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Old 31-10-07, 10:24 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2001
Location: New England
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Default Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - November 3rd, '07

Since 2002

"We find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole." – Industry Canada Study

"I had an account there and frequented it quite often." – Trent Reznor on OiNK

"In Redmond, you don’t see 7-year-olds begging on the street." – Sean Blagsvedt

"Despite minor problems, it's by far the best operating system ever written for the vast majority of consumers." – Edward Mendelson on Leopard

"It was a guy trying to get his green card essentially, in Germany, and playing the system for what it was worth. It just shows ... the law of unintended consequences." – Tyler Drumheller

"Just watch my vocal cords." – Robert Goulet

November 3rd, 2007

File-Sharing is Good for Big Music
Jack Kapica

Earlier today, Industry Canada, a ministry of the federal government, released a surprising study of peer-to-peer file-sharing on the music industry.

The study is called The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study for Industry Canada, and was written by Birgitte Andersen and Marion Frenz, of the Department of Management at the University of London in England.

Its conclusion: P2P file-sharing does not put downward pressure on purchasing music, as the music industry has insisted for years. In fact, it does just the opposite: It tends to increase music purchasing.


This is, after all, a study released with the blessings of the federal government, not some self-serving poll commissioned by the music industry.

And this is from the same federal government that has indicated it wants to upset the balance that is so necessary to good copyright law to fall in line with what music and Tellywood industry lobbyists want.

The study said that in Canada, for every 12 P2P downloaded songs, music purchases increased by 0.44 CDs.

That means, the study’s authors say, “downloading the equivalent of approximately one CD increases purchasing by about half of a CD.”

Moreover, Industry Canada said it was “unable to find evidence of any relationship between P2P file sharing and purchases of electronically delivered music tracks [such as iTunes].”

The study concluded that about half of all P2P tracks were downloaded because individuals wanted to hear songs before buying them or because they wanted to avoid purchasing the whole bundle of songs on the associated CDs. Another quarter were downloaded because they were just not available in music stores.

The study said that the effect of a 1 per cent increase of downloading songs that were not available in stores was associated with nearly a 4 per cent increase in CD purchases, which suggests that people are really interested in buying CDs that the recording industry is not interested in promoting.

Needless to say, industry lobbyists will dismiss the study immediately; they have invested far took much time, money and effort mounting an intense campaign against the effect of the Internet on their businesses.

But this would not be the way to fight Industry Canada's study. To answer Industry Canada, the Canadian Recording Industry Association would have to do two things: It would have to come clean about the formula it uses to calculate the damage allegedly being done to its business by file-sharing, and it would have to come up with a manifestly independent study of its own, and release the entire thing to the public.

And I don’t mean its study to be some quickie job done by the research arm of CRIA's public-relations company, which has produced several “studies” that have supported everything the industry claims.

There is another interesting issue here. Since the study was created with heavy input from Industry Canada (though there is a disclaimer in it that says the study’s conclusions are not necessarily shared by the federal government), the government will be put in an interesting position should it cave into industry demands and craft a new copyright law that throws the entire copyright system out of balance, in favour of big business.

Or perhaps the government can use the study as a reason to balance proposed legislation.

This will be interesting.


Gov't Commissioned Study Finds P2P Downloaders Buy More Music
Michael Geist

A newly study commissioned by Industry Canada, which includes some of the most extensive surveying to date of the Canadian population on music purchasing habits, finds what many have long suspected (though CRIA has denied) - there is a positive correlation between peer-to-peer downloading and CD purchasing. The Impact of Music Downloads and P2P File-Sharing on the Purchase of Music: A Study For Industry Canada was conducted collaboratively by two professors from the University of London, Industry Canada, and Decima Research, who surveyed over 2,000 Canadians on their music downloading and purