for that," he said.

Newcombe said both "B.C." and "Wizard of Id" will continue. Family members have been helping produce the strips for many years, he said, and they have an extensive computer archive of Hart's drawings to work with.

"After Charles Schultz (creator of "Peanuts") died, Johnny and I had a long conversation and he said he definitely wanted his strip to continue after he was gone," Newcombe said.

Besides his wife, Hart is survived by two daughters, Patti and Perri. He was a native of Endicott, about 135 miles northwest of New York City, and drew his comic strip at a studio in his home there until the day he died.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Nineveh Presbyterian Church. Calling hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Osterhoudt-Madden Funeral Home in Harpursville.

Blaxploitation Actor Dies

‘70s Film Actor Calvin Lockhart, Sidney Poitier’s ‘Heir Apparent,’ Buried in the Bahamas
Monica Lewis

Calvin Lockhart, the Bahamian-born actor who appeared in a number of 1970s black movie mega hits, was Denzel Washington before there was a Denzel Washington.

Known for his good looks and imposing onscreen presence, Lockhart’s persona was even an inspiration for one of the best hip-hop aliases of all time.

Lockhart, who played inner-city hustler Biggie Smalls in the 1975 comedy “Let’s Do It Again,” died March 29 in Nassau from complications of a stroke. He was 72.

Lockhart, born Bert Cooper, was a “virile male figure who epitomized the perseverance of blacks in Hollywood and the everyday citizens who flocked to the theaters to watch them in the blaxpoitation era," said William Jelani Cobb, an assistant professor of history at Spelman College.

“In that era, you had actors playing people who were strong, who were showing vitality and a refusal to surrender," Cobb told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “They were usually doing so as they were pitted against white bureaucratic figures. There was a certain sort of self-determination that you don’t see in the theaters now.”

The strength and determination Lockhart portrayed onscreen was surely developed early on. The youngest of eight children, Lockhart moved to New York as a teenager to study engineering but soon found his calling in the theater. He made ends meet by operating a carpentry business in Queens and driving a taxi.

He had a short run on Broadway, playing opposite Angela Lansbury, before relocating to Italy where he formed his own theater company. His acting pursuits would take him to Germany and England, where he frequently appeared on British television.

Lockhart eventually found success on the big screen, garnering the lead male role in the 1967 film, “Joanna,” which tackled interracial dating, an extremely taboo subject in those days.

Sidney Poitier, who directed Lockhart in “Let’s Do It Again” and “Uptown Saturday Night,” said Lockhart’s performance in “Joanna” was a role that "marked him as a very gifted young man." Mark Anthony Neal, assistant professor of black popular culture at Duke University, agreed, calling Lockhart Poitier’s “heir apparent.”

“He didn’t have the range in terms of his acting, but he had a certain kind of ability to do drama and comedy,” Neal told BlackAmericaWeb.com, adding that Lockhart’s ability to play the urban gangsters may have altered the course of his career.

“He was limited by the blaxpoitation movies,” Neal said of Lockhart, who played a disc jockey-turned sleuth in the 1972 film, “Melinda,” and hustler Silky Slim in “Uptown Saturday Night.”

“In a lot of ways,” Neal said, “he was better than the films he was in. He was typecast and never got the opportunities to pursue other types of roles.”

Lockhart played in more than a dozen movies, including the Ossie Davis-directed “Cotton Comes to Harlem,” in which he played the immoral preacher, Rev. Deke O’Malley. In the 1980s, he had a recurring role on the primetime soap opera “Dynasty” playing a love interest of Diahann Carroll’s character, Dominique Deveraux. One of his last big-studio movies was 1988’s “Coming to America,” where he had a supporting role of Colonel Izzi.

But it is Lockhart’s “Let’s Do It Again” character that may have played a role in a younger generation of fans giving him his props. The gangster nemesis of Poitier and Bill Cosby’s do-good characters, Lockhart’s Biggie Smalls was the new-school mobster moving in on John Amos’ old school Kansas City Mack. The ultra-cool Biggie Smalls character became a model that many followed, from everyday inner-city hustlers to an internationally-known hip-hop artist.

While Amos’ Kansas City Mack was just as conniving as Lockhart’s Biggie Smalls, it was the Smalls character -- and Lockhart’s portrayal -- that articulated the new, more refined gangster, Neal said, a significant reason why Christopher Wallace, also known as Notorious B.I.G., chose to take the moniker.

“Biggie actually got the name from someone in Harlem who had the name,” Neal told BlackAmericaWeb.com.

“Part of what made (Lockhart’s) character appealing was the tension between he and Kansas City Mack. Biggie represented the next generation of gangsters, doing things different than how they were done in previous ways,” said Neal, whose 2002 book, “Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic," explored how the 1970s films like “Let’s Do It Again” and “A Piece of the Action” depicted the black middle class’ exodus out of the ‘hood.

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie Friday expressed sadness at the death of Lockhart, who was buried in Nassau over the weekend.

"Although his acting career was of relatively short duration, Calvin's cinematic charisma and talents won him high praise from critics and audiences alike all around the world," Christie told the Nassau Guardian newspaper.

In 1979, Lockhart met Jennifer L. Miles in New York. Two years later, the couple had a son, Julien, yet didn’t marry until 25 years later. Lockhart filmed his last movie, “Rain,” in the Bahamas earlier this year. The movie has yet to be released.

Lockhart is survived by his mother, Minerva Cooper; his wife, Jennifer Miles-Lockhart; sons Michael Lockhart and Julien Lockhart Miles; brothers Carney, Eric and Phillip Cooper; sisters, Melba and Delores.

Fire Destroys Johnny Cash's Former Home

House revered by stars and fans now just ashes
Peter Cooper


That's what June Carter liked to call the Hendersonville home she shared with her husband, Johnny Cash.

"She thought of it as her and dad's private kingdom," wrote the couple's son, John Carter Cash, in his Anchored In Love: The Life and Legacy of June Carter Cash, a book slated for June release.

The Cashes' Camelot is in ruins, the victim of a Tuesday afternoon fire that destroyed the more than 13,000-square-foot property. Its new owner, Barry Gibb of Bee Gees fame, bought the house for $2.5 million in early 2006, and he and wife Linda were renovating it for use as a summer home.

Built in the late 1960s, the home had 18 rooms, including a signature round living room and a bedroom that overlooked Old Hickory Lake. It was important for reasons that had nothing to do with size, architecture and design. Like the Cashes' Virginia home — the one that used to belong to June's mother, legendary guitarist Maybelle Carter — this was a house of music.

Cash wrote here, of course. He placed acoustic guitars in most rooms, so that he could pluck out chords and melodies as inspiration struck. In the 1970s, he and June often opened the house for guitar pulls that included luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury. They'd also often invite up-and-coming writers that Cash respected and encouraged, including Vince Matthews and Larry Gatlin.

When the house wasn't open to visitors, it was seemingly impenetrable. As an aspiring songwriter, a down-and-out Kristofferson wanted to hand a tape of his music to the by-then-legendary Cash, but he figured he wouldn't be able to get past guards. He landed a helicopter in the yard, and Cash ended up recording "Sunday Morning Coming Down" and other Kristofferson songs.

House was a sanctuary

June Carter Cash also worked on her music at the house, and she played a private concert on the grounds to celebrate the release of her Press On album in 1999.

For the most part, Johnny and June did not record at the home, though beginning in the late 1990s they recorded many tracks at Cash's small cabin studio located across the street and down a winding, unpaved road.

Johnny Cash recorded some vocal tracks in the house, after June died in 2003. He was grief-stricken, and in such poor health that it was difficult for him to make it to the cabin studio. Sessions were arranged in his round bedroom.

"It was a sanctuary and a fortress for him," singer Marty Stuart said of the house. Stuart lives next door to the Cash estate in Hendersonville, and he was married to Johnny Cash's daughter, Cindy, in the 1980s. "So many prominent things and prominent people in American history took place in that house," Stuart said, name-checking Dylan and evangelist Billy Graham as two of the most notable.

When Cash first bought the house, he used it as a place of healing. His body ravaged by drug abuse, he retreated to that round bedroom to rid his system of toxic substances. He and June were not yet married, but she and her parents were a near-constant presence.

"June and her mother and father formed a circle of faith around me caring for me and insulating me from the outside world, particularly the people, some of them close friends, who'd been doing drugs with me," Cash wrote in Cash: The Autobiography.

Home reflected June

After Johnny and June married in 1968, June — a shopper and a collector of art and furniture — lavishly furnished the interior. The result could be seen in the video for Cash's 2002 release "Hurt," some of which was filmed in the house.

"I found photos of the lake house from late 1967, before dad and mom married," wrote John Carter Cash, who was born in 1970. "They showed wide open rooms with very little furniture, and only a few scattered mementos. I have a few of those items still. … These things remind me of how my father changed to bring my mother into his life."

After June's death, Johnny Cash sought to remove many of the items his wife had collected because the reminders saddened and depressed him.

After Cash's death in September 2003, it was left to relatives to sift through the belongings. Many of their paintings, clothes and musical instruments were sold at a Sotheby's auction in 2004. The family hung onto the home until 2006, when it was sold to the Gibbs. John Carter Cash kept the cabin studio, where he regularly records (including a tribute album to June Carter Cash that will be released in June).

Album detailed the loss

Johnny Cash's daughter, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash, wrote about the painful process of parting with the home on her 2006 Black Cadillac album.

"There's nothing left to take," she sang in "House on the Lake." "There's nothing left to take/ But love and years are not for sale/ In our old house on the lake."

Barbara Orbison, a neighbor of the Cashes for many years and the widow of Roy Orbison, spent many days at the house on the lake.

"Every inch of the house was something June bought or put there," she said. "If you thought about Johnny and June, you thought about that house. That was their house. I guess it will forever be their house."

Maestro of Los Angeles Philharmonic to Pass the Baton to a Wunderkind
Daniel J. Wakin

Esa-Pekka Salonen, the onetime wunderkind from Finland who has led the Los Angeles Philharmonic as music director for 15 seasons, has decided to leave the orchestra when his term ends in 2009. His successor? A wunderkind from Venezuela named Gustavo Dudamel, one of the hottest — and youngest — conducting properties around.

Mr. Dudamel, 26, is a product of his country’s extraordinary youth orchestra system, founded three decades ago to help disadvantaged youngsters. It has grown into a network of scores of ensembles, training hundreds of thousands of musicians. He is music director of its capstone, the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, which he joined as a violinist at 11.

In the last few years Mr. Dudamel, who becomes principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony of Sweden next season, has had the world’s major orchestras in hot pursuit. He has had, or is scheduled to have, guest appearances at the Berlin, New York and Vienna Philharmonics, the London Philharmonia and the Boston and Chicago Symphonies. He also records for Deutsche Grammophon. His United States debut came with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl, in 2005.

His influential mentors include the conductors Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado.

When he takes over as music director in Los Angeles in September 2009, Mr. Dudamel will be all of 28, three years younger than Mr. Salonen was when he won the job.

Mr. Salonen, now 48 and also the product of a country that places great weight on musical education, said he wanted to devote more time to composition. Under his leadership the orchestra has won acclaim for its playing and inventive programming.

The change was reported yesterday in The Los Angeles Times.

Other major American orchestras are in the throes of a conductor search, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the choice of Mr. Dudamel may put pressure on them to come up with daring and youthful choices of their own.

Mr. Dudamel’s contract is for five years. He begins in September 2009. In his first season he will conduct for 10 weeks and increase to 14 weeks after that.

"Fifth Beatle" Aspinall Quits Top Job
Dean Goodman

The reclusive, hard-nosed businessman who oversaw the Beatles' complex financial interests has left their organization after more than 40 years, the group said on Tuesday.

Neil Aspinall, 64, a Liverpool native who started out as the band's driver, will be replaced as head of Apple Corps. Ltd. by Jeff Jones, an American music industry executive who specializes in deluxe reissues of classic albums.

Jones, who will take the title of CEO -- Aspinall disdained formal titles -- will relocate to London, where Apple runs a small headquarters.

Aspinall was so closely identified with the Fab Four that he was often called "the fifth Beatle" -- an accolade also given to the likes of manager Brian Epstein, session musician Billy Preston and producer Sir George Martin.

"He was there since the inception of the band in Liverpool and has meant so much to the Beatles' family for all these years and still does," said a statement released by Apple in London. "However, he has decided to move on. "

Aspinall's departure surprised Beatle fans, but people with knowledge of the handover said it had been in the works for a while, and that it was amicable.

Jones, 51, the executive vice president of Sony BMG Music Entertainment's Legacy Recordings division, said in a statement that the job was a "dream come true ... The multiple opportunities to reach music lovers, both new and old, with the Beatles' spectacular body of work makes this position incredibly challenging and exciting."

A combative, media-shy executive fiercely protective of the Beatles' legacy and Apple Corps Ltd., Aspinall kept busy in recent years waging a legal battle against computer company Apple Inc. over their similar logos.

A bigger issue was the Beatles' noted refusal to license tunes to online retailers, such as the technology firm's iTunes store.

Keeping The Peace

With a settlement announced in February -- Apple Inc. gets all the trademarks related to Apple but licenses certain trademarks back to the band -- hopes were raised that the Beatles would enter cyberspace. But no announcements have been forthcoming, and Aspinall's departure was unlikely to speed things along, said people close to the situation.

Indeed, Aspinall's job over the years was to second-guess and keep the peace among his four bosses: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and George Harrison's widow Olivia Harrison.

His slow-and-sensible approach to the band's affairs paid off in the 1980s when compact discs were introduced. He refused to join the rush, and held out for a higher royalty rate. The band's crowning moment, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band," finally came out on CD in 1987, amid a worldwide publicity blitz marking the album's 20th anniversary.

Aspinall was also the main reason why Beatles tracks are not heard on multi-artist compilation CDs, because he said they cheapened the band's image.

He spent his entire adult life in the service of the Fab Four. A trainee accountant, he became the band's driver and first road manager in 1961 at the behest of his friend Pete Best, the band's original drummer. He wisely stayed with the Beatles after Best was replaced by Ringo Starr.

When the Beatles launched Apple Corps. in 1968, Aspinall was put in charge. He managed to survive the company's chaotic beginnings, when millions of dollars of waste almost drove the group to bankruptcy.

Review: Apple Appalls Where Xbox Excels
Peter Svensson

Apple Inc. has graced the public with another smooth, white, exquisitely designed gadget, this time aiming at making it easier to play iTunes movies and songs on the living-room TV set.

Too bad, then, that where looks really matter - in the quality of the video on the TV screen - the $299 Apple TV comes up very short. It's as if Apple had launched an iPod that sounded like a cassette player.

When I tell people about the Apple TV, they usually judge it by its name and assume that it's an actual TV set. So to clear up any confusion, let me say right now that it's not. It's a square device the size of a hardback book that goes in your entertainment center. You connect it to your TV set via cables (not included). It also connects to your Mac or Windows computer, wirelessly or via cable.

Once set up, the Apple TV can play the contents of the computer's iTunes library on the TV set, whether it's music, podcasts, videos, TV shows or movies. It can also show your photos. XP is the only Windows flavor officially supported by Apple, but I connected the unit to a PC running Vista, and had no problems.

There's a 40-gigabyte hard drive in the Apple TV. It will automatically copy over as much as it can from the iTunes library, so you can access your media when the computer is off. The hard drive doesn't make the Apple TV a TiVo: it doesn't record live TV.
The unit is controlled by a teensy infrared remote that looks a lot like a baby iPod. If hunting for the remote is a frequent activity in your couch, this one will be a nightmare. At least it's so small that you could tape it to one of your other remotes.
On the TV screen, the Apple TV projects a very iPod-like interface, commendably clear and easy to use. It also looks great, especially on a high-definition TV. It uses your own pictures as an animated screensaver.

Speaking of HDTV, you more or less need one of those sets for the Apple TV. It's not designed to connect via the older single-lead RCA video cable. You need a TV that takes either the three-lead component cable (the jacks are usually colored red, green and blue) or the all-digital HDMI cable. Newer standard-definition sets may have component inputs, but most TVs out there don't.

It's surprising, then, that videos from Apple's online iTunes store look horrible on an HDTV set. The movies and TV shows have the same nominal resolution as DVDs, but look much blurrier, approaching the look of standard-definition broadcast TV.

To make it worse, these barely watchable movies aren't cheap. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" costs $15 on iTunes, almost as much as the DVD. TV episodes are more reasonably priced, at $2 each.

It's possible to convert home footage shot with high-definition video cameras to play on the Apple TV, but not in their native resolution, known as 1080i, so some quality is lost even there.

I compared the Apple TV to Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 game console, which can more or less do the same things, acting like a bridge between a Windows computer and an HDTV set.

After having my eyes gently caressed by the Apple TV's menus, the Xbox interface is like a slap in the face. It's garish and confusing, and you have to press more buttons to get where you want to go.

But the Xbox does your HDTV justice. Microsoft's Xbox Live marketplace has some movies in HD, and these look absolutely stunning - better than most broadcast HD, and almost indistinguishable from HD DVD or Blu-ray discs, which provide the best video quality available to consumers right now.

Even the standard-definition fare on Xbox Live looks much better than iTunes movies, despite nominally being the same resolution. They look almost as good as DVDs.

Xbox Live has two other advantages: the movies are downloaded straight to your Xbox hard drive, with no need to go through the computer, and you rent the movies for around $3, which is a lot cheaper than buying.

This is not to say that you should rush out and buy a $400 Xbox for use as a movie player. It doesn't connect wirelessly to your computer, nor does it include a video-style remote. Both these omissions can be remedied with some extra purchases, but they'll push the cost closer to $500.

The Xbox hard drive is half as large as the Apple TV's, though that's less of an issue when you rent movies than buying them. (There's a $480 Xbox on the way with a 120-gig drive.) The movies can be watched only on the Xbox, while Apple's movies can be viewed on a computer or iPod screen as well. You only get 24 hours to watch an Xbox movie, which seems unnecessarily harsh.

The Xbox is also a bit of a brute compared to the Apple TV. It's noisy, and its power adapter really deserves being called a "brick" - it's as large as the whole Apple TV, which doesn't have a brick of its own.

So neither solution is perfect, but I far preferred the Xbox. I didn't spend thousands of dollars on an HDTV to play substandard video on it, and I'm sure any new HDTV owner will sympathize.

Of course, Apple will at some point start selling HD video through iTunes. It has to. Will that play on the current Apple TV? Probably, but I'm wary of the result.

According to the company's specifications, the Apple TV can play HD video with a resolution of 1,280 by 720 pixels, but it doesn't actually seem that well suited to it. The hard drive is small, and the low power consumption speaks of weak processors inside. And since Apple's standard-definition video looks so bad, I'm not confident the HD video will look good either.

My advice: if you don't want the Xbox 360, wait for upgrades to both iTunes and Apple TV that take HD seriously.

Sony Report Reveals First Look at Absolute Blu-ray and HD DVD Disc Sales Figures

Thanks to a new research report from Sony, industry watchers are getting their best look yet at hard high-def disc sales numbers from Nielsen VideoScan, including per-title sales figures for high-def discs released on both next-gen formats.

Focusing on sales data for the week ending March 18 (the same week that Sony's 'Casino Royale' smashed high-def records by shipping 100,00 units to retail), it should come as no surprise that the VideoScan numbers released by Sony are favorable to the studio, with five of its releases ranking among the top-selling next-gen discs that week.

The numbers that week were equally as impressive for Blu-ray, which outsold HD DVD by a ratio of 9:2, and dominated the list of top-selling next-gen discs -- the HD DVD edition of 'The Departed' was the only HD DVD disc to appear among the top ten best selling high-def discs.

But while abstract ratios and percentages like these have been bandied about for several months now, the Sony report goes one step further, providing the first public release of hard sales figures for HD DVD and Blu-ray discs from Nielsen VideoScan, the home entertainment industry's leading source for competitive sales data.

Among the numbers revealed: as of March 18, VideoScan put the cumulative number of Blu-ray titles sold since the format's inception at 844,000 units, versus HD DVD at 708,600.

But perhaps most interesting are the per-title sales numbers for the top ten selling discs across both formats, which are provided both in the form of a weekly tally (again for the week ending March 18), and as year-to-date totals.

While these charts confirm the previously reported strong showings for such A-list titles as 'The Departed' 'Batman Begins' and 'Superman Returns' (with each clocking per-format sales totals since-inception of at least 28,000 units sold), they also demonstrate a very steep drop-off for titles outside of that top rung, with even discs among the top-ten best sellers that week moving fewer than 1000 units apiece:

While we should note that the VideoScan numbers are not all-inclusive (for example, they don't include discs sold at Wal-Mart or some online merchants), the lower sales numbers at the bottom end of weekly list and on display elsewhere in the report (where some titles are listed as selling fewer than 200 units since inception) are certainly still a sobering reminder that both formats still have a long way to go in their shared quest to supplant standard-def DVD.

Review: Top Four External Drives
Richard Ericson

Broadband connections, peer-to-peer networks and larger media files coupled with new regulations that require diligence in backing up files have clearly affected the external hard drive market as drive capacities expand to 1TB and beyond. Meanwhile, the prices of those drives continue to drop, making them ever more attractive, particularly with the ease of deployment -- literally a two-minute installation, and you're ready to go.

We put four of the leading external hard drives to the test. Our criteria were simple: The drives had to have multiple connection technologies (USB 2.0 plus FireWire 400 or FireWire 800 or both), include backup software and have a capacity of at least 500GB.

We ran four performance tests using four different PCs running Windows XP SP2. For starters, we ran HD Tach (Simpli Software's benchmark suite) on each drive with each interface we connected. HD Tach tests the random read speed across several locations on the disk and averages the times (see accompanying chart). HD Tach's burst read speed isolates the speed of the interface the device is attached to and measures the maximum speed at which data can be transferred from a device's internal cache memory to the CPU. (The more devices you have connected to the interface, the more important burst speed is.) HD Tach's final test reads each track, from the inside to the outside of the disk, averaging the results. Since read speeds are faster on the inside tracks, a full-disk test is more accurate to judge overall speed.

We also created a testbed of files, which consisted of a combination of large multimedia files (JPEG, MPG and AVI), large audio files, executables, Word and Excel documents, and several compressed Windows installation files. We copied them from our system to the external drive. This test is useful for comparing relative speeds of the drives, includes the overhead of the interface tested and most closely simulates the "real world" use of backing up files from your hard drive to the external drive. We clocked the elapsed time to the nearest second.

The drives share several features in common. For example, they were all easy to install -- just plug in the power cord, make the connection, and wait for Windows to recognize the drive. Each manufacturer noted that only one connection -- USB or FireWire -- can be made at a time.

All but the LaCie drive were preformatted to the stated capacity, all are quiet enough to not be distracting, and all include the cables needed to use the drive with the USB and FireWire interfaces each supported.

The drives are reviewed here alphabetically by manufacturer name.

Iomega Desktop Hard Drive

Model tested: MDHD750-1, 750GB ($449.95)
Also available: 500GB ($239.95), 320GB ($189.95)

Iomega Corp.'s slim and attractive Desktop Hard Drive is simplicity itself. It's also the only unit to sport a plain vanilla on/off power switch on the back of the drive. Supporting all three interfaces (and including a pass-through FireWire 800 port for connecting an additional device), the connections are clearly marked with icons and descriptions on the back of the drive. The unit has no fancy lights -- just a single blue power light on the front, which is all you really need. A stand is provided for vertical operation, though it can also operate horizontally.

Iomega includes a minimal Quick Start Guide (in 17 languages), with a more comprehensive user guide (including directions for formatting or partitioning the drive, for example) on the accompanying CD. Unfortunately, the CD contains user manuals for several drive models, and ours didn't exactly match the picture of the drive with USB and FireWire support, which was a bit confusing.

No files for the backup or user guide are preinstalled on the drive, which is a smart move, we think, because you might accidentally erase them when you reformat the drive. Another plus: Operation was smooth and faultless. The drive performed exactly as expected using all three interfaces. Windows recognized the drive, the backup software worked as expected, and we didn't have to worry about whether the drive's automatic startup/shutdown feature would work -- it doesn't have one.

Though in our benchmark tests the Iomega turned in the slowest results in both the copy test and HD Tach tests, it wasn't far behind the Western Digital Corp. My Book. For example, the copy test took 7:50 with the FireWire 400 interface, while the Western Digital completed the job in 7:46, an insignificant difference.

Like the Western Digital My Book, backup and restore duties are handled by EMC's Retrospect Express 7.5. It's a full-featured utility, though its user interface isn't easy for novices and occasional users to understand.

LaCie d2 Quadra

Model tested: 500GB ($259.99)
Also available: 320GB ($189.99)

The LaCie d2 Quadra comes with the best set of performance benchmarks, especially the copy test. Unfortunately, it also came with the most headaches and nonfunctioning features of any of these four drives.

First, the good news. The drive's HD Tach and copy benchmarks gave the best numbers of the group -- copying with the FireWire 800 connection, which has a second pass-through port, sliced more than 40% off the time of than its closest competitor -- 3:10 versus 5:21 for the Western Digital MyBook. At list prices, it has the lowest per-gigabyte cost, and the Kensington security slot is a nice safety feature.

In addition to the USB and two FireWire connections (one acts as a pass-through), the d2 Quadra has a fourth connection (hence its name) -- eSATA (though no cable is provided). A removable stand lets you operate the drive vertically; it fits into a groove on the side of the drive. It's also the only drive of the four capable of being rack-mounted.

The drive's FireWire connections worked fine with all four of our test machines, but the USB 2.0 refused to be recognized in one of them. The warning message that the drive was malfunctioning was our first experience with the drive, leading us to be wary. It turned out that was just the beginning of our disappointment.

The drive comes with two backup programs. LaCie 1-Click backup does little more than copy files to or from the drive (it has no scheduler, for example), so you'll want to use the EMC Retrospect Express HD backup software, which lets you select files and establish a regular backup schedule. It should not be confused with Retrospect Express 7.5 used in the Western Digital and Iomega drives; this version uses a wizard to help you specify which files are backed up, but only one backup job can be defined and scheduled. Express 7.5 is more flexible.

Also on the d2 Quadra's installation CD is a "shortcut button" utility that allows you to launch the backup program or any other program of your choice when you push a lit button on the drive, but it failed to work.

Unlike the other drives in this roundup, the d2 Quadra came unformatted, requiring an hour before we could put it to work. We followed the manufacturer's instructions and formatted it as an NTFS drive for our tests.

Seagate FreeAgent Pro

Model tested: ST307504FPA1E3-RK, 750GB ($419.99)
Also available: 320GB ($199.99), 500GB ($299.99)

There are several distinguishing features on the latest Seagate, the FreeAgent Pro -- but most have little to do with the drive itself. Let's start with the packaging, which tried to add a level of "hipness" to a product that, let's be honest, just isn't very sexy. Case in point: The drive's retail box includes a slogan near the box's handle that says, "If only this handle helped you move data like FreeAgent Pro," and the label with the disk size on the front of the box reads "750 Glorious Gigabytes." The bright orange stripe up the side and along the top of the drive adds another note of distinction, though we couldn't get the light to flicker (to indicate activity) despite several attempts with the setup utility.

The FreeAgent Pro is designed to operate vertically, and its base contains the power connector, an eSATA connector and the USB 2.0 connector. To use the FireWire 400 interface -- FireWire 800 isn't supported -- you must unscrew part of the base with a coin (the slot in the attachment screw is concave, making an ordinary screwdriver less efficient) and swap the USB connection with the FireWire 400 module. If you plan to share the drive among systems that may use either USB or FireWire, this isn't the drive for you.

The installation guide provides a four-step illustrated setup procedure, including estimated time to complete each task -- you should be done in an hour and 51 minutes, it notes. The guide also explains that when you start the drive, you'll see a pop-up window with further directions. That option, familiar to Windows users when you plug in a new drive, offers to install utility software, which works only on Windows systems and is preinstalled on the drive. (Be sure to back it up to a CD or DVD, or you'll lose it when you reformat the drive.)

The preinstalled utilities include a diagnostic program (the only statistic reported was that the drive was operating normally) as well as a button to establish a system restore point or revert to the last point, which does nothing more than execute the corresponding Windows commands. You can also set the sleep interval; choices range from three minutes to five hours, plus "never."

Seagate Technology LLC boasts that this drive can do more than ordinary external backup drives. In fact, though the drive comes with the aforementioned utilities, it's the backup software called AutoBackup (a rebranding of Memeo's similarly named product) that gives the drive the distinguishing features Seagate touts on the box, from synchronizing your project to a flash drive to uploading your photos to a Shutterfly account. Though you could do most of the operations using an ordinary file manager, the backup software does offer some useful scheduling, letting you synchronize between, say, your iPod and your FreeAgent Pro drive. It's flexible and far easier to use than Retrospect Express, making it a point in this drive's favor.

The FreeAgent Pro's power on/off switch at the base has no tactile feel whatsoever; a one-second push turns the drive on, but a five-second push is required to turn the drive off manually. The auto on/off (to stay in sync with the system's power) did not properly shut down the drive.

The Seagate bested both the Western Digital and Iomega drives in the copy tests for both USB 2.0 and FireWire 400 tests. It was sluggish in the random read and sequential read tests but held its own in the burst read tests.

Western Digital My Book Pro

Model tested: 500GB ($279.99)
Also available: 250GB ($179.99)

Western Digital's My Book is so named because it's about the size of a large paperback book. The drive, which can be operated horizontally or vertically, has a distinctive pair of lighted concentric rings on the front of the unit. The outer ring indicates power (solid blue) and disk activity (the light moves around the ring when the drive is reading or writing). A faster flashing shows the drive is transitioning to system standby, whereas slower flashes means the drive is in standby. The inner ring is divided into six sections. Each illuminates clockwise to indicate used space, and each lit section represents about 17% of capacity in use).

The drive smartly turned on when we powered up our system and turned off when we turned system power off. In addition, you can press a button in the center of the lighted rings and up pops a dialog box asking if you want to safely shut down the drive. If you answer yes, the drive is shut down only after all data in the queue has been written. (You can also use the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in your System Tray.) The button can also be used to power up the drive manually.

Installation is simple, though you must first connect the drive using the USB cable so you can install the FireWire drivers if you want to use that interface. When you plug in the drive for the first time, utilities are installed automatically. The software utilities are also on the drive, which makes it easy to install on any other machine with which you share the My Book Pro.

Included in the box are three cables (one per interface), a quick install guide and a CD with EMC's Retrospect Express 7.5 software. For extra security, the My Book Pro Edition is equipped with a Kensington Security Slot for use with a Kensington cable.
Like the Iomega drive, the Western Digital drive includes a copy of Retrospect Express 7.5, robust backup and recovery software that isn't user-friendly for novices and occasional users.

The Western Digital My Book's performance was a mixed bag. In HD Tach tests with the USB 2.0 interface, the My Book was on a par with the other three drives, while FireWire tests were mixed (see chart). The drive's copy speed with USB 2.0 was similar to the Iomega's but trailed the Seagate (2:21 slower) and LaCie (3:59 slower) drives. It was the same story for the FireWire 400 copy test (3:08 behind the Seagate and 3:19 slower than the LaCie). In FireWire 800 tests, it was squarely in the middle between the Iomega and LaCie.


In the end, we find that our favorite drive wins over the runner-up based on price and a couple of nice-to-have but by no means critical features.

LaCie's d2 Quadra has excellent copy performance and good HD Tach results, but those aren't enough to make up for its quirks and features that don't work as advertised.

If, and only if, you'll always connect the drive to systems with the same interface (either all USB or all FireWire 400), the Seagate FreeAgent Pro is a good choice, despite its lousy power switch. The AutoBackup software is the best of the group, the drive's copy speed is quite good, and its cost per gigabyte (at list prices) ties for second place with the Western Digital My Book.

The Iomega Desktop Hard Drive and the Western Digital My Book Pro are very close in overall performance, and while not as impressive as the LaCie drive, both behaved exactly as expected -- with plug-and-play ease that had us up and running in just a couple of minutes. There's a lot to be said of this "no surprises" out-of-the-box experience. Furthermore, unlike the Seagate drive, both the Iomega and Western Digital drives offer all three (well-marked) interfaces, and both include the same strong-on-features, weak-on-user-interface Retrospect Express 7.5 backup software. We found no flaws in the performance of either drive; everything we tested worked exactly as expected.

In the end, we were surprised that the Iomega's FireWire 800 copy test didn't run shorter. The lack of an automatic on/off feature may also be a deciding factor.

From the automatic power up/down to the visual display of the drive's capacity, the Western Digital's nice extras, plus its lower cost per gigabyte (at list prices), tipped the scale in its favor.
http://www.computerworld.com/action/...tsrc =hm_list

Defragment 10X Faster

The never-ending two-step defragmenting process of Vista can soon become a thing of the past. With certain tools, we were able to cut defragmentation time of 25 GBs of files with Vista Ultimate from 82 minutes to 6 minutes!!! That is defragmenting 10X faster than the built-in Vista defragmenter! The tutorial also works with Windows 2000 and XP.

Right now, many things are probably whirling around in your head:

- Is this true? Yes, it is.
- Does it work? Yes. We will show you charts on hard drive fragments before and after defragmentation.
- This has got to cost money. Absolutely free.

These “certain tools” we will be using are called contig.exe and PowerDefragmenter.
When we used these two programs, the results were as follows:

(Skip to the tutorial.)

Hard drive before defragmenting:


8 minutes later:


However, using the Windows Vista Defragmentation tool took longer… much longer. To further exaggerate the comparison, we ran the Vista Defragmentation Tool AFTER we had already defragmented that same drive with Contig and PowerDefragmenter. It took 8 minutes alone to analyze the drive. By now, contig.exe and powerdefragmenter would have already finished defragmenting a drive. On top of that, it took Windows Vista 75 more minutes to defragment the hard-drive. As you can easily see, the new tools we will introduce to you will greatly cut your defragmentation time.
Please note a different tool was used to display the charts above. The charts did not come from the programs used in the tutorial.


The two programs that we have talked about work together to defrag your computer.
Click on the following programs to download them:
contig.exe (scroll to the very bottom of the page)
Power Defragmenter

Once you have finished downloading these files, make sure they are both in the same directory or folder.


No installation is required. The next step is to run Power Defragmenter. Click next, and you will arrive at the screen below:


You may then select from the following options:

Defragment File(s): Allows you to defragment up to 4 files
Defragment Folder(s): Allows you to defragment up to 4 folders
Defragment Disk: Allows you to defragment a disk
PowerMode(TM) Disk Defragmentation: Defragments at a power equivalent to two consecutive defragmentations. Time does not necessarily double.

After you click next, just choose the desired drive, and you’re good to go.
When you are finished, the command prompt window will read “Windows Disk Defragmenter…”

Update: This is the only down-side to contig. It does not really tell you how well the fragmentation process went but as you could see from the visuals above, it is quite effective. If you wait 3-5 minutes before closing the window after the process is finished, the following statistics will be displayed:
- Hard Drive Space
- Free Space
- Largest free space extent
- Percent File Fragmentation


Many are saying that Microsoft said it is unnecessary to defragment NTFS. While that may be true, many are noticing an increase in performance once they defrag their system, including myself. This article is a tutorial on how to speed up the defragmentation process, not one that is asking you to defragment your drive if you don’t think you need to. To defragment or not to defragment is entirely up to you. Sorry for all those confused.

Media Convert

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To convert a file located on a webserver: Check URL mode, enter the file URL, select input and output format.

You can also convert directly from Youtube and Google Video and adapt quality and size settings to your needs.

To make a screenshot of any website (convert it into an image) : Check URL mode, enter the website URL and select an image output format.

Epson Wins Preliminary Ruling Against Aftermarket Cartridge Manufacturers
Jacqui Cheng

Epson is one step closer to closing the books on a case against third-party ink cartridge manufacturers that make and sell products to work with Epson printers. The company has won a preliminary ruling saying that 24 aftermarket print cartridge manufacturers do indeed infringe on Epson's patents, and they face orders that would bar them from selling the infringing products in the US.

Epson had filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission in February of 2006 accusing the companies of manufacturing and selling ink cartridges that came too close to Epson's own cartridge designs. The company had begun to file federal lawsuits against the companies, and many of them decided to settle with Epson rather than fight the case.

During the trial conducted in January of this year, Judge Paul Luckern found that over 750 cartridges from various companies infringed on at least one of 11 patents owned by Epson. Upon issuing the preliminary ruling on March 30, Judge Luckern recommended that Epson file a General Exclusion Order and Cease and Desist Orders against the 24 companies listed in Epson's complaint. The companies accused of infringing on Epson's patents are located in the US, Germany, Korea, and China, and the orders would prevent those companies from importing and selling their products in the US.

"We are gratified that Judge Luckern upheld the validity and enforceability of Epson’s ink cartridge patents," said Epson's director of consumer supplies Elizabeth Leung in a statement. "These lawsuits were filed as part of Epson's worldwide efforts to protect the company from unfair competition. We urge manufacturers, distributors and retailers of ink cartridges to recognize this further validation of Epson’s patent rights and act accordingly. Resellers should be mindful that, in addition to the import restrictions that can be ordered by the ITC, patent infringements can result in very substantial compensatory damages in District Court actions. We will continue taking whatever action is necessary to protect Epson’s invaluable intellectual property rights."

If the ITC approves Judge Luckern's preliminary ruling, then Epson printer users will no longer be able to purchase low-priced alternative cartridges for their printers in the US. The ITC is scheduled to issue a final determination on the case on June 30, 2007.

A sign of things to come?

The prevailing business model in the printer manufacturing business has long been hinged on ink and toner sales, but manufacturers have seen their profits shrink as third parties move in to sell ink and toner products closer to their own manufacturing costs. In a rather high-profile case, Lexmark battled North Carolina-based Static Control Components (SCC) over the manufacture of printing components meant to lock-out third party providers. In that case, Lexmark had tried to use the DMCA to argue that SCC had infringed on Lexmark's intellectual property, but that approach failed.

Epson's approach has focused on patents and patent law, and so far it has been successful. In the federal court case, Epson accused its competitors of patent infringement primarily based on two patents: 7,008,053 and 7,011,397. Both patents cover minor technical innovations in the production of inkjet printer cartridges, and Epson has since piled on additional patents in an attempt to ensnare all of the companies manufacturing ink replacement products for its most recent printers. We suspect that this isn't the last time we'll see this tactic used, given its success.

H.P. Tries to Create Printers That Love the Web
Damon Darlin

Vyomesh I. Joshi, the senior vice president in charge of Hewlett-Packard’s printing division, bounded up to the stage to congratulate his employees on their performance. He was ebullient, and with good reason: revenue, profit, margins and market share were all up, he told them at a quarterly “coffee talk” in late February.

He followed that up with a less-heartening tale. He said one of his daughters, a college student, had told him, “I don’t need a printer.” Like many people of her generation, she lives online and finds it unnecessary or too difficult to put bits onto paper.

“The intent of this is not to scare you, though I am scared,” Mr. Joshi said.

The Internet era has been good to makers of printers so far. H.P.’s numbers show that half the printing done in homes is material from the Internet, like e-mail and Web pages, while software like Microsoft Word accounts for just under 20 percent of printouts.

But looking ahead, Mr. Joshi is concerned that if people find printing Web pages too hard and start printing less, he will have fewer coffee talks where he crows about record revenue, profit, margins and market share.

So Mr. Joshi is beginning to introduce a strategy that could be as important as his previous strategic shifts. Those led the company to sell copiers and commercial printers, along with photo prints via the online service Snapfish.com and blue photo-printing kiosks in stores. Now he wants H.P. to figure out a way to get people to print more Web pages.

“It’s an indication of a broader strategy to leverage the Internet,” said Charlie Corr, group director of InfoTrends, a market consulting firm. Mr. Joshi sees Internet material, in particular blogs and personal photo galleries, as a driver of demand for printing, Mr. Corr said. “He has a vision that transforms how and when things are printed.”

Worrying about a trend that has yet to materialize may seem odd for someone running a unit that last year brought in 30 percent of H.P.’s $91.7 billion in revenue and more than half its operating profit.

Through good times and bad, H.P. has counted on the imaging and printing group and its version of the classic razor-and-blade business model: sell inexpensive printers and make the money on the ink.

The company fiddles with that model as if it were tuning a perpetual motion machine. If H.P. wants to see higher profit in several months to compensate for slower growth in another area, Mr. Joshi’s unit will cut printer prices. More printers are sold, and new customers are soon buying high-margin replacement ink or toner cartridges.

The company, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is dominant in printers — half the printers sold in the world carry the H.P. logo. New entrants to the market like Dell, Samsung and more recently Kodak pose little threat. Mr. Joshi’s concern is a shifting market.

He spotted a change in consumer habits from printing digital photos at home to printing them at stores, so he pushed the photo kiosk strategy. He keeps looking for ways to spur faster growth and stave off complacency. “Companies don’t transform at the top, they transform when they are at the bottom,” Mr. Joshi said.

Which brings Mr. Joshi back to his concern about his daughter. It isn’t her fault that she finds printing annoying. It is difficult to print the content on many Web sites, whether they are blogs, MySpace pages, lists from comparison shopping sites or even directions from Google Maps. Printouts often look haphazard, with large bands of white space or images chopped in two.

Last month, in a small step toward making sure that home printers keep churning, H.P. bought a small company, Tabblo, a privately held developer of Web-based software in Cambridge, Mass.

Tabblo’s software creates templates that reorganize the photos and text blocks on a Web page to fit standard sizes of paper. H.P. wants to make the software a standard by making it ubiquitous, like Adobe’s Flash and Reader or Sun Microsystems’ Java.

“We’d make printing as much a nonevent in the online world as it is in the desktop world,” said Pradeep Jotwani, the unit’s senior vice president in charge of the supplies business.

If it creates the printing engine of the Web, H.P. will help all printer companies — but as the industry leader, it will benefit more than its rivals. It is only the first step, analysts said, as the company tries to stay at the center of a system of consumers and businesses generating and printing Internet content, whether it is for homemade books or custom marketing materials.

A director of Yahoo since 2005, Mr. Joshi is well aware of how a new technology can shake up well-established companies. He is just as fascinated by how companies transform, reading several books a week on the subject when he is not reading novels or watching movies. That interest might seem unusual for an executive who has spent his career with one company.

After graduating from engineering school in India, where he grew up, Mr. Joshi went to Ohio Stateon a scholarship and received his master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1980. H.P. hired him as an inkjet printer engineer. For his first six months on the job, he walked from his apartment up a long hill to the company’s factory and research center near San Diego.

“I didn’t have any money,” he said. Though company filings show that he made $12.2 million last year in salary, bonuses and stock awards, he lives in a home that is modest by local standards and is located less than a mile from the same factory.

One of Mr. Joshi’s first assignments was to increase the reliability of the inkjet printer heads that shoot bubbles of ink onto the page. Cartridges were failing after firing only 600,000 drops. He figured out a way to make them fire 45 million drops. That meant a cartridge would run out of ink long before failing, which, he jokes, opened the door for the cartridge refilling industry, the bane of H.P.’s business model.

Mr. Joshi was given the top job at the unit in 2002 by Carleton S. Fiorina, then the chief executive. After she was forced to resign in 2005, he was briefly mentioned in news reports as a possible candidate to replace her. His interest in transforming companies is shared by Mark V. Hurd, who won the chief executive job.

Mr. Hurd recognized Mr. Joshi’s ability to expand the business, and the two worked out an arrangement so that the imaging and printing group got to keep a greater percentage of its profits to invest in its own growth.

Mr. Joshi’s goal is growth of at least 6 percent a year, which means adding $1.6 billion to as much as $2 billion in revenue annually. The company is looking for more things to print, from museum-quality art to the advertisements wrapped around buses.

On the imaging side, the company has digitized 10,000 movies owned by Sony and signed an agreement with Warner Brothers to do the same with its archives, creating “digital vaults” of films that can then be distributed online.

H.P. signed up Wal-Mart Stores as the first customer for the digital vault. That was a coup because the chain sells 40 percent of all DVDs, putting it in a good position to promote movie downloads. “It’s hard to make bold moves with the studios without their very biggest customer,” said Willem de Zoete, vice president and general manager of the digital entertainment services business at H.P.

About eight months ago, Mr. Joshi began sharing his thoughts about his latest strategy with members of the staff. “He’s not afraid of sharing half-baked stuff,” said Hatem Mostafa, senior vice president of the inkjet business. “It wasn’t smooth. It was bits and pieces. But it’s an effective way for us to own it before we set off on it,” he said.

“He trawls the halls at 6 o’clock looking for people to talk to, and he’s been doing that for 20 years,” said Francis McMahon, North American marketing director for the company’s commercial printing efforts.

One of Mr. Joshi’s favorite tactics is to think in opposites: for instance, to lose weight one should think about how one gains it. Mr. Joshi has been pushing the idea that the focus on printers has meant that the company was looking at the means and not the ends. In fact, he said, H.P. may not really be in the printing business. “We are in the content consumption business,” he said.

The hardest part for Mr. Joshi? “Reluctantly, I am doing blogs,” he told the employees at the companywide coffee talk. He said he needed to understand how they work. “Otherwise, we will be irrelevant.”

Giant Machine Designed to Print Houses
Tracy Staedter

Hammering, sawing, drilling and bricklaying could one day be replaced with printing. A room-size machine currently being built by researchers in the U.K. will use rapid prototyping techniques to print walls, complete with brick, plaster, windows, insulation and conduits for wires and pipes.

The technique could make walls stronger and more functional, while at the same time reducing construction waste, minimizing the amount of labor needed and liberating the building's form.

"Maybe straight is not always the best shape. You can build a flat or curvy place and there is no more expense involved," said Richard Buswell, lecturer for civil and building engineering at Loughborough University in U.K.

Buswell and his team are embarking on a four-year project to build the 13- by 16.4-foot-sized printer, which will borrow techniques from rapid prototyping processes currently used to produce items made of ceramics, polymers and metals.

In rapid prototyping, products are drawn and developed using three-dimensional computer-aided design software. The 3-D shapes are sliced into cross sections and a machine fabricates each layer — usually with a material made in sheets or out of liquid, powder or paste — one on top of the other to build the product from the bottom up. The layers are then bonded together, sometimes with a laser, to produce the final shape.

The process often involves using plastic-based materials. But in the case of constructing walls, Buswell and his team will be using mineral-based materials such as cement, gypsum, clay or lime.
The machine will either squeeze out the moist material like toothpaste from a tube or it work like a large ink-jet printer head to place drops of the material in the precise location. The material will be designed to harden in the air and will not require a laser to fuse the layers together.

Such precision will allow designers to incorporate elements into walls that would otherwise have to be built in separately. For example, the walls could have holes to accommodate doors and windows. They could be built with a honeycomb structure for insulation. Or they could contain hollow sections that serve as conduits for piping or electrical wires.

The system is innovative because it could potentially save time and cost of labor, said Terry Wohlers, president of rapid-prototyping consulting firm Wohlers Associates in Fort Collins, Colo.

But that might not be enough to convince the construction industry.

"The construction industry is established and traditional. The situation has to be dramatically better or companies won't take the risk. They will do it the way they have always done it," he said.

At the end of four years, Buswell and his team will have the printer and a wall to prove the concept.

"Doing that wall will get us beyond some of the hurdles and obstacles that are in our way and once we do that we're only limited by our own imagination," said Buswell.

Computers vs. Old-Fashioned Teaching: Which Is Better?

Department of Education Study Says Computer Software in Schools Doesn't Raise Test Scores

Almost every school district in the country has bought computer software that's supposed to help kids do better in math or reading.

But as a parent, it's helpful to know whether it's really effective to sit your kids down in front of a computer. Do they learn better with these expensive computer programs?

Not necessarily, according to a new Department of Education study.

The study found that "test scores were not significantly higher in classrooms using selected reading and mathematics software products" than in classrooms without those fancy tools.

But kids love computer games, even if the game is teaching them something.

"I like the computer class because it's entertaining and you can learn lots of things you never knew," said one boy in a Los Angeles classroom. "You can learn stuff about presidents, soccer, you can learn math problems and all that."

Millions Spent on Software

Schools across the country have spent millions on learning software, and this study has some parents asking if it was money well spent.

"When I hear this I don't think it's worth it," said parent Moira Hayes. "It makes you think that the good old-fashioned way of interacting with the teacher really works better for the kids."

Some districts have already bailed out on using pricey software. Los Angeles schools spent $50 million on software for a reading program that's no longer in every classroom after students' test scores showed no improvements.

Is the Study Reliable?

The software industry says this national study has flaws; it looked at results over just one year and only at certain schools.

"To extrapolate from one study and say that tech has no place in our schools in terms of achievement is a misinterpretation of the facts," said Mark Schneiderman, a software industry representative.

And there are examples of success. At Delano High School in Minnesota, for example, they'll tell you the software has worked wonders. The number of kids failing has dropped 19 percent.

"I worry less and less about the research and more and more about what's happening in my school," said Delano principal Bruce Locklear

Several kids said they couldn't imagine school without computers, and other experts agree with them.

"Throwing out the technology would be a big mistake, because we understand that is the future of teaching and learning. We just need more time to find out how we can better utilize and harness that technology for learning," said Watson Scott Swail, the president of the Educational Policy Institute.

Experts offered some suggestions for parents who are wondering what the study means for their kids.

First, make sure your school board knows about the new study. Find out how much is being spent on software, and ask a lot of questions about whether that money could be better spent some other way.

And speak up if you don't think your child is learning with a computer program that's being used at school.

Students Protecting Intellectual Work
Lauren La Rose

Graduate students heading to Ottawa's Carleton University this fall are slated to receive an education of a different sort - learning their rights when it comes to protecting ideas and work from possible theft.

The Carleton Graduate Students' Association is spearheading an initiative to educate some 3,300 grad students on how to safeguard their intellectual property while ensuring they're being properly recognized for their work.

"If (intellectual property theft) has been a problem, we don't really know about it, which is one of the reasons we wanted to do it," said association president Oren Howlett.

"A lot of the times, this stuff does happen to students but they have no real way of being able to cite it or try to figure out how to go about bringing the issue to light."

The initiative will include workshops and a handbook outlining what would constitute an infraction of students' intellectual property rights, Howlett said.

Examples include a student not receiving authorship on written work, or having a professor take credit for their work.

"This isn't an indictment of profs at all," said Howlett. "It's just to ensure that students' rights are protected in the case that it does happen."

Experts say while it's next to impossible to put a number to cases involving intellectual property theft at Canadian universities, some say the push towards commercializing research may be a factor.

A Statistics Canada survey of intellectual property commercialization in the higher education sector found that researchers reported 1,475 inventions to Canadian universities and research hospitals in 2005, up three per cent from the previous year.

Patent applications filed by the institutions surged 13 per cent during the same period, and were the beneficiaries of $55 million in income from intellectual property commercialization.

The idea of knowledge as property was once an alien concept to universities, where the emphasis was on creating and sharing knowledge for its own sake, said Paul Jones of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Funding cutbacks and a more commercialized culture have seen government, the private sector and university administrators gravitating to the notion of knowledge and creativity as saleable products, Jones said.

"What typically happens is that a team will come together to work on a project, perhaps with the best intentions, and with some naivete about this commercialized model," he said. "As things move forward, it may dawn on someone, 'Hey, there's some money to be made here.' "

Jones said his association is working on developing a best practices guide with the Canadian Federation of Students to alert individuals to the issue of intellectual property theft, and to suggest ways it can be avoided.

Howlett said the initiative was prompted in part by recent high-profile cases at universities involving copyright infringement.

In one case, Chris Radziminski, a former University of Toronto graduate student, alleged his former supervisors at U of T and Indiana University plagiarized his drinking water research in two journal articles and manipulated research results.

Radziminski was threatened with a defamation suit by the University of Toronto when he attempted to contact the journals to correct the record.

An inquiry launched by Indiana University in the spring of 2006 confirmed Radziminski's allegations of misconduct. Formal apology letters were written to him and other students cited as authors on the articles.

Radziminski said in an e-mail that universities need to institute a policy to deal not just with intellectual property "but research integrity in general - including protection for whistleblowers, especially vulnerable groups such as students."

The Canadian Federation of Students wants whistleblower legislation put on the books to protect university researchers from any backlash they may experience if they call out researcher misconduct.

Canceled by Principal, Student Play Heads to Off Broadway
Alison Leigh Cowan

Students at a Connecticut high school whose principal canceled a play they were preparing on the Iraq war are now planning to perform the work in June in New York, at the Public Theater, a venerable Off Broadway institution, and at the Culture Project, which is known for staging politically provocative work. A third show at a Connecticut theater is also being discussed.

“We are so honored and thrilled, there’s no words to describe how excited we are,” Bonnie Dickinson, the teacher whose advanced theater class at Wilton High School put the play together, said yesterday.

After barring the scheduled performance of the play, a series of monologues mainly from soldiers titled “Voices in Conflict,” school officials have cleared the way for an off-campus production. In a letter Tuesday, Thomas B. Mooney, a lawyer for Wilton’s board of education, wrote that the district and its superintendent, Gary Richards “have no objection to students privately producing and presenting the play on their own.”

While defending the school’s initial decision to halt production pending “concerns about balance, content and copyright,” Mr. Mooney wrote that “school officials have no interest in interfering with the private activities of students.” The letter goes on to say that the teacher of the advanced theater class that initiated the project, Ms. Dickinson, could also participate in an independent production “as long as she makes clear that she is acting as an individual and that the play is not sponsored in any way by the Wilton Public Schools.”

In canceling the play last month, the school principal, Timothy H. Canty, cited concerns about political balance, sourcing, and the possibility of hurting Wilton residents “who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving.”

But administrators have said in recent days that they might yet allow the play to be performed on school grounds in some modified form, but probably not this spring, when about half the 15 cast members are scheduled to graduate.

The Public Theater, which is tentatively scheduled to stage the show June 15, and the Culture Project, where it is slotted for the prior weekend, were among scores of off-campus venues, including church basements and college auditoriums, that offered the students a platform after the play’s cancellation.

“We started in the school, but we don’t have to finish in the school,” Devon Fontaine, 16, a cast member, said yesterday. “Wherever we do the play, I think we will all be happy and grateful that that venue has allowed us to do so.”

The students were also awarded a “Courage in Theater” award last month for their “non-performance” from Music Theater International, a New York agency that licenses many high school productions. And last week, theater greats including Edward Albee, Christopher Durang, John Weidman, Marsha Norman, Doug Wright, John Guare and John Patrick Shanley, under the auspices of the Dramatists Guild of America, joined the National Coalition Against Censorship in calling for the school district to allow the play to go on.

Martin Garbus, a First Amendment lawyer who has been working pro bono with Ms. Dickinson and several parents of cast members said yesterday that schools are allowed to regulate speech that has the potential to disrupt learning. But canceling the initial production only increased the likelihood that its eventual performance on school grounds might stir up trouble, he said. “Had the school not done any of this stuff, it would have just gone through uneventfully,” Mr. Garbus said.

Ms. Dickinson said the script was a work in progress, and that students would now be rushing to polish it and rehearse amid other spring concerns, like the prom.

“We’re looking forward to finishing writing the play or putting it together, as it were, and coming up with some kind of ending that feels right with the kids and then rehearsing it,” said Ms. Dickinson, adding that the show may be performed on-book, with the cast reading from scripts, to relieve anxiety about memorizing lines before their Off Broadway debut.

Students Hear Anti-Gay Talk

High school allows speaker after threat of lawsuit
Eileen FitzGerald

Seven students attended an after-school club meeting at Danbury High School on Thursday afternoon to hear an anti-gay preacher who was allowed to speak only after the school was threatened with a lawsuit.

The controversy started when High School Principal Catherine Richard initially objected to a student's request on Tuesday for the speaker, North Carolina pastor Valerie Pinnex, because Pinnex planned to proselytize about the need for gays to change what she considers sinful behavior. Richard felt that message was the wrong one to give students.

But when Danbury High junior Rosemary Shakro heard that Pinnex could not speak at the school, she and her parents contacted the national conservative group, the Alliance Defense Fund, to complain.

"We didn't mean to hurt anyone. The Day of Truth is to show love and compassion and another point of view if they are willing to change,'' Shakro said.

Shakro is a member of the Youth Alive Club, which is a Danbury High School Bible study group, which invited Pinnex to speak for the national Day of Truth event at the school. The Alliance Defense Fund created the day to "ensure the free speech rights of Christian students to present an alternative viewpoint to those organizations that promote homosexual behaviors."

It stands in contrast to the 10-year-old national Day of Silence, celebrated Wednesday, which promotes a safe and welcoming environment for students who may be gay or lesbian or struggling with their sexual identity.

The alliance e-mailed Danbury High School on Wednesday and threatened that if the school did not allow Pinnex to speak at the Youth Alive Club meeting, they would take legal action.

Superintendent Salvatore Pascarella said Thursday that the schools' attorney advised him that the student's First Amendment rights would be curtailed if the high school did not allow Pinnex to speak.

So the event went on as planned.

But Richard had a problem with the talk.

"We promote respecting each other, taking pride in each other, and having an environment where every student, of every sexual preference, every race and creed, can feel valued and wanted and that they will be listened to,'' Richard said.

"I have an issue with putting down one group of students. We are a public school. I want us working together, and I don't want talk that's going to promote intolerance or lack of respect for another group."

Pastor Valerie, as Pinnex is called, told the students she was gay in high school and became a successful police officer with security detail for presidents Bush and Clinton before finding Jesus and learning she was on the wrong path.

Wearing a Day of Truth T-shirt, she acknowledged the dispute that led up to her visit.

"We had a tremendous victory for Jesus. They wanted to ban us, but Jesus was going to be heard," said Pinnex, 53, who is a born-again Christian.

"You're looking at a lady who used to live a homosexual lifestyle. I didn't know the truth,'' she said. "What changed me? I got to know Jesus."

With the students at the session was Debbie Stence, a Danbury High teacher and Youth Alive adviser, who said there was no intent to create turmoil.

But teacher Cindy NeJame, who helped organize the Day of Silence as part of Peace Week, a weeklong event to encourage kindness and acceptance, was also at the talk and was outraged by the message.

"I'm working as an educator. The Day of Silence represents support for anyone who is different. I work at one of the most diverse high schools in the state and it is my job to represent all students," she said.

"Peace Week was to allow for everyone. So we have this speaker come in representing a group that specifically targets gay members of our society," NeJame continued.

"These are Christians? Maybe I don't understand what that is supposed to represent. I wanted Peace Week to represent all children."

The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, didn't have a problem with Day of Truth except with its message that gays can and must change their sexual orientation.

"'The Day of Silence and Day of Truth are very different. They are apples and oranges,'' said Eliza Byard, deputy executive director of GLSEN.

The Day of Silence supports a safe school environment, and is against anti-lesbian and anti-gay bullying and harassment that stands in the way of a child getting an education. That's something people of all faiths should be able to come together around, she said.

"The other (Day of Truth) is talking about a specific Christian belief (opposition to homosexuality), and talking about an intervention that all medical experts have said is unnecessary and potentially harmful to young people," Byard said.

"No one contends that students should be prohibited from taking part in the Day of Truth, but they must be respectful of other students' rights and must draw the line at the ex-gay message."

Danbury High School senior David Garcia, 17, belonged to Youth Alive for a short time last year. It has between five and 15 student members now. Garcia said the intention of the club was that everyone was welcome, but he felt the Day of Truth contradicts that message.

"This program is not accepting of homosexual behavior,'' Garcia said, "and I feel it targets a group in a public setting and that's not appropriate."

Judge: School's Gay Rights Club Can Meet

A high school club that promotes tolerance of gays must be allowed to meet while a lawsuit is pending, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ruled Friday that Okeechobee High School must grant the same privileges to the Gay Straight Alliance that it grants other clubs, as mandated by the federal Equal Access Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Okeechobee school board in November on behalf of the high school's Gay-Straight Alliance after school officials said the group was a "sex-based" organization that would violate its abstinence-only education policy.

In his 12-page ruling, Moore wrote that the group and its founder, high school senior Yasmin Gonzalez, have "demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success" on their claim that the school violated federal law when it prohibited the club from meeting.

ACLU attorney Robert Rosenwald called Friday's order a "strong indication of what will happen in the end."

In his ruling, the judge said the school showed no evidence to back its concern that the group would encourage students to share "obscene or sexual explicit material," and that the school had made that assumption based on the group's name.

David Gibbs, the lawyer for the school board, said Friday he had not spoken to the school board about whether it would press forward for trial. He said he believes the judge's decision honors the school's desire that the club steer clear of discussions related to sex.

"The kids are getting the name they wanted," he said, "But we're pleased that the students are limited to discussing discrimination issues."

Gonzalez said she was happy with the decision and issued a statement saying she hoped future students "will benefit from a more open environment and not have to endure the same treatment from our school."

MySpace Prank Gone Bad Leads to Misuse of School Resources, Multiple Lawsuits
Nate Anderson

The problems started in December 2005, when several students from Pennsylvania's Hickory High School posted fake MySpace profiles about their principal, Eric Trosch. All of the posts were mean-spirited; they accused Trosch of using steroids, marijuana, and alcohol; suggested that he had sex with students; and said that his interests included "Transgender, Appreciators of Alcoholic Beverages." In the year and a half since the four separate profiles were posted, the community has experienced the upheaval of multiple lawsuits, the most recent coming this week as Trosch sued the students involved.

The entire story is sordid and a bit ridiculous. In court filings seen by Ars Technica (and that predate the current case), Trosch says that his daughter became aware of the fake profiles on December 11, 2005, and came crying to her father. One can imagine that this would be traumatic for the daughter, who was also a student at a high school in the district at that time. Trosch and the school's IT person attempted to block MySpace, but students were "backdooring a fire wall and getting into" it anyway.

On December 15, Trosch became aware that there was not just a single profile, but several fake profiles, all of which were "mean-spirited, obscene, profane, libelous, and insulting." On December 16, Trosch spoke to teachers at his school about the profiles but was "overcome with emotion and could not continue." Meanwhile, back at home, Trosch's wife was apparently refreshing the profiles and looking at the names of those who left comments. She sent these names to Trosch, who then confirmed that the students were in fact in school that day, all in an attempt to prove that the profiles were being accessed from school.

With this information in hand, Trosch and the IT person discussed shutting down all the computers in the school—perhaps a hint that paranoia had set in over something that no one would ever consider true. The IT person spent an estimated 25 percent of his work time dealing with this issue, and the district as a whole was "required to invest money and a significant amount of time."

Note the word "required" used in the court filing; though this was obviously not required, Trosch kept at it, even taking measures that led to the "cancellation of computer programming classes as well as usage of computers for research for class projects." Now the basic educational mission of the school was being compromised in order to keep students from visiting these profiles during school hours (students were still free to look at the profiles from home, of course). Priorities were being reshuffled, and controlling the "disruption" appeared to move to the top of the list.

When Trosch identified one of the students responsible in late December, and the student confessed, Trosch suspended him for 10 days and said that he would be placed in an "Alternative Education Program" when he returned to school. This student, Justin Layshock, then filed suit against the school district. He admitted that what he'd done was wrong and stupid but argued that the profile had been created from home and that the school had no right to jeopardize his academic future by placing him in an alternative program for something he'd done after hours.

The Pennsylvania ACLU came to Layshock's defense (see his parents' statement about the case as well as a copy of the profile in question [PDFs]), but a judge ruled in favor of the school in January 2006. But the case wasn't over; the family then sued the school in federal court for civil rights violations. That case is still ongoing.

Now Trosch, who has since moved schools within the district, is suing the students involved in the 2005 caper, arguing that his reputation was damaged and his earning potential was affected.

It's a sad story in many ways—a stupid prank has now had real consequences in several lives—but it's worth asking if the school response actually created the bigger problem. Calling the students in and asking them to apologize could have been the end of it, but because of the school response and subsequent lawsuits, all parties have been put beneath the hot glow of media spotlights for more than a year. School resources were expended, and administrators spent many hours "dealing" with the issue at an admittedly busy time for the school. Computer classes were shut down and computer access curtailed.

This isn't the first time that the issue has arisen; we reported late last year on a case in Texas where a school administrator sued students who created a fake MySpace profile. It's strange to imagine a day in which US courts will have accumulated case law dealing specifically with fake MySpace profiles, but such a day may not be far off any longer.

The bigger—and more important—issue is where a principal's authority ends, and recent cyberbullying cases raise the same questions about free speech and educational disruption. The Supreme Court has yet to issue an important ruling in this area in relation to the Internet, but with cases like these arising with increasing frequency, the court may need to address the issue soon.

First Amendment Extends to MySpace, Court Says

A judge violated a juvenile's free-speech rights when he placed her on probation for posting an expletive-laden entry on MySpace criticizing a school principal, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The three-judge panel on Monday ordered the Putnam Circuit Court to set aside its penalty against the girl, referred to only as A.B. in court records.

"While we have little regard for A.B.'s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech," Judge Patricia Riley wrote in the 10-page opinion.

In February 2006, Greencastle Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert discovered a Web page on MySpace purportedly created by him. A.B., who did not create the page, made derogatory postings on it concerning the school's policy on body piercings.

The state filed a delinquency petition in March alleging that A.B.'s acts would have been harassment, identity deception and identity theft if committed by an adult. The juvenile court dropped most of the charges but in June found A.B. to be a delinquent child and placed her on nine months of probation. The judge ruled the comments were obscene.

A.B. appealed, arguing that her comments were protected political speech under both the state and federal constitutions because they dealt with school policy.

The Court of Appeals found that the comments were protected and that the juvenile court had unconstitutionally restricted her right of free expression.

There was no number for Shawn Gobert in publishing phone listings. The Associated Press left a message seeking comment Monday at Greencastle Middle School.

Man Sentenced to 10 Years for Assaulting Girl he Met on MySpace

A federal judge sentenced a Pennsylvania man to 10 years in prison Monday for molesting a 14-year-old Connecticut girl he met through the social networking Internet site MySpace.com.

U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill imposed the sentence on Stephen Letavec, 41, of Elrama, Pa. After the prison time, Letavec must serve 10 years of supervised release.

Letavec, a volunteer firefighter, was charged last year in one of the first federal sex cases involving the popular Web site. He pleaded guilty in January to one count of using the Internet to persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity and one count of traveling in interstate commerce for the purpose of attempting to have and having illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

He met the Oxford girl on MySpace.com in about March 2005 and communicated with her nearly every day through February 2006, according to court documents and statements made in court. Letavec traveled from Pennsylvania to Connecticut three times to meet the girl, and the two engaged in illicit sexual conduct at least two of those times, prosecutors said.

"I showed you what love is and how it feels," Letavec wrote in an e-mail found in the girl's school locker, according to an FBI report. "I want to show you how making love feels too, not just sex because there is a difference."

The girl signed onto MySpace as an 18-year-old, but told Letavec she was 14 before he visited, the FBI said.

"This sentence should send a very strong message to anyone who intends to use the Internet to prey on children," U.S. Attorney Kevin OConnor said Monday.

Parents, school administrators and law-enforcement authorities have been increasingly warning of online predators at sites like MySpace, whose youth-oriented visitors are encouraged to expand their circles of friends through messaging tools and personal profile pages. It has more than 100 million registered users.

The site has responded by expanding educational efforts and partnerships with law enforcement. It also adopted new restrictions on how adults may contact the site's younger users and has helped design tools for identifying profiles created by convicted sex offenders.

MySpace's current policy bars children under 14 from setting up profiles. Users who are 14 or 15 can display their full profiles - containing hobbies, schools and any other personal details - only to people already on the teen's list of friends. Others see only the bare-bones profile, listing username, gender, age and location.

But MySpace, a division of News Corp., relies on users to specify their age.

'Girls Gone Wild' Founder Surrenders in Fla.

The founder of the Girls Gone Wild video empire surrendered to federal marshals early Tuesday to face a contempt of court citation after initially defying a federal judge.

Joe Francis was booked into the Bay County Jail, said Ruth Sasser, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office. "His attorneys continue to work toward a settlement," Kevin Mercuri, a spokesman for Francis, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

Francis, 34, makes an estimated $29 million a year from videos of young women baring their breasts and in other sexually provocative situations.

He drew the contempt citation during negotiations in a civil lawsuit brought by seven women who were underage when they were filmed by his company on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003.

Lawyers for the women told U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak that Francis became enraged during the settlement talks, shouting obscenities at the lawyers and threatening to "bury them." Smoak ordered Francis to settle the case or go to jail for his behavior.

Negotiations continued with the help of a mediator, but broke down Thursday, and Smoak issued a contempt of court warrant.

Francis initially refused to surrender and called Smoak "a judge gone wild."

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta refused to let him remain free pending an appeal.

Francis had said Thursday he would settle the case to avoid jail time. "I'll give up a billion dollars, but it will be under duress," he said, arguing that any money given would be voided in an appeal.

Radio Host Is Suspended Over Racial Remarks
Bill Carter

The radio talk show host Don Imus was suspended for two weeks yesterday after the outcry over his racially disparaging remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

The suspension will begin Monday.

NBC News, which does a simulcast broadcast of Mr. Imus’s radio program on its cable news channel MSNBC, was the first to act, suspending Mr. Imus and calling his comments “racist and abhorrent.”

A short time later, CBS Radio, which is his chief employer, followed, saying it, too, would take Mr. Imus, 66, off the air for two weeks.

NBC also served notice yesterday that it would not tolerate insensitive remarks in the future. Mr. Imus had promised to change the tenor of the show, NBC said in a statement, and had agreed that the suspension was appropriate.

“Our future relationship with Imus is contingent on his ability to live up to his word,” NBC said. CBS made no statement other than that it was suspending Mr. Imus, who has been the host of “Imus in the Morning” for more than 30 years.

MSNBC will replace Mr. Imus’s program with news coverage. CBS was undecided about how it would fill the time.

The actions came at the end of a day of intensifying pressure on Mr. Imus from black leaders, who expressed outrage at his description last Wednesday of the Rutgers team as “nappy-headed ho’s.”

Mr. Imus tried to stave off calls for his resignation by appearing yesterday on a syndicated radio program that has the Rev. Al Sharpton as its host and making a more complete apology for what he said were “repugnant, repulsive, and horrible” comments.

He said he was also trying to reach out to the team, its coach and players’ parents to issue an apology.

Mr. Imus said he wanted to try to “see if they’ll forgive me and if there is something that can be established here that I can do to begin to build something positive out of this — and then who knows?”

But his job still appeared to be in jeopardy, with Mr. Sharpton and other black leaders calling for Mr. Imus to be fired, threatening to initiate a boycott of sponsors and demanding that the Federal Communications Commission take action against him and radio stations that carry his program.

It is unclear whether members of the Rutgers team will agree to meet with Mr. Imus. The Rutgers athletic director, Robert E. Mulcahy III, said in a statement yesterday, “I have relayed the message of Don Imus and his offer to apologize in person to the students and asked them to let me know how they wished to respond if at all.”

It is also still unclear how much support Mr. Imus can expect from the roster of politicians, authors and media figures who make up his daily guest list. Some of his regular guests, like the author Tom Oliphant and the editor at large of Newsweek, Evan Thomas, have already appeared with him and offered support. But Mr. Sharpton said yesterday that he would be asking “all the candidates running for president if they plan to appear on the show.”

Some of those candidates, like Senator John McCain and Senator Joseph R. Biden, are regular guests. Mr. McCain said in an interview in Phoenix yesterday that he was a “believer in redemption” and hoped that Mr. Imus could satisfy his critics with his apology.

Mr. Imus also found support in the publishing industry where he is highly valued by authors and publishers. The publisher of Simon & Schuster, David Rosenthal, said it would be a shame if Mr. Imus lost his job.

“I think he has been a fantastic forum for authors and for people with interesting ideas,” Mr. Rosenthal said..

The “Imus in the Morning” program is popular in New York, where it reaches about a half million listeners on the radio station WFAN. Mr. Imus is an employee of CBS, but WFAN is the only CBS station to carry the program. It is, however, syndicated on Westwood One, a company that is managed by CBS. Executives from Westwood One declined to comment.

The program has become particularly important for MSNBC, serving as that network’s regular morning program. “Imus in the Morning” has been building its audience steadily on MSNBC, threatening to overtake CNN in that time slot.

At NBC, the decision to suspend Mr. Imus was made by the management of NBC News, in consultation with the company’s corporate management, headed by Jeff Zucker.

The suspension will not begin until Monday because Mr. Imus had scheduled a telethon to benefit research into a cure for sudden infant death syndrome and neither outlet wanted to hurt that cause.

In his appearance with Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Imus offered no real defense for his statement, other than to say it was an attempt at humor that had failed miserably. “I understand there’s no excuse for it,” he told Mr. Sharpton. “I’m not pretending that there is. I wish I hadn’t said it.”

His critics say Mr. Imus has shown a pattern of racially charged remarks over the years. Some of these he tried to defend on Mr. Sharpton’s program, saying they had been misinterpreted or were satirical.

Mr. Sharpton asked if the newspaper columnist Clarence Page had once gotten Mr. Imus to pledge not to do any more racial humor. Mr. Imus said he had.

“Do you repent once a decade?” Mr. Sharpton asked.

Mr. Imus argued that he was not at heart a racist: “I think what makes a difference in this context, and you can still call for me to be fired, that’s fine, but I think what makes a difference, a crucial difference is: What was my intent?”

Though he said he did not want people to think he was trying to excuse himself, Mr. Imus did point to charitable work he has done with children with cancer — many of them black — on his ranch in New Mexico, as well as his effort to raise money to find a cure for sickle-cell anemia.

Mr. Sharpton said intent could not be considered when actions were “over the line.” He also said that no matter how good or decent Mr. Imus might be at heart, his actions in this case had “set a precedent” that would invite other commentators to make similar comments.

He promised he would push the issue with sponsors and the F.C.C. It was not known last night how advertisers, which have included Bigelow Tea, Chrysler and the New York Stock Exchange, would respond.

The F.C.C. may not have a direct means to address the issue. It was under a mandate from Congress to act against what was deemed indecency, but there is not a similar mandate against other types of speech by a broadcaster.

Several media executives said a bigger problem for Mr. Imus may be advertisers’ response to calls for a boycott. Most such boycotts usually prove to be ineffective but Mr. Sharpton and other black leaders promised to make this one work. Mr. Sharpton also said he wanted to make sure Mr. Imus did not come out of this experience unscathed.

“I’m scathed,” Mr. Imus said. “Are you crazy? How am I unscathed by this? Don’t you think I’m humiliated?”

Mr. Sharpton replied, “You’re not as humiliated as young black women are.”

Motoko Rich and Rebecca Cathcart contributed reporting.

Sponsors Flee From Don Imus
Stone Martindale

The threat of suspension isn't enough of a punishment for radio shock jock Don Imus for some. Forbes is reporting that corporations Staples and Procter & Gamble have announced that they are pulling their advertising from Imus' radio show following the racially insulting comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team, the Scarlett Knights.

"Because of the recent comments that were made on the program it did prompt us to take a look at our decision to advertise on the program and we have decided to stop advertising," said Staples spokesman Paul Capelli said to Forbes.

Privately held company Bigelow Tea said in a press statement that the remarks have "put our future sponsorship in jeopardy."

Troubled started for Imus when he referred to the Rutgers team as "nappy-headed hos," and compared the teams as "jigaboos and wannabes." He said he was trying to be funny."I'm not a bad person. I'm a good person, but I said a bad thing," he said. "But these young women deserve to know it was not said with malice."

Imus' morning radio talk show was suspended from CBS Radio and MSNBC, which televises it, for two weeks.

Rev. Al Sharpton would like to see Imus fired. The Rev. Jesse Jackson is also active in the push for Imus' canning. Jackson is planning a protest in Chicago outside the local offices of NBC, which owns MSNBC, the cable broadcaster of Imus' television show.

Forbes speculates that despite the maelstrom of bad publicity, the Miller Tabak equity analyst David Joyce claims in the Forbes.com article the Imus issue will have a minor impact on CBS, Imus' boss and owner of his New York radio home, WFAN.

NBC News Drops Imus Show Over Racial Remark
Bill Carter and Louise Story

NBC News dropped Don Imus yesterday, canceling his talk show on its MSNBC cable news channel a week after he made a racially disparaging remark about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

The move came after several days of widening calls for Mr. Imus to lose his show both on MSNBC, which simulcasts the “Imus in the Morning” show, and CBS Radio, which originates the show.

CBS Radio, which is the main employer of Mr. Imus, said in a statement last night that it would stick by the two-week suspension of the show that it and NBC News announced earlier; the suspension begins Monday.

But CBS said it would, in the interim, “continue to speak with all concerned parties and monitor the situation closely.”

The demands that Mr. Imus’s show be canceled have grown in intensity every day since last Wednesday when he made the comments, in which he labeled the women “nappy-headed hos.”

Numerous advertisers said yesterday that they would refuse to sponsor the show in the future. Among the advertisers were General Motors, American Express, Sprint Nextel, GlaxoSmithKline, TD Ameritrade and Ditech.com.

NBC said the cancellation was effective immediately. Mr. Imus was scheduled to be the host of a telethon today and tomorrow on radio station WFAN and simulcast on MSNBC to benefit three children’s charities. The network will instead program three hours of news coverage.

Mr. Imus did not respond to telephone messages last night. But Bo Dietl, a security expert who is a frequent guest on Mr. Imus’s show, said last night that he had just talked by telephone with the host, and that his mood was “very down, very upset about what occurred with MSNBC.”

“I said to him that they didn’t even give him time to talk to the victims,” Mr. Dietl said. “He agreed with me.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been among the leaders of the movement to force Mr. Imus off the air, said in a telephone interview that “we have been halfway successful so far” and that he and others would continue to press CBS to join NBC in cutting ties to Mr. Imus.

Mr. Sharpton said he was organizing a rally to take place today outside CBS’s corporate headquarters on West 52nd Street in Manhattan.

“This has never been about Don Imus,” Mr. Sharpton said. “I have no idea whether he is a good man or not. This is about the use of public airwaves for bigoted, racist speech.”

Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is running for president, called on MSNBC and CBS Radio to disassociate themselves from Mr. Imus, and said that he would never go on the show again. He said he had appeared once, more than two years ago.

“He didn’t just cross the line,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with ABC News. “He fed into some of the worst stereotypes that my two young daughters are having to deal with today in America.”

In its statement, NBC News said the decision “comes as a result of an ongoing review process, which initially included the announcement of a suspension.”

“It also takes into account many conversations with our own employees.”

The statement went on: “What matters to us most is that the men and women of NBC Universal have confidence in the values we have set for this company. This is the only decision that makes that possible.”

NBC also apologized again to the Rutgers team for “the pain this incident has caused.”

NBC executives said last night that the decision had been made jointly by the NBC Universal president, Jeff Zucker, and the president of NBC News, Steve Capus.

Several NBC employees said that discussions about Mr. Imus had been going on throughout the company over the last few days and that the sentiment among the employees turned out to be a critical factor in the decision to cancel his show.

In one example of that sentiment, Al Roker, the popular weatherman for the “Today” show, wrote a commentary on that show’s Web site calling for the Imus show to be canceled.

Mr. Zucker made the point in an e-mail message he sent to NBC employees last night that conversations with employees had been a driving factor. “Over the past several days, we have had to grapple with an incredibly difficult and sensitive issue,” Mr. Zucker said in the e-mail message.

“After our announcement of the suspension of Don Imus, we have had ongoing discussions with a number of employees and employee groups within our business. The result of these discussions has been very clear. NBC Universal has a strong reputation for integrity and our employees value that integrity tremendously.

“Those conversations have led to the decision Steve Capus and I made today.”

Mr. Capus in an interview on MSNBC last night said that in his view, the comment Mr. Imus made was racist. He added that it was far from the first time Mr. Imus had made insensitive or offensive comments on his show.

“There have been any number of other comments that have been enormously hurtful to far too many people,” Mr. Capus said. “And my feeling is that there should not be a place for that on MSNBC.”

MSNBC paid a fee to CBS to simulcast the show, about $4 million a year. It was spending about $500,000 a year to produce the show for television. For that investment, it earned what it labeled a modest profit.

But the show, which has been seen on MSNBC since 1996, was helpful to NBC in other ways. It provided a forum and promotional platform for many NBC News personalities.

The show is of far more value to CBS Radio, and its flagship station, WFAN, which, in addition to the rights fees from NBC, get nearly $20 million in advertising and syndication revenue; the show’s individual radio affiliates, collectively, earn another $20 million in revenue, according to people apprised of the show’s finances. The show is also widely syndicated by Westwood One, which is managed by CBS.

But NBC executives, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters, said that the program had only minimal impact on MSNBC’s budget.

In an interview on MSNBC last night, Mr. Capus said advertising money was not a determining factor.

“What price do you put on your reputation?” Mr. Capus said. “And the reputation of the news division means more to me than advertising dollars. Because if you lose your reputation, you lose everything.”

CBS executives, including the chairman, Leslie Moonves, continued to hold meetings yesterday with groups protesting Mr. Imus’s remark. Among these was the National Association of Black Journalists, which was one of the first groups to demand the cancellation of his show.

Mr. Imus also held a meeting with CBS executives yesterday, according to one executive who was informed of the meeting. CBS put off any further action beyond the suspension, the executive said, in part because Mr. Imus had asked for time to meet with members of the Rutgers team. He was tentatively scheduled to hold that meeting some time today.

At an afternoon rally on the Rutgers campus, students chanted anti-Imus slogans and waved protest signs. State Senator Nia H. Gill of New Jersey, who earned a law degree from Rutgers, called on the college to boycott companies that advertise on the show and said she would introduce a measure in the Legislature calling for New Jersey to stop buying products from companies that advertise with him.

The controversy helped push the ratings of “Imus in the Morning” on MSNBC to their highest level in months. On Tuesday, 624,000 people tuned in, a 50 percent increase from a week ago, according to estimates from Nielsen Media Research. An additional 1.6 million people typically listen to the program on the radio, according to Arbitron.

Starting this week, large advertisers began telling MSNBC and CBS not to broadcast their ads during “Imus in the Morning.” The companies, like Procter & Gamble and Staples, said they were dismayed that their brands had been associated with Mr. Imus’s offensive remark.

“Those comments, they’re just not consistent with our values, and we’re not going to be a part of it,” said Stephen Dupont, a spokesman for Ditech.com, a home loan company, which asked MSNBC on Monday to remove its ads from the show.

Although advertisers have been aware that the program often veered into politically incorrect territory and beyond, “this kind of woke a lot of people to the dark side of Imus,” said Fran Kelly, chief executive of Arnold Worldwide, an advertising agency. “He’s got every right to be on the air and say what he wants to say, but advertisers have every right to vote with their dollars.”

Jacques Steinberg contributed reporting.

This Time, the Shock Jock’s Sidekick Couldn’t Shield the Boss
Jacques Steinberg

Just before Don Imus infamously referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team on his radio show on April 4 as “nappy-headed hos,” another voice could be heard describing them as “some hard-core hos.”

That voice belonged to Bernard McGuirk, the producer and booker on “Imus in the Morning” for more than two decades, who does double duty on the air as one of a half-dozen supporting cast members. Their task — and Mr. McGuirk’s charge in particular — is often to give their boss some illusion of deniability or distance. Only then can they express what he might want to say about blacks, Jews, gays or women but perhaps feels he can’t, given his stature as an interviewer of the famous and important.

Among the many striking aspects of this particular instance is that it represented a rare, though hardly unprecedented, occasion in which Mr. Imus took Mr. McGuirk’s bait and allowed himself to wade into deep trouble alongside his producer, instead of watching safely from the shoreline. Last night, the lingering outrage over Mr. Imus’s comment resulted in Mr. Imus’s losing his television outlet; MSNBC, which simulcasts his program, announced that it was dropping it. CBS Radio, his primary employer, has yet to announce any plans to follow suit.

“Sometimes when you’re trying to be funny in the way we’re trying to be funny, you go too far,” Larry Kenney, whose spot-on imitations of the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, among others, have been an “Imus” staple for more than three decades, said earlier yesterday, before the MSNBC announcement. “I’m not saying Imus did that this time. I’m saying overall that’s what happens when you do this kind of humor,” Mr. Kenney said.

Mr. McGuirk, for example, periodically fashions an oversize FedEx envelope into a cone on his head to do a profane caricature of Cardinal Edward M. Egan of New York. Using a high-pitched Irish brogue (the same voice Mr. McGuirk long used to lampoon Cardinal John O’Connor, before his death), the producer-as-cardinal said on the March 16 installment of the show that “the only thing Hillary Clinton has in common with the late great President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, God rest his soul, is that they both enjoyed extramarital affairs with women.”

A former altar boy who is the son of Irish immigrants, Mr. McGuirk, who is in his mid-40s and writes his own material, also had his Cardinal Egan make homosexual slurs about Anderson Cooper and describe Mr. Imus’s wife as having multiple sexual partners in her husband’s absence. Mr. Imus, watching from alongside Mr. McGuirk onstage in Boston, where the show was being broadcast live, could be seen laughing but said nothing in response.

As he always does, Mr. McGuirk’s cardinal ended his homily: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost,” he said, “it is Imus on life support we want the most.” The other players, including Charles McCord, Mr. Imus’s news reader, responded in unison, “Lord, hear our prayer.”

Similarly Rob Bartlett, another impressionist who often appears on the show (and who has appeared on Broadway) visited on Dec. 4 to do one of his regular characters: Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, only reimagined as a belligerent illiterate evocative of Jose Jimenez, the Spanish-accented simpleton from the old “Steve Allen Show.”

On Dec. 4 Mr. Bartlett as Mr. Gonzalez lamented the intransigence of President Bush, whom he addressed as “el jefe,” on a host of issues, saying, “He don’t listen to nothing from nobody,” before adding, “I’m talking Helen Keller time here.”

Neither CBS Radio nor MSNBC has singled out anyone else for his role in the back-and-forth about Rutgers, for which Mr. Imus has apologized repeatedly in recent days. Whether Mr. McGuirk or any other Imus employee is to be punished has yet to be determined. That said, the entire cast will effectively be serving a two-week suspension on radio alongside the host, beginning Monday. Some people have continued to say that the penalty is not severe enough. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois told ABC News yesterday that Mr. Imus should be fired.

CBS Radio said late yesterday afternoon that Mr. Imus, who earns an estimated $10 million annually, will not be paid during his suspension. Still unresolved, at least as of late afternoon yesterday, was whether anyone else on the Imus staff would lose his pay or what would replace the show in its absence.

For the most part the Imus supporting cast is a group of middle-aged white men, all of whom do some comedy writing or performing on the show. Sometimes their fingerprints are little seen. For example Mr. McCord, who has served as Mr. Imus’s straight man (and often straitjacket) for more than three decades, ghost-writes Mr. Kenney’s outrageous monologues as Mr. Falwell and Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Kenney said.

On Feb. 26, for example, the fake Mr. Falwell said of the N.B.A. All-Star weekend, “Congratulations to Commissioner David Stern for staging a, well, basically a race riot — 403 arrests, brother Don, over half for prostitution. Whores, Brother Imus. Scarlet sisters.”

But if anyone is to make a racial crack, or an unflattering reference to Jews, it is often Mr. McGuirk, sometimes in the guise of C. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, who is black, or often in his own voice. He has, for example, been known to refer to the New York Knicks as chest-bumping pimps.

Mr. McGuirk did not respond to a message left yesterday with his assistant in the Imus office. But in an interview with The New York Times in May 2000 he defended the breadth of the show’s humor, even if some blacks in particular might be offended in the process.

“It’s meant to be descriptive, not pejorative,” he said . “If the N.B.A. were peopled by a bunch of Romanians, we’d be making fun of Romanians. To not satirize someone just because of their race, I think that would be patronizing and racist in itself.”

“The bottom line is, I’m not a bigot,” he said in 2000, before adding that he had “lived amongst blacks all my life,” having grown up in the James Monroe Houses in the South Bronx. Mr. McGuirk also said that the co-op in Long Beach, N.Y., where he later lived had a directory in the lobby that “read like Schindler’s list, for crying out loud.”

“Yes, I arrive at the studio at 5 a.m. each day, but before I do, on my way out I shine my lawn jockeys, and then I stop at the cemetery and knock over Jewish tombstones,” he said. “Oh please.”

CBS Drops Imus Radio Show Over Racial Remark
Bill Carter and Jacques Steinberg

CBS brought the tumultuous weeklong crisis over racially insensitive remarks by the radio host Don Imus to an end late this afternoon when it canceled the “Imus in the Morning” program, effective immediately.

The move came one day after MSNBC, which has simulcast Mr. Imus’s radio program for the past 10 years, removed the show from the cable network’s morning lineup. The two moves together mean that Mr. Imus, who has been broadcasting his program for more than 30 years, no longer has a home on either national radio or television.

Mr. Imus received the news in a telephone call to his home. Many of his listeners learned of it during the afternoon radio show “Mike and the Mad Dog,” which announced it on WFAN, the same New York station owned by CBS that carried Mr. Imus’s program.

The CBS chairman, Leslie Moonves, held a meeting this afternoon with the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the leaders in what became a national movement to have Mr. Imus removed from the air in the wake of comments in which he disparaged members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. On his program of April 4, Mr. Imus referred to the women on the team as “nappy-headed hos.”

Both CBS and MSNBC had been under pressure from black leaders, women’s groups and advertisers, many of which said they intended to pull their commercials from Mr. Imus’s program.

In a statement, Mr. Moonves said, “Those who have spoken with us the last few days represent people of goodwill from all segments of our society — all races, economic groups, men and women alike. In our meetings with concerned groups, there has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society.”

He added, “That consideration has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision, as have the many e-mails, phone calls and personal discussions we have had with our colleagues across the CBS Corporation and our many other constituencies.”

The CBS decision came on the same day that Mr. Imus was scheduled to journey to New Brunswick, N.J., to meet with the Rutgers team to apologize in person for his remarks, which he had acknowledged in a number of public apologies were inexcusable.

But whatever the outcome of that meeting, it would have no bearing on Mr. Imus’s fate in the end. Neither of his employers was willing to wait to see if the meeting produced anything like a rapprochement.

Both CBS and NBC originally announced a two-week suspension for Mr. Imus that was to have commenced Monday, but the protests against the host had only increased as the week went on. These were spurred first by a news conference by the Rutgers team and then by revelations of previous episodes when Mr. Imus and his supporting cast had engaged in racially charged language.

NBC executives said the discomfort of its staff members and concerns about its reputation had driven the decision to cut ties with Mr. Imus. But that network was only paying a license fee to carry the show. CBS Radio and its flagship station WFAN produced the show and contracted with Mr. Imus to be the star.

CBS also manages Westwood One, the syndicator that has sold the Imus show to other stations around the country. Mr. Imus, who is 66, was among the most recognizable voices on radio and commanded a salary estimated at $10 million a year

The firing of Mr. Imus came on a surreal day, one that served as a reminder not only of the millions of dollars he has raised for children’s charities over nearly two decades, but of the millions of dollars in future donations that may been lost as a result of his ill-considered remarks.

For four and a half hours this morning, he turned his radio program into a live fund-raiser for three charities — two benefiting children with cancer, and the other for families that have lost babies to sudden infant death syndrome — an endeavor he has undertaken each of the last 18 years.

Among the guests were children and parents who had been the beneficiaries of his efforts — particularly the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, a program that the host founded on his New Mexico ranch along with his wife, Deirdre.

“It was an honor to be at your son’s funeral,” he said to one woman, whose cancer-stricken son had been a guest at what is essentially a Western-themed camp for sick children.

Throughout the broadcast, though, Mr. Imus continually referred to the perilous predicament he was in, which had already forced the decision announced by MSNBC the previous evening to cancel its simulcast of his radio program, effective immediately.

He strongly suggested, for example, that he believed his long career on terrestrial radio, at least, was drawing to a close, which gave the broadcast something of a funereal atmosphere.

“This may or not be our final radiothon,” he said, just before 6 a.m. “There’s no way to know, anything. But let’s say for sake of being safe that it is.”

“Ordinarily, we’d like to raise, say, around $3 million,” he said. “But today our goal is around $100 million.”

At several points, he lashed out at the “hypocrisy” of the news coverage of the fallout from his remarks and “the lack of support from people like Harold Ford,” the former Tennessee congressman who is black and whom the talk show host had touted repeatedly throughout his recent, failed bid for a Senate seat.

He also expressed bitterness that MSNBC had “pulled the plug” on televising his program less than 12 hours before the fund-raiser was to begin. “They got their pound of flesh and made their decision,” he said.

And yet, Mr. Imus also emphasized that, ultimately, he alone was to blame for his predicament.

“I said a stupid, idiotic thing that hurt these kids,” he said of the Rutgers players. “If I hadn’t have said it, we wouldn’t be here. So let’s stop whining about it.”

With Mr. Imus now officially gone from their lineup CBS Radio and WFAN are under pressure to find someone to replace him.

Trash Talk Radio
Gwen Ifill

LET’S say a word about the girls. The young women with the musical names. Kia and Epiphanny and Matee and Essence. Katie and Dee Dee and Rashidat and Myia and Brittany and Heather.

The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University had an improbable season, dropping four of their first seven games, yet ending up in the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball championship game. None of them were seniors. Five were freshmen.

In the end, they were stopped only by Tennessee’s Lady Vols, who clinched their seventh national championship by ending Rutgers’ Cinderella run last week, 59-46. That’s the kind of story we love, right? A bunch of teenagers from Newark, Cincinnati, Brooklyn and, yes, Ogden, Utah, defying expectations. It’s what explodes so many March Madness office pools.

But not, apparently, for the girls. For all their grit, hard work and courage, the Rutgers girls got branded “nappy-headed ho’s” — a shockingly concise sexual and racial insult, tossed out in a volley of male camaraderie by a group of amused, middle-aged white men. The “joke” — as delivered and later recanted — by the radio and television personality Don Imus failed one big test: it was not funny.

The serial apologies of Mr. Imus, who was suspended yesterday by both NBC News and CBS Radio for his remarks, have failed another test. The sincerity seems forced and suspect because he’s done some version of this several times before.

I know, because he apparently did it to me.

I was covering the White House for this newspaper in 1993, when Mr. Imus’s producer began calling to invite me on his radio program. I didn’t return his calls. I had my hands plenty full covering Bill Clinton.

Soon enough, the phone calls stopped. Then quizzical colleagues began asking me why Don Imus seemed to have a problem with me. I had no idea what they were talking about because I never listened to the program.

It was not until five years later, when Mr. Imus and I were both working under the NBC News umbrella — his show was being simulcast on MSNBC; I was a Capitol Hill correspondent for the network — that I discovered why people were asking those questions. It took Lars-Erik Nelson, a columnist for The New York Daily News, to finally explain what no one else had wanted to repeat.

“Isn’t The Times wonderful,” Mr. Nelson quoted Mr. Imus as saying on the radio. “It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House.”

I was taken aback but not outraged. I’d certainly been called worse and indeed jumped at the chance to use the old insult to explain to my NBC bosses why I did not want to appear on the Imus show.

I haven’t talked about this much. I’m a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I’ve been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.’s juvenile slap will define or scar me. Yesterday, he began telling people he never actually called me a cleaning lady. Whatever. This is not about me.

It is about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That game had to be the biggest moment of their lives, and the outcome the biggest disappointment. They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know — black women in particular — develop to guard themselves against casual insult.

Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imus’s program? That’s for them to defend, and others to argue about. I certainly don’t know any black journalists who will. To his credit, Mr. Imus told the Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday he realizes that, this time, he went way too far.

Yes, he did. Every time a young black girl shyly approaches me for an autograph or writes or calls or stops me on the street to ask how she can become a journalist, I feel an enormous responsibility. It’s more than simply being a role model. I know I have to be a voice for them as well.

So here’s what this voice has to say for people who cannot grasp the notion of picking on people their own size: This country will only flourish once we consistently learn to applaud and encourage the young people who have to work harder just to achieve balance on the unequal playing field.

Let’s see if we can manage to build them up and reward them, rather than opting for the cheapest, easiest, most despicable shots.

Gwen Ifill is a senior correspondent for “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” and the moderator of “Washington Week.”

On breathing tube and facing long recovery

N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine Crashed On Way To Don Imus, Rutgers Team Meeting

The duration and distance were short, but in those dizzying seconds and feet, Gov. Jon Corzine suffered injuries serious enough to land him in intensive care with a breathing tube down his throat and a doctor declaring him lucky to be alive.

The 60-year-old governor underwent about two hours of surgery last night to repair multiple broken bones, including 12 ribs and a femur that protruded through the skin of his thigh, following a car accident on the Garden State Parkway in Galloway Township.

State Police this morning said they are still seeking the driver of a red pickup truck believed to have caused the accident.

With two of his adult children by his bedside, Corzine, sedated and on intravenous painkillers, remains in intensive care in Cooper University Hospital in Camden. He required seven pints of blood, officials said, and is using a breathing tube to ease his respiration with the broken ribs, and a broken breastbone.

The governor also suffered a broken collarbone and lower back bone and a flap-like cut on his skull, which a plastic surgeon stitched back together.

Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said the governor did not appear to have suffered brain or spinal cord damage.

Robert Ostrum, chief of orthopedic trauma surgery at the hospital, said the governor will need more surgeries, probably tomorrow and Monday, because of the femur fracture that pushed the bone through the skin of his leg.

Doctors inserted a metal rod in Corzine's bone and fastened it in place with screws. But they did not put a cast on his leg or close the wound. For now the leg is wrapped in a bandage because the doctors will have to surgically cleanse the wound to prevent infection from setting in.

"He has responded well, but he does have significant injuries," Ostrum said last night, also describing the governor's ailments as "multi-system injuries." The doctor said Corzine faces months of physical therapy.

Responding to a reporter who asked whether the governor was fortunate to be alive, the doctor was terse and certain.

"Yes," he said.

Corzine aides said two of the governor's children, Jennifer and Jeffrey, both of New York, were with him. A third child, Joshua, lives in California, and his arrangements were not immediately known.

The aides would not confirm whether Corzine's girlfriend Sharon Elghanayan had arrived at the hospital.

In a scant moment of levity during a press conference last evening, Ostrum said the rod, or "nail," placed in Corzine's leg comes in three lengths, but even the largest was not long enough for the governor's limb.

"I found out Governor Corzine has very long legs," the doctor joked. "I used the longest nail I had, and it ran the length of the thighbone, and we placed screws above and below."

Aides to the governor said they are planning another news conference at the hospital later this morning.

The governor was injured yesterday when the SUV carrying him from Atlantic City to the governor's mansion swerved and bounced off another vehicle on the Garden State Parkway and then slammed into a guardrail, officials said.

The state trooper driving the governor and a Corzine aide also were injured in the accident, which occurred shortly after 6 p.m. in Galloway Township.

A police helicopter flew Corzine from the crash scene to the hospital. After his surgery, the governor was transferred just before midnight to the intensive care unit in critical but stable condition, hospital officials said.

Ostrum predicted the governor will need at least two more surgeries, plus three to six months of rehabilitation.

"He won't lose his leg; he will need extensive physical therapy," he said.

Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) assumed the duties of acting governor last night.

The crash occurred as Corzine's two-car motorcade was heading north to Princeton after a long day of travel that included appearances in Pennsylvania, Bergen County and South Jersey.

Corzine was sitting in the front passenger seat of the black Chevy Tahoe, alongside his driver, Trooper Robert Rasinski, according to New Jersey State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes. In the back sat Samantha Gordon, an aide who typically accompanies Corzine when he travels beyond the Statehouse.

It was not immediately clear if the governor or the others were wearing seat belts.

"The State Police will be addressing that in their investigation," Coley said.

The motorcade was headed north in the left lane just past mile marker 44 when a red pickup truck entered the road from the shoulder and crossed into the path of a white Dodge Ram truck, police said.

The Dodge then swerved in front of the governor's SUV, colliding with the Tahoe and sending it careening onto the highway median and into the metal guardrail, police said.

Jim Freund, a second lieutenant with the Great Bay Regional Volunteer EMS, arrived to see the governor's SUV teetering on the twisted guardrail and medical technicians removing Corzine on a backboard.

"He was conscious, but he was moaning," Freund said.

Rescue personnel then loaded Corzine into an ambulance that shuttled him about 100 yards north on the roadway to where two State Police helicopters were waiting.

Neither Rasinski, 34, nor Gordon, 25, was seriously injured, but they were taken to Cooper University Hospital for evaluation, officials said. Fuentes said the trooper had minor injuries and was resting comfortably but would remain in the hospital overnight.

The driver of the white Dodge stopped, but the pickup that police said caused the crash fled, officials said. No charges were immediately filed in the case, but troopers were reviewing Parkway cameras last night in an attempt to identify the vehicle.

"If an individual was operating a red pickup truck in that area, we hope they contact the New Jersey State Police," Capt. Al Della Fave said.

Fuentes said investigators didn't believe speed played a role in the crash.

"From our preliminary investigation, it looks as if the trooper did a tremendous job in maintaining what control he could over that vehicle, given the fact that the other vehicle swerved into his path," he said.

Corzine became the third New Jersey governor in eight years to suffer a broken leg. Christie Whitman fractured a leg skiing in the Alps in 1999. Three years later, her successor, James E. McGreevey, suffered a broken femur after falling during a jog on a Cape May beach.

Corzine, an Illinois native and Democrat who made millions on Wall Street before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 2000, became the state's 54th governor last year. Since taking office he has worked out daily, though he frequently complains he'd like to exercise even more.

On days when his schedule requires him to be in several areas of the state, Corzine typically relies on a State Police helicopter. But bad weather yesterday forced him to travel by car, aides said.

At the time of the accident, it was not raining and the pavement was dry, officials said.

The motorcade left the governor's mansion, Drumthwacket, in the morning for Pottstown, Pa., where Corzine attended services for FBI Special Agent Barry Lee Bush, a New Jersey-based agent who died during an attempted bank robbery in Readington Township last week.

The governor then returned to northern New Jersey, joining Bergen County Democratic Organization chairman Joseph Ferriero for a news conference in Hackensack. The afternoon was spent in Atlantic City, where Corzine participated in a forum on property tax rebates for renters and spoke to the New Jersey Conference of Mayors at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.

He made his last appearance of the day just after 5 p.m. on the Pinky Kravitz show on WOND 1400 AM radio.

The accident slowed traffic as troopers closed one lane of the northbound Parkway for about four miles.

"I saw tons of smoke coming from the bottom of the vehicle," said Mark Fishman of Rockaway, who with his wife was driving home from Atlantic City around 6 p.m. "It had to have happened 15 to 20 seconds before we got there."

Corzine had been en route to Drumthwacket to moderate a meeting between radio shock jock Don Imus and members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Deputy chief of staff Jeannine LaRue took his place instead.

He was scheduled to leave tomorrow on an official trade mission to Israel, a trip that now seems unlikely.

As Corzine underwent surgery, Codey, the acting governor, said: "On behalf of the citizens of New Jersey, I want to wish him a speedy recovery."

A Photo Trove, a Mounting Challenge
Katie Hafner

In some sense, the iconic photograph of Rosa Parks recreating her quiet act of rebellion on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., belongs to every American. But as a practical matter, it belongs to Bill Gates.

Anyone wanting to use that image in a book or on a Web site must first license it from Corbis, a corporation founded and owned by Mr. Gates, who is better known for starting Microsoft. The photo is among the 11 million prints and negatives in the legendary Bettmann archive, which Corbis bought in 1995.

Since that first purchase, Corbis has spent tens of millions of dollars acquiring image collections and other companies, hired more than 1,000 people and set up two dozen offices worldwide. Although Corbis says it brings in some $250 million a year in sales, it has yet to turn a profit.

Now the company is shuffling its top executives as it takes on new challenges, building up a business in rights management and plotting its response to the rise of low-cost online photo services that threaten to undermine its lucrative stock photo sales.

The company plans to announce Tuesday that Gary Shenk, the president, is being made chief executive as well. Mr. Shenk, 36, is an expert in rights licensing who has risen rapidly through the Corbis ranks since he was hired in 2003 from Universal Studios, where he started a small licensing unit.

Steve Davis, 49, the departing chief executive, will continue as a senior adviser after 10 years of running the company.

The move into rights clearance, which involves sorting out the questions of who owns what material and how much they should be paid for its use, is a departure from the original vision for the company.

Mr. Gates started Corbis in 1989 with the idea that people would someday decorate their homes with a revolving display of digital artwork — interspersing, say, Cecil Stoughton’s shot of John F. Kennedy Jr. playing under the desk in the Oval Office with photos of their own families at play.

That is not how things have worked out. But meanwhile Corbis has built up a formidable stash of historical photos, including those in the Bettmann Archive. In 1999, Corbis acquired the licensing rights to the Sygma collection in France, and two years ago it did the same with a German stock image company called Zefa. It licenses those images for an average of about $250 apiece.

Corbis also owns digital reproduction rights for art from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Gallery in London.

In all, Corbis represents or owns the rights to more than 100 million images, including some of the most famous photographs ever — Arthur Sasse’s photo of Einstein sticking his tongue out and Marilyn Monroe on the subway grate. And Corbis handles the licensing of millions of other images on behalf of thousands of photographers.

The archival photos bring in about half of Corbis’s sales, but the company also has a stable of professional photographers who generate stock photos for advertising and media clients — images of children on playgrounds, people sitting in business meetings and men in khakis swinging golf clubs.

Over the past few years, Corbis has moved beyond newspaper and magazine clients to pursue advertising and graphic design agencies, as well as corporate marketing departments, which are turning increasingly to high-quality stock photography rather than doing their own expensive photo shoots.

Those customers are also buying from Corbis’s growing library of 30,000 short video clips — mostly generic scenes of, say, people shopping or running down the beach.

What Corbis did not foresee was the rise of so-called microstock agencies like Fotolia and iStockPhoto. These sites take advantage of the phenomenon known as crowdsourcing, or turning to the online masses for free or low-cost submissions. Thousands of amateur and semiprofessional photographers armed with high-quality digital cameras and a copy of Photoshop contribute photographs to microstock sites, which often charge $1 to $5 an image.

Although the microstock business still represents a small fraction of the $2 billion market for stock photos, analysts say it is possible that low micropayment prices could take business away from the higher-priced images Corbis relies on for the bulk of its revenues.

“Think about how visual the world is,” said Barbara Coffey, a senior research analyst at Kaufman Brothers in New York who follows the stock photography market. “We have pictures on our cellphones. If I can get a reasonably clear picture and the rights are cleared and I pay $2 for it, then why would I pay Corbis $200?”

The rise of the microstock companies has been of particular concern to Corbis. For all its new lines of business, the company still gets some 88 percent of its revenues from image licenses, yet commands only about 11 percent of that market. Getty Images dominates the market with a 40 percent share.

Getty, which has grown quickly since its start in 1995 with the backing of its wealthy co-founder, Mark Getty, has a foothold in microstock thanks to iStockPhoto, which it bought last year for $50 million.

Mr. Shenk said Corbis would announce its plans for the microstock business sometime this quarter. As for the question of how a high-end company enters that business without cannibalizing its more expensive products, Mr. Shenk said the idea was to find a new kind of customer, people who would never envision buying pictures from a Corbis or Getty.

In that vein, Mr. Shenk said Corbis would make its service as easy to use as the iTunes store of Apple and hinted that Corbis would also be following the crowdsourcing model.

“More interesting and innovative things are happening on the pages of Flickr these days than on Corbis and Getty,” said Mr. Shenk, referring to the photo-sharing site owned by Yahoo. “If we can use this type of opportunity to find the next great group of Corbis photographers, that also makes it a great opportunity for us.”

Corbis is also betting heavily on its Creative Resources division, which includes rights services and recorded 44 percent growth in revenue last year, to $30.1 million.

Mr. Shenk, who will take over from Mr. Davis at the end of June, is most likely the biggest reason for that growth. When Mr. Shenk left Universal for Corbis in 2003, he took five people and an impressive Rolodex with him. Now nearly 30 Corbis employees work in rights clearance, in offices in Los Angeles, New York, Europe and Asia.

Mr. Shenk, a Hollywood veteran who is an expert in what he calls “new ways to sell media,” said he believed Corbis was offering something unique in building a worldwide network of rights experts. The business of rights clearance, he said, is often a matter of knowing whom to call, and the idea is to make Corbis the first place that comes to mind when, say, an advertising agency is trying to clear the rights to use an image, video clip, or song.

Such was the case when the band U2 made its most recent video, for “Window in the Skies,” which braided together some 100 clips of old stars like Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, synched to the new song’s music and lyrics. Corbis helped the band’s production company negotiate a thicket of publicity rights.

Roughly one-third of Corbis’s 1,100 employees are in downtown Seattle, in an old bank building well suited to the company’s hip self-image. The vast, open, two-story space has retained several enormous vaults that once held gold bars and now serve as photocopy and office supply rooms. Conference rooms are named after famous photographers, and copies of their work cover many of the walls.

The Corbis photographs themselves are not stored in Seattle, except digitally on the computers there. And those digital images constitute only a small fraction of Corbis’s holdings. Of the 50 million items in the Sygma collection, just 800,000 have been digitized.

The prints and negatives from Otto L. Bettmann’s archive, as well as those from a few smaller collections, are kept 220 feet underground in a former limestone mine in rural Pennsylvania. In February, Corbis announced that it would be storing the Sygma collection in a preservation facility near Paris.

As ventures go, Corbis represents a small investment for Mr. Gates. He pays for large expenditures, and the company uses its revenues to cover smaller projects within the firm.

Mr. Gates’s involvement in the company is minimal. He spends only two to three hours each month meeting with Corbis management. Yet it is clear that he makes the big decisions. He has no interest, for example, in treating the undigitized portions of the image collections like one of his charities by, say, donating them to a public entity.

Despite the hands-off approach, Mr. Gates is apparently never far from the minds of Corbis employees. Mr. Shenk is in the process of relocating to Seattle from Los Angeles, and his sparsely decorated office in Seattle is evidence of the commuter life he has been leading. The only work of art in evidence one recent afternoon was on Mr. Shenk’s whiteboard, where a colleague had drawn the unmistakable likeness of Mr. Gates, peering out from behind his glasses.

“Keep up the good work, Shenk,” Mr. Gates says. “Or I’ll kill you.”

Judge Gives Intel More Time to Find Missing e-Mail
Ben Ames

A court has granted Intel Corp. seven extra days to explain to a judge why it lost e-mail records that could provide proof that the chip maker used anticompetitive practices as alleged by Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD).

Intel has until April 17 to give the court an accounting of its document preservation problems and to propose a better solution for archiving future records, according to an order from Vincent Poppiti, the special master hearing negotiations of the case in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

A judge agreed in December to enforce AMD's request to prepare for an April 2009 trial by seeing Intel records that could determine whether Intel used its overwhelming market share in the semiconductor industry to force PC vendors to use only its processors.

That process hit a snag when Intel said in March it had accidentally deleted many of those records, including e-mail written by its Chairman Craig Barrett and CEO Paul Ottelini. The problem happened because the company failed to instruct certain employees to keep records of their own e-mail, other employees assumed the IT department would do that task for them, and meanwhile the company's IT system was automatically deleting most e-mail after a certain amount of time, Intel told a judge.

Intel and AMD had originally agreed to a deadline of April 10 to see a full assessment of the lost data and discuss ways to restore some of it, according to a transcript of a March 7 hearing before Poppiti. But the court took so much time to issue its formal demand that part of the month had already passed, Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said in an e-mail statement on Monday.

"It took more than a week to draft the order from the special master so the deadline is now April 17th," he said. The delay occurred because AMD and Intel were working on the order.

Despite the extension, the basic facts of the case remain the same, with AMD continuing its search for evidence that Intel broke antitrust laws, said AMD spokesman Michael Silverman in an e-mail. That challenge will be much more formidable without access to Intel's records.

"Although Intel has agreed to restore all data captured in the thousands of backup tapes it made and preserved, no one can say with any degree of confidence that this will put Humpty-Dumpty back together again," AMD said in a March 5 court statement.

A.M.D. Plans to Cut Back on Spending and Hiring
Damon Darlin

Advanced Micro Devices, which makes computer processors, said yesterday that a sharp decline in revenue was prompting it to make cutbacks in hiring and spending in order to reduce operating costs.

A.M.D. surprised Wall Street analysts yesterday by announcing that it expected to report revenue in the first quarter of $1.23 billion, far below what analysts had forecast. In making the revision, A.M.D. cited lower selling prices for its computer processors and “significantly lower unit sales.”

The announcement raised questions of whether the slowdown was a result of A.M.D.’s battles for market share with the industry leader, Intel, or whether it was an early signal of a slowdown of sales of PCs and servers for corporate data centers.

A.M.D. had said in January that it expected to report revenue of about $1.67 billion in the first quarter, but in March it warned analysts that revenue would be lower. The consensus among Wall Street analysts was $1.53 billion. The company’s latest projection is 20 percent below that.

“It’s a big drop,” an analyst with A. G. Edwards, David Wong, said, “But I don’t think it necessarily reflects on the end market.”

Other analysts also saw no unexpected slowdown in consumer PCs sales, although sales of computer equipment to corporations have continued to be weak.

It might suggest, Mr. Wong said, that A.M.D. was losing market share to Intel.

A.M.D. had gained market share last year, garnering as much as 25 percent at the end of 2006. But as it was doing so, its average selling price fell to $75 at the end of the year from $99 at the beginning. Intel’s average selling price fell, but at a far lower rate, to $130 from $137.

Intel revamped its product line in 2006 and sold more of its higher-priced chips to makers of servers. Intel has not cut its list prices, analysts said, while A.M.D. has cut its list prices several times in the last 12 months.

Dean McCarron, who tracks the PC semiconductor market for Mercury Research of Cave Creek, Ariz., said that A.M.D.’s problem might stem from the way it shifted much of its production to large PC makers like Dell in 2006. Demand slowed from the big makers, he said, and as A.M.D. tried to move the excess inventory to other smaller makers, it discovered those customers were buying from Intel.

“Demand that existed at the beginning of the first quarter didn’t exist at the end,” Mr. McCarron said. The shift in consumer preference to notebook PCs from desktop models may have also played a role — A.M.D. is not as strong in products made for notebooks.

A.M.D.’s plans to reduce its costs suggested to analysts that the company was acknowledging that the sharp decline in prices was going to continue. A.M.D. said it would reduce 2007 capital spending by about $500 million from $2.5 billion. It said the cutback would not affect its production plans for 2007.

News of the overhaul sent A.M.D. stock up 49 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $13.35. Intel shares rose 52 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $20.10.

The revenue shortfall also had Wall Street analysts adjusting their estimates of the company’s first-quarter loss.

Mr. Wong, for example, said that the company would report a loss of about $400 million, or 77 cents a share, including an adjustment for a merger-related charge.

The company plans to announce its first-quarter financial results on April 19. Intel will announce its results next Tuesday.

Content in Lockdown

An unbreakable link between media and its delivery end point is near
Tom Yager

I’m increasingly aghast at the erosion of the traditional freedom we’ve enjoyed to do whatever we please with our personal computers -- but intrigued by the science behind it.

My latest revelation came during a recent visit to AMD for a day of briefings, mostly about the Barcelona quad-core Opteron and the Torrenza direct-connect coprocessor interface. During that visit, I got the briefest of updates on ATI’s new GPU (graphics processing unit) technology. It will ship with software that plays movies on Blu-ray discs. The AMD rep spelled it out in words that would have been undiplomatic coming from me: He said that the new chips will “block unauthorized access to the frame buffer.” In short, that means an unauthorized party can’t save the contents of the display to a file on disk unless the content owner approves it.

There is a short list of parties who will be unauthorized to access your frame buffer: You. There is a long list of parties who are authorized to access your frame buffer, and that list includes Microsoft, Apple, AMD, Intel, ATI, NVidia, Sony Pictures, Paramount, HBO, CBS, Macrovision, and all other content owners and enablers that want your machine to themselves whenever you’re watching, listening to, reading, or shooting monsters with their products.

Video, audio, and software will all drive a similar road, that being a single, unmodifiable path from the original encoded, licensed source to rendering, and on to delivery (display, headphones, portable device, printer, or memory for execution of software). This bit of progress seems to have little relevance to IT until you expand the meaning of the word “content” to encompass that which you create that is consumed by human eyes and ears.

As people working the IT side of business, academia, and government, we know all too well that personal and customer information, trade secrets, and other varieties of confidential data can be intercepted using tricks similar to those that are used to swipe movies and music. IT content needs that direct path from source media to delivery, too, so that possession of encoded media -- say, a Blu-ray disc -- is critical to viewing, listening, or executing.

For example, right now there is no unbreakable way to arrange that a PDF or other sort of viewable document can’t be copied or at least stored as a snapshot of the display. The audio portion of a classified presentation can be recorded as easily as hooking an analog or digital recorder into the headphone output. HTML would be a much more viable means of rendering rich content if it could be protected. Rich document and multimedia rendering engines would know if they were talking to delivery devices that were specifically matched with physically secure equipment. If a renderer couldn’t verify that a display or headset that it trusts was the sole source of delivery, nothing would appear or be heard.

It’s easy to write off entertainment content owners and distributors as a money-grubbing cartel; for the most part, they are. But the technical work they do to protect what they own matters, even that work which we find distasteful given needless extremes of use such as pay-per-single-view. They’ve got the money to drive the science of data and content protection. If they perfect that unbreakable link between the media and the delivery end point, if there’s never another DVD image splattered all over the Internet, then IT will be able to make a promise that, to date, it couldn’t: Nobody can view or copy your data without authorization.

IBM Develops Chip - Stacking Technique

IBM said on Wednesday it will be able to make microchips faster and more energy efficient by stacking components on top of each other, a breakthrough that cuts the distance an electrical signal needs to travel.

The technique works by drilling tiny holes through a wafer of silicon and filling them with metal. Components such as memory can then be stacked on top of the main part of the chip, eliminating the need for wires stretching out to the sides.

IBM likened the method to replacing a sprawling airport parking lot with a multi-storied garage right next to the terminal. Like people walking from the garage to the terminal, electrical signals do not have to travel as far in a chip with stacked components.

``It opens up a range of applications and neat things we can do,'' said Lisa Su, head of semiconductor research at IBM.

IBM will use the method to make power management chips for wireless devices later this year, allowing them to use 40 percent less power than previous versions, Su said in an interview.

Eventually, IBM plans to incorporate the technique into full-blown processors, she said.

It is the latest achievement by International Business Machine Corp.'s semiconductor researchers, who have in recent months hit upon several breakthroughs in materials science and chip design.

``We have been working on techniques like this for the past 10 years and you never know when they are going to come to market,'' Su said. ``The scope of innovation you have to deal with is much larger. It's not just materials and atoms, but systems and how you put components together.''

Web Sites and TV Talk Shows Puncture Holes in the Cloak of Invisibility
Caryn James

Celebrity culture so hates a vacuum that reclusive geniuses have created some ideal opportunities for cons.

John Malkovich, as the real-life, perfectly named Alan Conway in the sly film “Color Me Kubrick,” brazenly insists, “I am not a recluse,” while masquerading as the secluded Stanley Kubrick in the 1990s.

A magazine headline calls Howard Hughes “Invisible Billionaire” in “The Hoax,” about how Clifford Irving (Richard Gere) convinced publishers he was collaborating on Hughes’s autobiography in the 1970s.

Beneath their gleeful frauds, though, these films reveal a serious cultural shift. Those cons probably couldn’t happen today; in a time when no public record or paparazzi snap is likely to stay hidden from snoopy Web sites, the cult of the invisible celebrity has become all but obsolete.

The best evidence of that change comes with Oprah Winfrey’s recent announcement that the brilliant, press-shy novelist Cormac McCarthy will do his first television interview on her show (sometime this spring). Telling viewers that his post-apocalyptic novel, “The Road,” would be her latest book club choice, Ms. Winfrey took a mild jab at a 2005 Vanity Fair interview with Mr. McCarthy (itself a rarity), which ran under the heading, “He doesn’t do blurbs, book tours or even Oprah.” She added, “Until now.”

Mr. McCarthy has been akin to Kubrick: not personally reclusive, yet all but hidden from public view. His “Oprah” gambit makes authors like J. D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon, who have cultivated an aura of privacy as a trademark, seem like dinosaurs in a changing culture.

That shift is happening so fast that even a movie about fame set in the ’90s seems like a period piece. In “Color Me Kubrick” Conway craftily assumes the identity of a director whose name is better known than his face and who can open doors to show business.

The idea that people will do anything to break into movies is hardly original, but this film depicts silly, star-struck behavior with such exuberance that the observation seems fresh. (This small movie’s release in theaters two weeks ago was strategically followed by the DVD days later.) The humor comes partly from Mr. Malkovich’s daffy yet controlled performance as a flamboyant gay man who, the slightest research might have revealed, was nothing like the buttoned-down, heterosexual Kubrick. Conway is an improbable figure with red nail polish, a wardrobe of bandanas and plaid jackets, and an accent that veers from vaguely British to exaggerated flat American.

But his victims are the targets of the film’s satire, because they are so starved for fame that they ignore all the signs of deception. A man who wants to be a costume designer sleeps with the fake Kubrick; a comedian who wants his help breaking into Las Vegas nightclubs (Kubrick and Las Vegas?) treats him to a seaside vacation. Willingly gullible, they deserve the bilking they get.

The ultimate victim, Stanley Kubrick, is never seen here. But the film’s tone of harmless fun is fostered by the knowledge that “Color Me Kubrick” was made by two of his longtime associates: the director, Brian W. Cook, was his assistant director, and the screenwriter, Anthony Frewin, his personal assistant.

We do see black-and-white film of a younger Howard Hughes in “The Hoax” (which opened on Friday). By the ’70s, Hughes had become so eccentrically isolated that the Irving character says, “He’s a lunatic hermit and I am the spokesman for the lunatic hermit, so the more outrageous I sound the more convincing I am.” That strategy wouldn’t go far today. (Keith Richards’s tale of snorting his father’s ashes lasted less than 24 hours before his damage-controlling denial kicked in; entire sections of Web sites are devoted to refuting falsely reported celebrity deaths, like the comedian Sinbad’s.) Yet Mr. Irving’s publishers give him a lucrative book deal on the basis of his word, some sham telegrams and a dubious handwriting analysis. Like Mr. Conway’s victims, they want to believe.

Although “The Hoax” is a larger film than “Color Me Kubrick” and Mr. Irving a more complicated figure than Mr. Conway, it is less successful because the director, Lasse Hallstrom, allows the tone to veer. Satiric at first, the movie becomes earnest about Irving’s downward spiral, and he is a thoroughly unlikable character who callously draws his betrayed wife (Marcia Gay Harden) and his loyal best friend (Alfred Molina, terrific comic relief) into his scheme.

For Irving, fame is a means to money and power. Too bad the film allows him to announce heavy-handedly how much he wants power and to let his girlfriend, Nina Van Pallandt (Julie Delpy), state the obvious when she tells him: “My greatest desire is to be an American movie star. How shallow is that?”

The desire for fame is not always so simple, as Irving’s panicked fear of failure suggests. And as the culture of celebrity evolves, the trade-offs that private people make grow more intriguing. Ms. Winfrey’s interview with Mr. McCarthy will not bring him before a studio audience, but will take place at the Santa Fe Institute, the research center in New Mexico where he has been a fellow for years. Still, his decision is a startling turn.

Mr. McCarthy has given no interview about the interview, but we know that Ms. Winfrey offers authors great respect for their work, along with a huge new readership. (Vintage Books has printed 950,000 copies of the paperback edition, enormous for a literary novel.) She often challenges her audience to read daring works. “The Road” is fraught with emotion between a father and his young son, but it also asks readers to follow them on a somber journey for survival through a decimated landscape.

And Ms. Winfrey usually makes the phone call about the book club selection to the author herself, a persuasive touch. Whatever she said to Mr. McCarthy, she has the ability to draw private authors out of the shadows, into a whole new glare of fame, into the very center of 21st-century celebrity.

Hollywood Evidence Raises Questions
David M. Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner

Back in 2001, when the actress Elizabeth Hurley announced that she was pregnant by Steve Bing, a Hollywood producer, only to have him question whether he was the baby’s father, the British tabloids pounced. They branded him “Bing Laden,” and The Daily Mail of London reported that he and his Los Angeles lawyer had hired the private eye Anthony Pellicano to dig up dirt to destroy Ms. Hurley’s reputation.

But after Mr. Bing complained that the newspaper report was false, and his legal team produced a sworn declaration to that effect from Mr. Pellicano, The Daily Mail capitulated in 2003, issuing a retraction and reaching a financial settlement that Mr. Bing’s Los Angeles lawyer, Martin D. Singer, called “substantial.”

Now, however, evidence unearthed by federal investigators here shows Mr. Pellicano repeatedly talking about his work for Mr. Bing in connection with Ms. Hurley. And The Daily Mail may try to recover its costly settlement with Mr. Bing.

Julian Darrall, a lawyer for the owner of The Daily Mail, Associated Newspapers Ltd., said if Mr. Pellicano’s declaration or a sworn statement of case filed on behalf of Mr. Bing and Mr. Singer were shown to be false, the publisher “would reserve the right to take such action as appropriate in relation to the 2003 settlement.”

Mr. Singer on Wednesday insisted that Mr. Pellicano’s declaration had been accurate, that Mr. Pellicano had done no work for Mr. Bing related to Ms. Hurley and that anything he might have told anyone to the contrary had been “an absolute lie.”

Mr. Pellicano, a Hollywood fixture who stands accused of masterminding a long-running wiretapping ring on behalf of many entertainment industry clients, is in jail awaiting trial on Aug. 22. The prospect of new litigation in the English courts shows how widely the ripples of the Pellicano investigation have spread. Already, more than a dozen people (including the actor Keith Carradine) have filed lawsuits after learning from prosecutors or news reports that their telephones were tapped by Mr. Pellicano or that he had otherwise invaded their privacy. Last week a Los Angeles judge delayed proceedings in many of those suits until after the criminal trial.

In his sworn declaration, dated January 2002 but sent to lawyers for The Daily Mail a year later, Mr. Pellicano said he had “never been engaged by Mr. Bing nor his attorney Mr. Martin Singer to investigate anyone on Mr. Bing’s behalf, including Ms. Hurley.” He also denied that he had been contacted by Mr. Bing or Mr. Singer about Ms. Hurley, or that he had ever “discussed anything” about Mr. Bing or Ms. Hurley “with any member of the press including The Daily Mail at any time.”

Largely on the strength of Mr. Pellicano’s declaration, The Daily Mail settled. It published a retraction saying “there was no truth in the allegations,” and a lawyer for the paper apologized before a High Court judge.

But evidence turned up in the Los Angeles wiretapping case shows that Mr. Bing, the heir to a real estate fortune and producer of movies like “The Polar Express” and the forthcoming “Beowulf,” paid Mr. Pellicano thousands of dollars as early as 2000 and continuing at least through August 2002, four months after Ms. Hurley’s son was born. The documents do not show whether any of the money was for work related to Ms. Hurley or even if it was a payment for services.

The evidence, much of it obtained by The New York Times, also includes audio recordings from April and May 2002 in which Mr. Pellicano boasts that he has been “working for,” “consulting for” or speaking for Mr. Bing about Ms. Hurley’s pregnancy with reporters for news outlets like People magazine.

On April 30, 2002, for example, Mr. Pellicano bragged to a client that he was working for Mr. Bing on the Hurley case, “though I haven’t admitted it to anybody,” and confided that he believed he knew the true paternity of Ms. Hurley’s child. (A DNA test seven weeks later proved that Mr. Bing was the father.)

Mr. Pellicano’s lawyer, Steven F. Gruel, had no comment.

Many of the recordings in which Mr. Pellicano speaks about his work for Mr. Bing are of telephone calls between Mr. Pellicano and a lawyer for Kirk Kerkorian, the billionaire investor, who was grappling with another paternity dispute: he had been paying child support for a girl who was not his daughter. As it turned out, that girl’s biological father was also Mr. Bing.

Mr. Singer said he knew of no payments by Mr. Bing to Mr. Pellicano, but said if any existed, they had nothing to do with Ms. Hurley. “Mr. Pellicano did nothing for Mr. Bing in the Hurley case,” he said. “Nothing.”

Whatever the reason for Mr. Bing’s checks to Mr. Pellicano, they were sizable. The federal evidence includes checks from Mr. Bing to Mr. Pellicano for $25,000 on June 22, 2000; for $60,000 on June 25, 2002; and for $250,000 on Aug. 5, 2002. That last check was accompanied by a handwritten note, with a one-word message: “Thanks.”

Writers Guild President Starts the Countdown Toward Contract’s End
Michael Cieply

As his wedding neared, some 19 years ago, Patric Verrone, now president of the Writers Guild of America West, joined his bride-to-be in a ritual common to show business types. The couple formed a company, one with a clever name: Calloo Callay.

“It’s what you say when you slay the Jabberwock, which is what we were attempting to do in Hollywood,” said Mr. Verrone, referring to Lewis Carroll’s verse about a mythical monster.

Mr. Verrone will come face to face with the beast in its corporate form this July, as his union and its East Coast counterpart begin what are expected to be exceedingly difficult negotiations with the conglomerates that own the networks and studios. Whether the entertainment business continues to operate as usual over the next year will depend in no small part on how he handles the encounter.

For all their complexity, Hollywood labor talks have often boiled down to issues of leadership. This time around, Mr. Verrone — a retro-styled 47-year-old who has a background in both comedy and the law, and a taste for crisp white shirts that seem more Benchley than Bochco — has helped set a tone of wariness, if not outright anxiety, with his insistence on big solutions.

“He’s an absolute straight-shooter; he’s unafraid,” said Alan Rosenberg, the Screen Actors Guild president, whose own union faces contract talks only months after the writers. “We’re traveling the same path at the same time, and I know there’s a great deal to be afraid of.”

Since assuming the Writers Guild presidency 18 months ago, Mr. Verrone has made clear to the industry that he means to reverse trends that have weakened its traditionally strong union structure. He has replaced key members of his union’s professional staff, allied with fellow guilds and laid groundwork for a series of labor-management talks as the writers’ contract nears an end in October, followed eight months later by the industry’s agreements with the Directors Guild of America and the much larger Actors Guild.

Hollywood’s last extended shutdown occurred in 1988, when the writers began a five-month walkout over residual payments for the foreign sale of television shows, among other issues. The sides now face a potentially deeper dispute. The main areas of contention are the expansion of nonunion work by units of large media conglomerates like Viacom and News Corporation, and the way artists will be compensated for their work for the Web, mobile devices and other technologies still falling into place.

Company executives have argued that it is impossible to devise pay formulas for systems that are still in flux. “What the costs are going to be, what the revenues are going to be, we just don’t know,” said J. Nicholas Counter III, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

But Mr. Verrone is clearly intent on pinning down as much as possible now — and on avoiding the kind of arrangements (like the one regarding home video) that many in Hollywood’s creative world believe deprived them of rightful gains in the past.

“We had a spirit of ‘We’ll talk about these things every three years with the companies; if there’s a bump in the road, we’ll pave it over,’ ” Mr. Verrone said of his own union’s past approach. “But nobody was looking forward to actually going out there and repaving the road ahead.”

Mr. Verrone’s own road to guild activist went through the unlikely combination of The Harvard Lampoon and law school at Boston College. At The Lampoon, Harvard’s humor magazine, he worked alongside peers who would later populate the ranks of television’s comedy establishment. In one group photo of the Lampoon staff, Mr. Verrone occupies the front in a satin jester’s suit. The more soberly attired group behind includes Michael Reiss and Alfred Jean, who both became producers of “The Simpsons” and “The Critic” and eventually hired Mr. Verrone to write for both shows.

(When not writing, Mr. Verrone makes miniature historical figures, which he sometimes sells on eBay; his latest subject is Barack Obama.)

And his law school experience came in handy during the 1990’s on a series of animated shows at Fox, where he was employed without guild representation. Alarmed by the resulting gaps in his health and pension coverage, he helped lead a successful push to organize the Fox writers just as “Futurama,” of which he eventually became a longtime producer, was being developed. A series of guild offices followed before he won a two-year term as president in 2005.

Once he was a guild insider, Mr. Verrone said, he fully realized the union’s eroded position in the industry. In the mid-1980s, by his count, about 95 percent of Hollywood’s writing jobs in both television and major feature films were covered by the guild. That share, he maintains, has dropped to about 55 percent as the entertainment companies use nonguild divisions to produce a plethora of animated, reality and other shows.

Since 2000, Mr. Verrone said, guild-covered writer earnings have risen at less than half the rate of entertainment industry profits. “I think if they could do this business without us, they would,” Mr. Verrone said of what he saw as an increasingly chilly corporate stance toward writers, actors and directors.

A fellow union, the powerful International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, last year handed Mr. Verrone a setback when its members took over work that had been performed by writers who were striking for guild representation on “America’s Next Top Model,” on the CW network. The episode left Mr. Verrone convinced that nonunion writers could best be organized by asking for provisions that would let the guild “reach up to the mother ship” — the parent corporations — to get authority over work for the nonguild units.

But Mr. Verrone has also achieved some unexpected successes. He and his allies reached an accord between their 7,500-member union and the Writers Guild of America East, despite a history of strained relations. The increased solidarity and a new militancy among leaders like Messrs. Verrone and Rosenberg and the East Coast writers guild president Chris Albers may portend rougher tactics in the coming face-off with companies.

Yet Craig Mazin, a former board member of the West Coast guild, pointed out that Hollywood’s experiments with that more contentious approach, as when East Coast members two years ago picketed a Viacom shareholders’ meeting wearing masks in the likeness of one of its top executives, have yielded little.

“The theory behind such tactics is basically to act terroristically against the corporations that employ you,” said Mr. Mazin, who noted that CBS News writers at the center of that action have continued to work without a contract.

Whatever else might happen, Mr. Verrone said things would not become personal in the coming talks. But he remained poised for a fight. “When it comes to collective bargaining,” he said, “it seems to me we’re dealing with some of the biggest corporations in the world.”


An Artist’s Underground Flowering
Matt Zoller Seitz

It’s gratifying when an influential underground artist is profiled in an accessible, entertaining documentary. For that reason alone, Mary Jordan’s film “Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis,” whose subject is an antiestablishment director, is worth seeing — even though Ms. Jordan dices Mr. Smith’s films into snippets that don’t convey their languorous rhythms, and seems content to mythologize rather than dissect.

Mr. Smith, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1989, was a New York-based photographer, filmmaker and performer. His films were infused with stereotypically “exotic” imagery, much of it drawn from his experience as a gay man in postwar America and his childhood infatuation with old Hollywood features, particularly those starring Maria Montez, the basis for one of Mr. Smith’s favorite performers, the transvestite Mario Montez.

The Atlantis in the title refers to a Maria Montez film, “Siren of Atlantis,” which enraptured Mr. Smith and serves as a metaphor for the world he tried to conjure — one where the exotic was commonplace, sexuality was mutable, and people were free to seek happiness.

Mr. Smith influenced generations of avant-garde artists, including the filmmakers John Waters, Nick Zedd and Andy Warhol. Warhol filched key ideas from Mr. Smith’s heavily improvised, experimental films, including the “superstar” (a beautiful-grotesque parody of Hollywood glamour) and the “factory” (a bohemian studio, presided over by a director-guru). You could make a case that Mr. Smith’s omnisexual movie “Flaming Creatures” — banned in many states in the early 1960s for its profanity, nudity and Bacchanalian vibe — was the work that inspired much of Warhol’s film output. (Warhol even lured away Mario Montez to work in the Factory.)

According to the documentary, Mr. Smith thought Warhol was a hustler who reproduced the surface of his films but not their innocent, revolutionary soul. He accused the critic (and later, Anthology Film Archives founder) Jonas Mekas of exploiting “Flaming Creatures” for professional gain, redefining it as a First Amendment cause célèbre and obliterating its utopian intent.

The latter part of Mr. Smith’s career, during which he spontaneously re-edited his movies while they were unspooling, is presented as an attempt to control his art by making it ephemeral.

For all the Technicolor fecundity of Mr. Smith’s photographs, and the still splendid silliness of his movies, Ms. Jordan’s film makes Mr. Smith seem an impassioned cliché — the resentful fringe artist who sabotages his career rather than give up the right to accuse others of selling out.

Surely this was not Ms. Jordan’s intent, but the fawning approach begs for a between-the-lines reading. “Jack Smith” doesn’t merely celebrate Mr. Smith; it presents him as a visionary angel born to a world that didn’t deserve him.

Ms. Jordan lets a few subjects contradict the image of Mr. Smith as martyr, but the overall tone is worshipful verging on reductive. You come away impressed by Smith’s charisma, versatility and integrity, while also wondering if a man so abrasively self-important could have made such playful art.


Opens today in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Mary Jordan; directors of photography, Ms. Jordan and Jon Fordham; edited by Alex Márquez; music by Joel A. Diamond, Robert Aaron, Thurston Moore and Devendra Barnhart; produced by Ms. Jordan and Kenneth Wayne Peralta. At the Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, west of Avenue of the Americas, South Village. Running time: 95 minutes. This film is not rated.

Inside Story of a Hip-Hop Return to Glory
Jeannette Catsoulis

“Rock the Bells” is the story of one man’s labor of love to reunite the original members of the Wu-Tang Clan for a 2004 hip-hop concert in San Bernardino, Calif., and it demands neither familiarity with the music nor a hankering for rhyme. Instead Casey Suchan and Denis Henry Hennelly’s lively documentary grabs hold of the backstage drama and doesn’t let go until the last weary fan has shuffled off home.

The film’s harried hero is Chang Weisberg, an independent-music promoter who refinances his home to realize his dream of a Clan reunion. Against him are an irritable police department, thousands of frustrated fans and his notoriously unreliable headliners. As Mr. Weisberg copes with sound system failures, an overwhelmed security team and performers’ last-minute requests for per diems and “herb,” his mother and aunt wrangle an avalanche of cash in the tiny ticket booth. Meanwhile, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, a founding member of the clan who began life as Russell Jones, is holed up in his hotel room and refusing to perform.

Capturing onstage and off with equal energy — at one point only the inspired freestyling of artists like Redman and MC Supernatural stand between Mr. Weisberg and an all-out riot — “Rock the Bells” is a fascinating glimpse of a dreamer and a music culture that has always depended on dreams.


Opens today in Manhattan.

Directed by Casey Suchan and Denis Henry Hennelly; directors of photography, Jeff Bollman and Leif Johnson; music by J. Force; produced by Kurt Dalton and Henry Lowenfels; released by Seventh Art Releasing. At the Two Boots Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third Street, at Avenue A, East Village. Running time: 103 minutes. This film is not rated.

Director Robinson Finds Family Roots in Crime Film
Bob Tourtellotte

Even by Hollywood's often wacky standards, filmmaker Todd Robinson's tale of rooting out the story for "Lonely Hearts" is a strange one, circuitously drawn from his family's history.

As Robinson met with a producer to hear ideas for movies about serial killers, he was given for reference a book that highlighted a gruesome murder story involving a man the writer-director knew well -- his own grandfather.

From that meeting sprang the crime drama "Lonely Hearts," which debuts in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, and which can be downloaded two weeks later at ClickStar.com, putting it among a wave of films testing Internet releases.

Robinson said he knew his grandfather, Elmer Robinson, was a New York detective on the case of the 1940s-era Lonely Hearts killers, but he never knew the extent to which the crimes made newspaper headlines or how tracking them affected his family.

"To be honest, I thought we were the only people on the planet who even knew about the story. I had no idea that, at the time, it was a tabloid sensation," Robinson told Reuters.

"Lonely Hearts," starring John Travolta as Elmer Robinson and James Gandolfini as his police partner, revolves around the strange case of a husband and wife (Jared Leto and Salma Hayek) who bilked single women of their money and then murdered them.

But in his movie, the filmmaker chose to focus less on the crimes and the killers than on the impact they had on others, specifically the elder Robinson and his family.

Elmer Robinson became so caught up in the investigation that he neglected his family. His wife committed suicide and he became estranged from his own son.

"As men in this culture, we tend to define ourselves by what we do, and yet what we do often has a collateral effect on the people we care about the most," Robinson said.

"This gave me the opportunity to explore my grandfather's relationship with my father and my dad's reflections on his father," he added.

Fact And Fiction

Robinson calls "Lonely Hearts" a work of fiction because it blends his grandfather's real story with elements of drama. He said much of his family's history went unspoken for years, making it difficult to uncover the truth of the tale.

But he said he tried hard to capture the real issues of loss and love that his grandfather, father and other relatives faced, and he added that no family stories were too sacred -- or secret -- to be kept from the film.

The writer and director said he got much of his insight from his mother who, because she was not directly related to Elmer Robinson, had a more objective view of his family.

"The truth of issues in my family are valid, and they are authentic in the movie," Robinson said.

"Lonely Hearts" is his first feature film, but Robinson has made several documentaries including "Amargosa," which won an Emmy, a top U.S. television award, and "Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick," about film director William Wellman.

While "Lonely Hearts" has big-name stars and top production values, the film was made on a low budget. Like some new independent films, it will be available for Web downloads via ClickStar.com nearly simultaneously with its theater release.

Similar Internet releases have raised the ire of theater owners who fear downloads may cannibalize their business, but Robinson said online releases could be good for movie fans who may not be able to get to a theater.

New DVDs
Dave Kehr

The Mario Bava Collection, Volume 1

For those of us who received our film education through the art houses and film societies that flourished in the last century, the name Mario Bava may not mean much. But this once-obscure Italian genre filmmaker was one of the first directors to be discovered through the emerging medium of home video, thanks to perceptive video-specific critics like Tim Lucas, who has documented Mr. Bava’s career in the pages of Video Watchdog, his handsomely produced fanzine.

Mr. Lucas is a guiding spirit behind “The Mario Bava Collection, Volume 1,” a box set from Anchor Bay Entertainment that offers five Bava features, including his first and most famous effort, “Black Sunday” (1960). The excellent prints restore Mr. Bava’s original cuts and in several cases the original Italian soundtracks for films that were routinely redubbed and re-edited by American distributors.

Movies that passed well below the critical radar when they were first released in the United States — in urban grindhouses and Southern drive-ins — are now returning in prestige editions, loaded with commentary (by Mr. Lucas) and extra features. For Mr. Bava, a modest man who died in 1980 without ever making any claims for himself or his work, the road from the grindhouse to the art house — or at least, the virtual art house of the DVD player — has turned out to be surprisingly, encouragingly short.

The son of Eugenio Bava, a cinematographer whose credits go back to Giovanni Pastrone’s 1914 “Cabiria,” one of the first great epics of Italian cinema, Mario Bava was himself a successful cinematographer, with a reputation for saving troubled international co-productions, when he was invited to direct a project of his own. The result, based on a story by Nikolai Gogol and influenced by the new line of Gothic horror films being produced by Hammer in Britain, was “La Maschera del Demonio,” starring an unknown British actress, Barbara Steele, whose burning black eyes immediately made her one of the very few women to achieve stardom in horror movies. Released in the United States as “Black Sunday” by American International Pictures, it became, Mr. Lucas says in his detailed commentary, the highest grossing film in that company’s tawdry history, and a new career was born for Mr. Bava.

Taking the basic Hammer formula — which consisted of sexing up the classic Universal horror films of the early ’30s — Mr. Bava added a level of compulsive visual refinement. Complex in-depth compositions, full of varying textures and insinuating shadows highlighted by Mr. Bava’s characteristic use of focused baby spotlights, make “Black Sunday” look less like one of the functional Hammer productions than a throwback to the “calligraphic” period of Italian filmmaking. At that time masters like Alessandro Blasetti (“The Iron Crown,” 1941) created visuals of such improbable opulence and baroque styling that they teetered on the brink of mannerist decadence.

There was no teetering with Mr. Bava: his decadence was full bodied and assertive, with explicit elements of sadomasochism. With his first horror film in color, “I Tre Volte della Paura” (“The Three Faces of Fear”), an anthology film recut and retitled “Black Sabbath” by American International Pictures but presented here in its complete Italian language version, Mr. Bava introduced his most singular stylistic trope. He masked his spotlights with colored gelatin filters, projecting pools of hot, electric colors onto his sets — great washes of golden yellow, emerald green, inky blue and sanguinary puce that seem to dissolve any remaining links to reality, plunging the viewer into a claustrophobic dream world entirely of Mr. Bava’s fevered imagination.

Mr. Bava made films in most of the popular Italian genres of the era. In one busy year, 1966, he made a spaghetti western, a spy spoof, a Viking adventure (“Knives of the Avenger,” included in this set and a nice surprise) and what may be his finest supernatural film (the unfortunately titled “Kill, Baby... Kill!,” in this set as well). But he is most venerated by his fans for the series of slasher films he began in 1964 with “Sei Donne per l’Assassino” (called “Blood and Black Lace” in English). Introducing a disturbing element of voyeurism, the so-called “gialli,” or “yellow,” films (after the distinctive covers of the mystery novels published in Italy by Mondadori), present a series of stylish murders of attractive women by faceless assailants, a blunt invitation for misogynist audience identification and probably the source of their enduring appeal to anxious adolescents.

The one crime film in the Anchor Bay set, the 1963 “Ragazza che Sapeva Troppo” (“The Girl Who Knew Too Much,” but released here as “The Evil Eye”), is Mr. Bava’s first step in that direction, though it remains basically a comic thriller about an innocent American (Letícia Román) who discovers that Rome is not quite the tourist’s paradise of “Roman Holiday.” Volume 2 will probably move further into this more disreputable territory; in the meantime, there is plenty for fans to parse and analyze in this elegant little collection. ($49.98, not rated)

The Drive-In Without the Drive
Joyce Wadler

FOR video razzle-dazzle, it’s hard to beat the $5 million mansion of the Florida concrete multimillionaire Bill Williams, in Naples. The slickest piece of engineering in the home is most likely the 32-inch Samsung LCD screen in the master bath, which, in a Disneyesque bit of business that a wicked stepmother might appreciate, is embedded in a large mirror. If you feel like watching a movie from the tub, as Mr. Williams, a 51-year-old bachelor, often does, you turn it on; when it’s off, you see only the mirror.

Mr. Williams has a designated indoor home theater, of course, with a Yamaha projector and a 110-inch Vutec fixed screen. His grounds, including an 80-foot pool overlooking the Tiburon golf course, are wired for surround sound. His outdoor bar has a 40-inch Sony LCD screen. If this TV seems large for an outdoor bar, you should know that his is 14 feet long and covered, and is equipped with a refrigerator, freezer and two dishwashers.

For this year’s Super Bowl, Mr. Williams wowed his guests with a 16-foot outdoor inflatable screen set up beyond the pool. Partygoers could float, drink in hand, and watch the game. All wet and good, but you couldn’t have that screen up there all the time or it would ruin the view.

Now Criteria of Naples, the Florida-based firm that designed and installed Mr. Williams’s $270,000 audiovisual system, is overseeing the construction of a permanent large-screen outdoor setup, likely to cost $30,000. The original idea was a screen that could disappear into the ground, but what with concerns about water seepage, Dave Tovissi and Chris Locadia, the president and managing partner of Criteria, decided to go in another direction. Literally.

“Chris came up with the idea to make a backyard arbor, with a screen that will drop down,” Mr. Williams said. “There are speakers in the column. We’ll have bougainvillea over the top.”

“We call it Dive-In Theater,” Mr. Locadia said.

Feeling a little bored in the backyard with your pool, spa, outdoor kitchen, tennis court, fireplace and fire pit? Fear not. Outdoor video has landed. It’s been seen here and there in the last few years — a pop-up TV in the side of the hot tub, a video projection on an inflatable screen — but it’s been an outdoor novelty, the equivalent, perhaps, of Angelenos and their cellphones 15 years ago. But with such advances as weather-resistant television sets impervious to rain; good-quality low-cost video projectors and screens; and widescreen high-definition TV, as well as the general trend to move the indoors out, outdoor theater is gaining ground.

“It’s becoming more and more popular because the products are better and cheaper,” said Jeff Hoover, the president of Audio Advisors in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Instead of having to spend $10,000 or $15,000 for a projector, you can get a nice little $1,500 projector now that will make great 100-inch pictures. And now that there are large-panel TVs that are getting brighter and cheaper, people are starting to put outdoor theaters in patios that are mostly covered.

“I put a 65-inch flat-screen LCD TV in the retaining wall of a man’s pool,” he added. “It’s motorized up and down out of a weatherized enclosure. He’s got a little waterproof remote control, and he can turn on the system in his Jacuzzi or pool.”

Maureen Jenson, the editor of Home Theater magazine, also sees what she calls “a huge trend” in outdoor viewing, particularly in the area of weather-resistant equipment, which is designed to be left outdoors.

And that outdoor equipment is getting bigger. SunBrite, which claims its outdoor TVs can operate in temperatures between minus 24 and 124 degrees, will introduce a 46-inch set in May, with a manufacturer’s suggested price of $5,000. Global Outdoor Concepts, which manufactures MirageVision outdoor sets, has added a 42-inch set to its line and is planning to bring out a 47-inch one. Cal Spas, which introduced a spa with a 15-inch pop-up TV six years ago, just brought out the Cal Spa Outdoor Room. Internet-ready, it has an antiglare, antifog, 65-inch pop-up plasma TV, a fire pit and three padded weatherproof recliners. Suggested retail price: $60,000.

Inflatable screens, which formerly sold for thousands of dollars, can be purchased for much less. Gemmy Industries sells its Airblown Movie Screen for $200. Stewart Filmscreen, which does a good deal of high-end custom work, introduced a glass outdoor screen last fall. The outdoor speaker manufacturer Rockustics, which disguises its speakers as planters and coconuts and rocks (check out the 70-watt Pavarocci model), now find those speakers doing double duty for video.

Which brings up the matter of the whiz kids of the home-theater world — the integrators or, in the term used by the people at the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, which offers training and certification in the new field, “the fourth contractor.”

Often brought in from the beginning of planning or remodeling a home, they pull together all the electrical systems, including those that control audiovisual, security and climate-control systems, and even the system that opens the drapes of your indoor theater. Then they wrap it up with that technological must-have, the touch-pad panel, perhaps in a system by AMX, perhaps in one by its archrival Crestron.

Speak to the integrators and you see a backyard future in which one might never be forced to sit in a tiresome garden and sniff a rose again: Drop-down motorized screens hidden under the eaves; lots of little speakers all over the property (because multiple speakers on low volume create less spillover noise than two big speakers on loud); tiny speakers that look like lights in the trees; speakers in the pool, so that you need not miss Barry Bonds breaking the home run record when your head dips into the water.

Robi Blumenstein, who runs MRSSI Inc., which is involved in Huntington’s disease research in New York, watches outdoor movies on an inflatable screen he sets up behind his Nantucket summer house. The Sanyo projector, for which he paid $3,150, is on the back patio. He estimates that the whole setup, which included a $5,753 Airscreen he ordered from Outdoor Movies, cost about $10,000.

“The screen is like an AeroBed, but vertical,” he said. “We got a relatively little one, 9 by 16 feet. We just put it out in the field. The thing blows up in less than 10 minutes. It’s not like a permanent home installation — we just lug the thing out, blow it up and take it down in the morning.”

The first movie he showed?

“ ‘Jaws,’ ” Mr. Blumenstein said. “Just a good New England beach movie.”

Outdoor theater setups can be done even less expensively.

Randy Fisk is the administrator of backyardtheater.com, a Web site for backyard video buffs that averaged 6,900 visitors a day last summer and has many do-it-yourselfers among its 400 members. He said that a careful shopper, buying secondhand equipment, could put together a backyard theater for as little as a few hundred dollars. Many of his members take it a step further: They make their own screens.

Kevin Kalkbrenner (screen name: Cinema BBQ), a software salesman in Shakopee, Minn., southwest of Minneapolis, is one such member. He estimates the cost of his backyard theater, which has an impressive 10-by-16-foot screen, at about $2,600. His big-ticket item was an NEC projector, for which he paid $2,000. He recycled old audio speakers for the sound system. Then he tackled the problem of the screen.

“I realized what I was really building was a giant sail,” Mr. Kalkbrenner said. “I got steel pipes from Home Depot — it was maybe $250 invested for that and two sheets of plywood for building the stand around the speakers. For the screen I have a very elastic fabric called Trapeze. I took it to my tailor, who now really hates me.” The cost of the fabric, which came from Dazian, was about $100; the tailor charged $200.

“I’m not that old — I’m in my 40’s — but I wanted to reminisce about outdoor drive-ins and that whole feeling of being outdoors,” Mr. Kalkbrenner said. “I think that’s one of the reasons people are out here, trying to achieve that feeling that you can’t articulate, a memory wrapped in an experience you had. It involves smells and popcorn, slapping a mosquito.

“I’ve got a 70-inch TV I paid $13,000 for seven years ago,” he added. “I would prefer to be outside watching, on my metal pipe screen.”

At the other end of the backyardtheater.com consumer spectrum is Jeff Kunsemiller, who goes by the screen name OrthoFunk. He is not, as his name suggests, a depressed orthodontist, but an orthodontist who plays bass guitar and is into funk music. When Mr. Kunsemiller, who is 38 and married with three young daughters, was planning his $650,000 house in suburban St. Louis, he wanted a system that would allow him to access computers, DVDs, CDs and games from any of the half dozen video screens in the house. The cost of the system, which was designed by Audio Video Concepts in Columbia, Ill., was about $120,000.

Then one day in spring, after the house was complete, he was sitting in his backyard as the trees were beginning to bud, and it occurred to him that it might be nice to have a theater outdoors. Since he already had six weather-resistant speakers around the pool and patio for his outdoor sound system, creating that theater was relatively inexpensive.

Mr. Kunsemiller bought a Sanyo projector for about $3,000. His 8-by-10-foot screen was custom made by Lawrence Fabric Structures, a St. Louis company that does awnings. It is hidden under the eaves at the back of the house when not in use and cost about $3,000. It goes up and down at the touch of a waterproof keypad. (The projector setup is not as high-tech — it’s on a rolling rack that Mr. Kunsemiller hauls back and forth from the basement.)

Should the doorbell ring when he’s out back watching the ballgame, Mr. Kunsemiller can switch to a video image of the person on the doorstep.

“Very 007,” an admiring visitor wrote in a comment left at backyardtheater.com.

There was a little trouble with the neighbors when he first started using the outdoor setup, but Mr. Kunsemiller employed the method used so successfully by other backyardtheater.com members: He invited the neighbors over to watch some movies.

If you want an outdoor theater that doesn’t require dragging the equipment out of the basement to, say, the beach of your multimillion-dollar retreat in Hawaii, you might enjoy a screen that rises up out of the ground. Engineered Environments of Alameda, Calif., created such a design for the Maui vacation home of a retired software executive. The house was built into the side of a hill overlooking the ocean; a lanai is on a lower level and beyond the lanai is a pool and then the beach.

The executive, who would spend about $800,000 for his indoor-and-outdoor audio-video system, wanted an outdoor environment where his guests could sit poolside, have drinks and watch the sunset, and then watch a movie or a football game without having to go inside.

Greg Jensen, Engineered Environment’s director of engineering, designed a setup in which a 20-foot-wide custom Stewart Filmscreen is hidden beneath a 20-foot teak bench that runs along the side of the pool nearest the beach. The bench is watertight, and the screen is further protected from the elements by a four-foot-deep concrete bunker. The projector, a Digital Projections Mercury 5000HD, drops from the roof of the cabana across from the pool. The cost of the screen was $50,000; the projector was $20,000. Total cost of the Dolby Digital 7.1 theater: $175,000.

Of course, you can’t watch it until it gets dark.

But there are always those two 37-inch Sony plasmas in the lanai.

1080p and the Acuity of Human Vision
Joseph D. Cornwall

"1080p provides the sharpest, most lifelike picture possible." "1080p combines high resolution with a high frame rate, so you see more detail from second to second." This marketing copy is largely accurate. 1080p can be significantly better that 1080i, 720p, 480p or 480i. But, (there’s always a "but") there are qualifications. The most obvious qualification: Is this performance improvement manifest under real world viewing conditions? After all, one can purchase 200mph speed-rated tires for a Toyota Prius®. Expectations of a real performance improvement based on such an investment will likely go unfulfilled, however! In the consumer electronics world we have to ask a similar question. I can buy 1080p gear, but will I see the difference? The answer to this question is a bit more ambiguous.

Measuring Human Vision

To fully understand the implications of high resolution and high definition we must first explore the limitations of human vision. The Dictionary of Visual Science defines visual acuity as "acuteness or clearness of vision, especially form vision, which is dependent on the sharpness of the retinal focus within the eye, the sensitivity of the nervous elements, and the interpretative faculty of the brain." Simply put, our eyes have a resolution limit. Beyond our ability to see it, increased image resolution is simply an academic exercise. It can have no real part in improving the viewing experience. Unlike hearing, our visual acuity is unambiguous and relatively simple to measure.

Vision is measured using a few different tools. The most familiar is called the Snellen chart. Using this tool an optometrist or physician would ask you, from a standardized distance of twenty feet (six meters in countries that use the metric system), to read the "letters" on the chart. The smallest line that can be read accurately defines the acuity of vision, which is expressed in a quasi-fractional manner. 20/20 means that a subject can read the line that defines average vision from the prescribed twenty feet away. 20/10 means that same subject can read, from a distance of twenty feet, the line that a subject with "normal" vision could only read from ten feet. 20/10 vision is therefore twice as good as 20/20. Similarly, 20/40 is half as good with the subject being able to read at twenty feet what someone with normal vision could read at forty.

The next part of the puzzle is applying this understanding to a video display or other image composed of heterogeneous elements. The human eye’s resolution (acuity) is directly proportional to the size of the elements of the image and inversely proportional to distance from the elements. This relationship is best expressed in degrees.

It's common knowledge that people have a finite field of view, which is normally considered from its upper limit. Technically this is said to be the angular extent of the observable world that is seen at any given moment. Roughly put, we can see things that exist within a known angle with the apex being our nose. Staring straight ahead the average person has a stereoscopic field of view (not including peripheral vision which allows nearly a 180 degree field of view) of about 100 degrees. In a similar manner we have a lower limit to our field of view. Scientists express this as an angle as well, but because that angle is less than a degree we have to use the language of engineering and describe this lower limit in minutes of arc.

Everyone knows from their high school geometry classes that a circle is 360 degrees (360°). For angles smaller than 1 degree we use arcminutes and arcseconds as a measurement. An arcminute is equal to one sixtieth (1/60) of one degree. "Normal" visual acuity is considered to be the ability to recognize an optotype (letter on the Snellen chart) when it subtends 5 minutes of arc. We can most certainly see objects below this level, as this describes only our ability to recognize a very specific shape. Taking this a step further, we find that the lower limit of "resolution" of average eyes equates to roughly ½ the limit of acuity. In other words, the average person cannot see more than two spots (pixels if you will) separated by less than 2 arcminutes of angle.

Now let’s relate this to a video display. This isn’t new, by the way. The NTSC standard was established in 1940 by the Federal Communications Commission. Part of that standard accounted for the size of an image as it relates to the eye’s ability to resolve the individual scanning lines of the display. In the past the general rule was, for best perceived picture quality, to have an image with a diagonal measure no more than 1/5 the seating distance. The advantage of HDTV (and EDTV for that matter) is that we can sit closer, thereby enjoying a larger image. A movie theater screen subtends a viewing angle of 30 degrees or more and, with the introduction of HDTV and progressive scan displays, so can home video media!

Using a 50-inch Plasma display as an example the dimensions of the actual image are approximately 44 inches wide by 25 inches tall. This yields the diagonal measurement of 50 inches on a 16:9 display. The pixel size of the average 50 inch plasma set is about 0.8 mm square. This translates to approximately .03 inches. With a .03 inch pixel, a 44 inch wide image requires 1466 discrete pixels. To keep the display consonant with current resolution formats, the typical product will offer a WXGA capability, which translates to 1355 x 768 (or possibly WSXGA at 1440 x 900). The Week in Review is edited and published by Jack Spratts. For a 50-inch set to offer true 1080p resolution (and not 1080p compatibility) it will need a pixel .023 inches in size, or a 25% improvement in pixel density with an attendant increase in manufacturing cost. Now that we’ve determined the size of the individual display elements, the remaining question becomes "How close must we sit to see individual pixels?"

Assume an average-sized living room. We hang the plasma on the wall and position the sofa eight feet away. Now we get to do some math to determine the limits of our ability to see image artifacts based on resolution. Keep in mind this article is written in general terms, so you scientists out there don't need to stand in line to file corrections! Using trigonometry, we find that our 50 inch display subtends a viewing angle of about 28 degrees. We know this because half the image width is (roughly now) 2 feet and the viewing distance is 8 feet. This creates a right triangle and, using the formula cosine x (half the subtended angle) = adjacent side length (8 feet) ÷ hypotenuse length (calculated to be approximately 8.25 feet), we find x=14.04 degrees. Multiplied by 2, we find our total viewing angle.

The resolution of our eyes is 12 vertical lines per arc angle (one line per arcminute for 20/20 acuity) times 2. Now 28 degrees x 12 lines x 2 = 672. This means we really can't see a display component (pixel) smaller than 1/672 x image width. Our minimum resolvable element size is about 0.065", or about twice the size of the pixels of the WXGA image! Put bluntly, from 8 feet away while watching a 50 inch plasma TV, the human eye is generally incapable of reliably distinguishing any detail finer than that shown on a true 720p display!

Of course there are other factors that affect perceived image quality. The way color is handled, the latency of pixel illumination, motion artifacts and the effects of the algorithms that fit the image data to the native resolution of the display (and more importantly the SOURCE) all play a part in a qualitative assessment of the image. It‘s safe to say, however, that increasing resolution and image refresh rate alone are not enough to provide a startlingly better viewing experience in a typical flat panel or rear projection residential installation.

So What's the Big Deal? Size!

Now, does this mean that 1080p is irrelevant in most of today's home theaters? Absolutely not! We've just used a singular example to explain why it may not be such an improvement for users with fixed width screens in a particular viewing arrangement. And in truth, this example likely fits the majority of today's home theater environments.

But what does 1080p offer? Two things: increased screen size and closer viewing distances. In particular, 1080p displays (coupled with true 1080p source content like HD DVD and Blu-ray) allow those using front projection systems to suddenly jump up to screen sizes of 100-inches or more - from that same 8-foot viewing distance. So while that 50-inch plasma may not look much different when playing 720p or 1080p content, your new front projector just allowed you to quadruple the size of your display. Hey, that's not bad! The added bonus is that much of the HDTV content available via airwaves and through cableTV and satellite providers is transmitted in 1080i. 1080i content often looks fantastic on 1080p and allows the display to make good use of the additional resolution.

Special thanks to Joseph D. Cornwall

Verizon's Big Bet on Fiber Optics

The phone giant is spending billions of dollars on cutting-edge technology. But any payoff is years away, says Fortune's Stephanie Mehta.
Stephanie N. Mehta

Verizon isn't going to take it anymore. After years of ceding ground in the broadband wars to cable operators Comcast (Charts), Cablevision (Charts) and Time Warner Cable (owned by the parent of Fortune's publisher), the New York City-based telco is making an audacious - and very expensive - bet on a new Internet connection that is faster than anything the U.S. has ever seen.

The technology, called FiOS (for fiber-optic service), will cost consumers from $40 to $200 a month. The pricetag for Verizon to wire 18 million homes - just over half its market - by the end of 2010: a whopping $23 billion.

The fiber-optic play is the most dramatic example of CEO Ivan Seidenberg's efforts to remake Verizon, a vast company with $88 billion in sales last year. Seidenberg is spinning off some rural phone lines and old-line businesses like phone books and investing in boosting the capacity of Verizon's wireless and wireline networks to serve up movies, games, software and even new kinds of search engines.

In thousands of cities and towns in its territory, Verizon has crews tearing out the copper lines - the so-called twisted pair of wires - used to transport phone calls for more than 100 years and replacing them with hair-thin strands of fiber-optic glass that will download data at up to 50 megabits per second and upload files at 10 megabits per second. (According to Verizon, a typical customer with FiOS would be able to download a 90-minute movie in about five minutes, vs. 30 to 60 minutes over a standard cable modem service.)

For Seidenberg, the rollout is a triumph. When he announced the plan in May 2004, some analysts didn't believe he'd actually go through with it: They doubted that conservative, dividend-paying blue-chip Verizon would ever pony up the money for such an ambitious project. Technology types questioned whether a stodgy utility would be capable of offering such a cutting-edge service. Now Seidenberg is delivering on his promise. But the question for investors remains: Will the daring gamble pay off?

How marketers plan to invade your phone

Wall Street remains skeptical. Verizon (Charts) shares have had a nice run-up in the past year, climbing about 20 percent and outpacing the broader market. But AT&T (Charts), another telco facing stiff competition from cable operators, is up almost 40 percent in the same period.

There are several reasons AT&T is in favor right now, including expected cost savings from its recent acquisition of BellSouth. Its wireless unit may get a boost from Apple's iPhone, due in June. And investors seem to prefer Ma Bell's cheaper approach to selling faster Internet and TV services. Instead of connecting fiber directly to homes, in most cases AT&T is pushing fiber deep into neighborhoods, using its existing copper network to handle the last bit of transport.

There's growing concern among investors that FiOS is going to hurt Verizon's earnings even more than analysts initially anticipated. The company recently told analysts that costs associated with the fiber project will dilute earnings per share in the "mid 30 cents" range, up from previous guidance of about 31 to 32 cents. But some analysts believe Verizon will have to spend still more to market and install FiOS.

"We view this as a multiyear issue," says Citigroup telecom analyst Michael Rollins, who predicts that the pain will carry into 2008. "The market needs to be braced for a longer period of dilution and higher-than-expected costs from this FiOS build." He thinks the impact this year will be about 43 cents a share, and he has a sell rating on the stock.

Verizon's profit tumbles 38%

FiOS is divided into fixed and variable capital expenditures. Verizon has told analysts it expects to spend about $850 per home this year on fixed items such as marketing costs, network gear needed to deliver data and video, and the thick cables of fiber that snake in and around neighborhoods. Then, each time it signs up a customer, the phone company says it will spend an additional $880 on items like pulling fiber directly to the user's house and installing special equipment.

Some analysts believe that Verizon will have trouble keeping those costs down; FiOS is, after all, a new and complex service that can't be switched on remotely the way phone service is: The carrier, for example, tells customers to reserve four to six hours for installation, but the process can take much longer.

Francis McInerney, a business strategist who has done consulting for Verizon, says it took three technicians two days to install his connection. (He was part of a field trial, to be sure.) "FiOS is a good service, better than anything you're going to find in this country today," he says. "But the cost of customer acquisition is very, very high."

A Verizon spokesman says that over time the company's costs will continue to go down, not up, and that FiOS will generate positive cash flow in 2008 and be profitable in 2009. To become a growth story, though, Verizon will have to use FiOS for more than Internet connections. It will have to develop and sell applications for the FiOS network, much the way it made scads of money selling high-margin features like caller ID and call waiting to its traditional phone customers. One such add-on is a $20-a-month service that records shows and then allows them to be viewed on any of a home's TVs.

But Verizon has more limited experience developing and marketing online fare. Its Verizon Central portal for DSL users, for example, is clunky and a bit confusing. And FiOS's awesome speed presents a potential long-term challenge: It may encourage consumers to download movies, TV shows, and other interactive services directly from the Web, bypassing Verizon's video offerings entirely.

For all the risks associated with FiOS, it is clear that Verizon had to do something dramatic to retain and win back customers wooed by the cable guys, who now offer phone service as well as fast Internet and TV.

Though it will take years for Verizon to recoup the cost of deploying FiOS to customers' homes, the alternative would have been even less appealing: "They now get $95 a month from me, up from $60," says Daniel Berninger, a telecommunications analyst with Tier1 Research, who has both FiOS and Comcast broadband in his Annapolis home. "Without FiOS, I would have gone to Comcast exclusively - and Verizon would have gotten zero from me."

Verizon Fiber Optics Expanding into Apartment Buildings

For Tony DiCicco, a 19-year-old in Doylestown, Pa., the future of Internet access is close at hand, yet so far away.

In the single-family homes surrounding the rowhouse community where he lives, fiber-optic Internet service is available from Verizon Communications Inc., which has embarked on a $23 billion project to replace its copper phone lines.

But in DiCicco's community of Westwyk, the backyards are controlled by a homeowner's association that hasn't given Verizon approval to dig, despite DiCicco's lobbying, which started in 2005.

"The problem here is we have a lot of senior citizens who don't care about FiOS," said DiCicco. He's studying for a telecommunications degree and is convinced of the superiority of fiber optics over copper lines and cable.

Verizon is pushing to get FiOS to apartment buildings, rowhouses and other shared dwellings, but for a number of reasons, the going has been much slower than the rollout to single-family homes. In some cases where it is available, the FiOS service an apartment building does get is a technical compromise that could limit future Internet speeds.

At the end of last year, Verizon had rolled out its fiber infrastructure in areas with 6 million homes. A quarter of those homes, or 1.5 million, were in multi-dwelling buildings, according to Eric Cevis, vice president of Verizon Enhanced Communities.

But most of those 1.5 million were not actually able to get the service right away. The company had permission from building owners to sell to FiOS to only 337,000 of those homes.

Verizon stresses that it's not discriminating against apartment buildings and renters, who have lower average incomes than home owners. It's doing a complete overhaul of its infrastructure, and knows it has to tackle apartment buildings to complete it. Apart from Internet service, the fiber allows the company to provide cable TV programming and lowers the cost of maintaining its network.

In areas with single-family homes, Verizon pulls fiber down the street or behind the houses, either on utility poles or below ground. If a homeowner orders FiOS, Verizon installs an Optical Networking Terminal, which is about the size of a large shoe box, on the side of the house, and connects it to the main fiber line. The customer's computer, phone and TV set can then be connected to the ONT.

For multifamily buildings, the procedure is more complicated, for two main reasons.

For one thing, Verizon needs permission from the owner of the building, the co-op board, or whoever else controls the common areas, to wire the building. As DiCicco found, getting people interested in new technology isn't always easy.

It's the job of Verizon Enhanced Communities to market the service to building owners. It got started in 2005, a year and a half after Verizon started connecting single-family homes.

The unit's main message is that fiber increases the value of a property. To get the word out, Cevis "basically attended every housing conference across the country."

This year, he is doubling his staff with the aim of bringing the number of apartments with landlord approval for FiOS to 654,000 by August.

The other hurdle: Verizon's standard Optical Networking Terminal is a large affair, designed with little regard for aesthetics. It may not look incongruous in a garage or at the back of a bungalow, but inside an apartment, it's another matter.

"A lot of the customers did not necessarily like the technology ... because they thought it was too big, it took up too much space," Cevis said.

To get around that obstacle, Verizon and its equipment vendors have developed a terminal that can be mounted in a basement or hallway closet to serve several apartments at once. Internet traffic is carried the last stretch to the apartment over the existing phone line using digital subscriber line technology, or DSL, and the TV signal is sent separately over coaxial cable.

This solution still lets the company offer Internet service at 50 megabits per second, the highest speed available with FiOS right now. That's higher than regular DSL can muster, because the copper wire is too short to pick up much interference, but it's hard to increase the speed from there. With fiber all the way to the apartment, Verizon could easily go up to 100 mbps, and with equipment upgrades, the speeds could be far, far greater.

"We prefer to take fiber all the way to the unit. It's just that in some buildings it's not practical," said Paul Lacouture, Verizon's executive vice president of engineering and technology. Landlords, he said, sometimes don't want to have a fiber cable running down the hallway or in the ceilings, and are afraid of the disruption the installation can cause.

Still, most landlords understand the benefit of drawing fiber all the way to the apartment, and it has been the most popular choice so far. Verizon is also working with its vendors to produce fiber that is more flexible, and thus easier to get around doorways and corners, Lacouture said.

The low-hanging fruit for FiOS are buildings that are being built or gut renovated. The apartments in a 25-story building on New York's Wall Street that is being partially converted from office use each have a strand of Verizon's fiber, ending in what looks like a small electrical closet. There are also two coaxial cables that could accommodate one cable company each.

"I like to be able to offer multiple selling points," said Jack Berman, a partner at the developer of 67 Wall Street, Metro Loft Management.

The apartments rent for between $2,000 and $4,500 a month.

On the other side of the city and its income spectrum, FiOS is coming to Eastchester Heights in the Bronx, a complex of brick buildings with 1,414 apartments that used to be known as Homicide Homes. The last gangs were pushed out just a few years ago, according to James S. Eisenberg, director of operations for landlord UrbanAmerican.

During a recent visit, the only sign of Verizon's activity so far were some metal boxes mounted on the facades in preparation for fiber installation. Many landlords would consider the boxes unsightly, but Eisenberg said the added service would appeal to tenants.

When UrbanAmerican surveyed the property as part of the purchasing process a few years ago, it found that many residents ran small businesses like Web design out of their apartments.

"I don't know if they call it the 'digital divide' anymore, but (FiOS) certainly helps bridge that gap," Eisenberg said.

Canada Worse Than 3rd World Countries When it Comes to Mobile Data Access

The motto of the CRTC, Canada’s telcom regulator is “Communications in the Public Interest”. Right.

If you live in Canada, write to your MP. The CRTC, as an institution, needs to be taken out and shot.*

This chart charts the best rates available from all carriers. And all levels of government say that “ICT” competitiveness is key factor in Canada’s future economic
prosperity. Ya. Right. I would like to say that Canada is a 3rd world country when it comes to Mobile ICT, except you can clearly see from this chart that even *Rwanda* has orders of magnitude better Mobile Data service than Canada.

As I’ve noted in the chart, 500MB is about 100 minutes of usage at a Canadian Carrier’s maximum (advertised) download speed of 700kB/s (your mileage will vary, International carriers are typically twice or four times faster). 500MB is not a lot of data in the grand scheme of things, a few GB could make a better example but in that case the red bars would be completely off the charts.

If you don’t live in Canada but you or your small business depends on mobile connectivity or net neutrality in general, don’t come here.

If see these numbers makes you mad, then Digg this article and spread the word on your site.

(and leave a comment, what is mobile service like where you live? why do you think mobile data is important?)

Here is the complete data table including data speed and Caps for each of the services listed. You’ll notice Canadian carriers lag substantially in every category.

see also on this blog: Bell to charge you $3600 per hour for Wireless Internet access. (the situation has not changed in a while)

Report of Talk to Take Over Bell Canada
Andrew Ross Sorkin and Ian Austen

One of Canada’s largest pension funds is in early talks with other investors to form a consortium to mount a $45 billion takeover bid for the parent company of Bell Canada in what would be the largest buyout in history, according to people briefed on the discussions.

The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which is the largest shareholder of BCE, the telephone company’s parent, has reached out in recent weeks to Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board about pursuing a takeover, these people said. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has also held talks with at least one private equity firm, these people said.

A takeover bid would represent a rare effort by a pension fund, rather than a private equity firm, to lead a buyout of this size. It also illustrates a growing tendency among pension funds to make direct investments themselves, a trend that is becoming particularly popular in Canada.

Gilles des Roberts, a spokesman for the Caisse, which manages the Quebec government’s public pension plan, said that the fund was not involved in any discussions about BCE.

“We deny any involvement in this deal in every way,” he said.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday, Ontario Teachers’ rebutted an earlier report in The Globe and Mail that it was in talks with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company about pursuing a deal for BCE, but said it was “closely monitoring developments and is exploring its options.”

K.K.R. had held talks with BCE on its own earlier this year, but was rebuffed, people involved in the discussion said. Separately, Ontario Teachers’ also recently approached BCE, but the discussions were only preliminary and appeared to have been rejected.

On March 29, BCE said “there are no ongoing discussions being held with any private equity investor with respect to any privatization of the company or any similar transaction.”

Yesterday, William J. Fox, BCE’s executive vice president for communications and corporate development, said: “Our statement of March 29th stands. We are not in any current talks with any other parties.”

Still, BCE’s stock has jumped on speculation of a possible deal, and an approach from its largest shareholders, like Ontario Teachers’, could put pressure on it to consider a sale.

Any prospective change of ownership at BCE involves politics as much as regulatory or investment issues. A takeover by K.K.R was considered virtually impossible, according to people involved in the talks, because of the political dimension.

Politics also came into play in October when the company said it planned to reorganize as an income trust, an ownership structure that avoids corporate taxes by paying out most of the profits directly to unit holders, as the trust’s shareholders are known.

While a large number of companies, including BCE’s smaller rival Telus, have made the switch, the idea of such a change at BCE was too much for even the business-friendly Conservative government. It swiftly moved to introduce politically unpopular legislation to kill trust conversions by imposing a new tax. Shortly after, BCE abandoned its conversion scheme.

Canadian law prohibits foreign investors from controlling more than 46.67 percent of a telecommunications company’s voting equity. While some investors in the United States effectively circumvented that limit in the past by taking on Canadian partners for some small telecommunications takeovers, it is unlikely that the government will let a similar arrangement pass without challenge in BCE’s case.

It is the dominant carrier in Ontario and Quebec, the most populous provinces, and is one of Canada’s largest corporations and employers.

On top of that, a series of recent foreign takeovers of major Canadian corporations in unregulated sectors of the economy like mining have led to concerns in Canada about a loss of economic control.

In many respects, BCE is in a stronger position than many of its counterparts in the United States. Unlike AT&T, it has always been allowed to operate a full range of both local and long-distance services. The company was also among Canada’s first mobile phone providers.

While local telephone service is open to cable companies and others, traditional phone companies, including BCE’s Bell Canada unit, controlled about 90 percent of local lines at the end of 2005. Even in the more competitive mobile market, a study released last month by the SeaBoard Group found that the average cellphone user in Canada pays 33 percent more than an American user.

Canada had limited the ability of Bell Canada and other BCE operating units to compete against cable companies and other newcomers by substantially reducing local service prices. Both the regulator and a parliamentary committee were concerned that Bell would eliminate competitors by deeply cutting prices and then, once competitors were eliminated, imposing equally large price increases over time.

Last week, however, the concerns of both the regulator and the parliamentary committee were dismissed by the government when it effectively deregulated most local telephone service through a cabinet order.

BCE’s financial and operating performance has generally lagged that of Telus and other competitors. Dvai Ghose, an analyst with Genuity Capital Markets, estimates that Telus generated free cash flow, before dividends, of 1.6 billion Canadian dollars (about $1.38 billion) last year, an increase from 845 million Canadian dollars in 2003. At BCE, cash flow dropped to 1.9 billion Canadian dollars ($1.65 billion) in 2006, from 2 billion Canadian dollars in 2004.

Even that slippage, however, is an improvement over the situation that Michael J. Sabia inherited when he became BCE’s chief executive five years ago.

His predecessor, Jean Monty, after spinning off BCE’s control of Nortel Networks to shareholders, went on a buying spree. BCE ultimately acquired Canada’s largest private broadcaster, CTV, and The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper based in Toronto.

Critics say the company’s emphasis on acquisitions led it to neglect investment in infrastructure that would have allowed it to sell its customers lucrative services like pay television today.

Tell the European Parliament to Fix IPRED2
Press Release

On April 24th, the European Parliament will vote on IPRED2, the Second Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive. With one stroke, they risk turning thousands of innocent EU citizens and businesses into copycriminals. Only you can stop them. Sign our petition now!

If IPRED2 passes in its current form, "aiding, abetting, or inciting" copyright infringement on a "commercial scale" in the EU will become a crime.

Penalties for these brand new copycrimes will include permanent bans on doing business, seizure of assets, criminal records, and fines of up to €100,000.

IPRED2's backers say these copycrimes are meant only for professional criminals selling fake merchandise. But Europe already has laws against these fraudsters. With many terms in IPRED2 left unclear or completeley undefined - including "commercial scale" and "incitement" - IPRED2 will expand police authority and make suspects out of legitimate consumers and businesses, slowing innovation and limiting your digital rights.

IPRED2 and Business

The entertainment industry spent millions suing the makers of the first VCRs, MP3 players and digital video recorders, trying to use copyright law to kill those innovative products because they threatened old business models. Fortunately, the industry was unsuccessful.

IPRED2's new crime of "aiding, abetting and inciting" infringement again takes aim at innovators, including open source coders, media-sharing sites like YouTube, and ISPs that refuse to block P2P services.

With the new directive, music labels and Hollywood studios will push for the criminal prosecution of these innovators in Europe, saying their products "incite" piracy - with EU taxpayers covering the costs.

Under IPRED2, these same entertainment companies can work with transnational "joint investigation teams" to advise the authorities on how to investigate and prosecute their rivals!

IPRED2 and Your Digital Freedoms

Criminal law needs to be clear to be fair. While IPRED2 says that only "commercial scale" infringement will be punished, the directive doesn't define "commercial scale" or "incitement." Even IP lawyers can't agree on what are "private" and "personal" uses of copyrighted works. One step over that fuzzy line, however, and anyone could be threatened with punishments intended for professional counterfeiters and organized criminals.

How can ordinary citizens feel safe exercising their rights under copyright and trademark law when serious criminal penalties may be brought against them if they cross the line?
Tell the European Parliament to Fix IPRED2

The excesses of IPRED2 need to be reined back. Sign our petition now!

Take-Two’s Mr. Fix-It Inherits a Handful
Jeremy W. Peters

The closest Strauss Zelnick usually gets to playing video games is watching over the shoulders of his two young sons. Mr. Zelnick concedes that his gaming skills are better suited for Pong and Pac-Man than Grand Theft Auto, the smash hit from the company that he is now in charge of turning around.

But when the stock price of Take-Two Interactive Software slipped under $10 last summer as inquiries into its business practices began to mount, Mr. Zelnick, a veteran of the movie and music industries, saw a potential bargain for his investment firm.

He and his partners at ZelnickMedia first weighed taking the company private, but decided that would be too complicated. So instead, Mr. Zelnick started approaching Take-Two’s largest shareholders one by one to sell them on his plan to take over the board.

His efforts culminated two weeks ago at Take-Two’s annual shareholder meeting in New York, when all but two board members were removed. Two hours after the meeting adjourned, the company announced that its new board had elected Mr. Zelnick as chairman and appointed one of his close deputies as chief executive.

“We hit the ground running,” Mr. Zelnick said in an interview yesterday over breakfast in Midtown Manhattan. “We have to clean the company up, and then operate in a pristine manner going forward.”

Mr. Zelnick has taken on risky corporate overhauls in the past, but none have been as complex as the turnaround of Take-Two, which he called “the biggest thing we’ve done.”

Beyond the issue of whether the company can reverse its uneven sales and become more than a one-hit wonder, there are the legal problems, which seem to grow more serious by the day.

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission said it had upgraded its inquiry into the backdating of stock options at Take-Two from an informal probe to a full-fledged investigation. Separately, the Manhattan district attorney and the Internal Revenue Service are conducting their own investigations of the company.

Whether Take-Two is salvageable, technology analysts said, depends on how deep its problems run. Can the company be fixed with fresh management and a new corporate culture? Or are its problems too systemic and ingrained to repair?

“Will it be easy? No,” said Daniel Ernst, an analyst with Soleil Securities in New York. “They’ve got one phenomenally well-known franchise, and a decent position in the market from which to grow that. So I think there’s a decent opportunity here.”

While Take-Two has never had trouble selling its notoriously violent Grand Theft Auto series, which will go on sale in its fourth incarnation in October, other games have not done as well.

That means that a single game in the Grand Theft Auto series has at times made up more than half of the company’s sales, even though it has dozens of titles. For example, for the first three months after the newest Grand Theft Auto game went on sale in 2004, it accounted for 57 percent of Take-Two’s total sales of $502 million for that period, according to Janco Partners, an investment banking firm in Denver.

Shares of Take-Two rose steadily for much of March, after it became known that shareholders were plotting a revolt. The stock peaked at $23.79 before falling back, closing yesterday at $20.38.

So what does a former movie executive turned music executive turned investor know about turning around a video-game business? Some of Mr. Zelnick’s new employees are asking that very question.

In his new role as chairman, Mr. Zelnick has held town hall meetings with Take-Two’s staff. At one of those meetings in the company’s Los Angeles office, an employee asked Mr. Zelnick whether he understood the types of games Take-Two makes.

That kind of candor does not rattle Mr. Zelnick. “There’s no consequence for saying what’s on your mind, negative or positive,” he said. If there are aspects of Take-Two’s business that he does not fully understand, Mr. Zelnick said he is comfortable delegating authority.

“What I do in a situation where I’m uncomfortable because I don’t have knowledge or experience is I find experts quickly,” he said.

After he stepped down as the head of 20th Century Fox in 1993 — a position he had held for four years, starting at the precocious age of 32 — Mr. Zelnick became chief executive of Crystal Dynamics, a video game start-up. But he left after a little more than a year to become president and chief executive of BMG Entertainment’s North American division in 1994.

Part of his success there was in reducing costs. He cut jobs at money-losing labels, and at the company’s faltering record club he doubled profits within a year.

He said he planned to take a similarly active approach to Take-Two. He has already ordered up business plans from all Take-Two division heads. On Monday, the chief financial officer, Karl H. Winters, resigned; he was a holdover from the tenure of Take-Two’s ousted chief executive, Paul Eibeler.

Within 100 days, Mr. Zelnick said he hoped to have a permanent chief executive in place — Benjamin Feder, a ZelnickMedia partner, is currently filling the role — and a cost-cutting plan to present to investors.

Analysts said Take-Two’s problems were not necessarily insurmountable. “They have arguably the best video game in the industry,” said Mike Hickey, an analyst with Janco. “Yet they have an interesting dislocation between incredible product and operating performance.

“When you see that dislocation, normally you’d find that attributable to management. With some fresh eyes, I think they could have a definite benefit.”

Mr. Zelnick formed ZelnickMedia with three partners in 2001 after leaving BMG, in part because he disagreed with its parent company about entering into an agreement with the file-sharing service Napster. There he had success with other corporate overhauls.

One of its first big projects, the publisher Time-Life, was losing money when ZelnickMedia bought the rights to market Time-Life products in 2003. The firm said it paid a “very low” price for the marketing rights. The firm sold a profitable Time-Life to Reader’s Digest last month for $91.8 million.

On the other hand, another ZelnickMedia acquisition, the catalog retailer Lillian Vernon, was still losing money when the firm sold it last year. Of course, Time-Life, known for its commemorative photo albums and music compilations, and Lillian Vernon, a seller of needlepoint pillows and rattan baskets, are quite different from a video-game company that likes to push the boundaries, as Mr. Zelnick acknowledges.

“Take-Two is bigger, and in certain ways more complex,” he said. “On the other hand, Take-Two has no debt. It has a material amount of cash.”

He added, “And the No. 1 franchise in the video-game business.”

Matt Richtel contributed reporting.

China Slams US Piracy Complaint

China has criticised the US over its decision to file a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization over copyright piracy and counterfeiting.

The US says that China's failure to enforce copyright laws is costing software, music and book publishers billions of dollars in lost sales.

The US also argues that China makes it hard for legitimate firms to operate.

China "expressed great regret and strong dissatisfaction at the decision", the state news agency said.

Tighter enforcement

The Xinhua news agency quoted Intellectual Property Office commissioner Tian Lipu as saying that it was "not a sensible move for the US government to file such a complaint" at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"By doing so, the US has ignored the Chinese government's immense efforts and great achievements in strengthening intellectual property rights protection and tightening enforcement of its copyright laws," the commissioner added.

On Monday, the US trade representative Susan Schwab said that piracy and counterfeiting levels in China remained unacceptably high.

The US said that despite China's promises to crackdown on fake software, DVDs, luxury goods, car parts and shoes, many of the goods were still widely available throughout the country.

China is one of the world's largest producers of counterfeit products, ranging from designer clothes, to pirated films and music, to luggage.

Many of the goods find their way into Europe and are knowingly bought as fakes by shoppers at markets and from street vendors. Firms claim that the poor quality copies dent their brand and divert profits and potenital clients.

'Criminal sanction'

The US has been threatening a WTO complaint against China since 2005.

It said on Tuesday that the two cases had been submitted to the WTO.

One case claims that Beijing's poor enforcement of copyright and trademark protections violates WTO rules. The other contends that illegal barriers to hamper sales of US films, music and books.

"Excessively high legal thresholds for launching criminal prosecutions offer a safe harbor for pirates and counterfeiters," the US said.

"Pirates and counterfeiters who structure their operations to fit below those thresholds face no possibility of criminal sanction."

A 60-day consultation period follows for negotiators to try to resolve the disagreements. Should this fail, then a WTO panel would rule on the case.

Bad vibrations

Beach Boys Lose $60 Mln Lawsuit Over Memorabilia

A federal judge has thrown out a $60 million lawsuit the Beach Boys brought against two men they accused of stealing the band's property from a warehouse and trying to sell the items at auction, a lawyer for one of the men said on Tuesday.

In dismissing the case, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real ruled that the band had no evidence that memorabilia collector Roy Sciacca and warehouse owner Allen Gaba had stolen the trove of Beach Boys items from a North Hollywood warehouse in 1994, according to court documents.

The items included sound recordings, videotapes, photographs and original lyrics sheets.

A lawyer for the band's corporate entity, Brother Records, which was the plaintiff in the case, could not be reached for comment. Gaba, who was representing himself, could not be located.

Sciacca maintained he bought the items in the 1980s from a warehouse sale held by the band, his attorney William White said on Tuesday.

White said Sciacca decided to sell the Beach Boys collection following the $1.25 million sale in 2005 of former Beatle John Lennon's original handwritten lyric for the 1967 hit song "All You Need Is Love."

"He saw that the John Lennon lyric had sold for a substantial sum of money and thought he could sell his material," White said. "He contacted (London auction house) Cooper Owen, but when Brother Records found out it started this campaign to stop the sale."

Cooper Owen halted the sale of the 28 lots an hour before bidding was scheduled to begin in October of 2005 after the Beach Boys reported the items stolen to law enforcement agencies.

White said Sciacca was pleased by the judge's decision and was now free to sell the items.

Fan Seeks Pardon for Deceased Doors Frontman Jim Morrison
CBC Arts

A fan of rock legend Jim Morrison is seeking a posthumous pardon for the charismatic lead singer of The Doors, more than three decades after his death.

Dave Diamond, a cable TV producer and Doors fan, has written a letter to Florida Governor Charlie Crist asking that he issue a pardon for the hard-living singer, lyricist and poet who was convicted of indecent exposure and profanity in 1969 and who died just two years later.

Diamond asked Crist, who attended the same Florida university as Morrison, to consider the singer-songwriter's musical contributions and not his bad-boy antics during his short lifetime.

"It's not about Jim Morrison's image as the Lizard King or The Doors music. It's about a citizen of Florida who was convicted in a case where the law was not applied," Diamond said.

In the days following a Florida concert in 1969, police arrested Morrison and accused him of exposing himself and simulating a sex act — all of which he denied.

In 1971, the 27-year-old Morrison died of heart failure in Paris. He had been in the midst of an appeal of his Miami conviction.

Crist has said he is "certainly willing" to review the case.

Until next week,

- js.

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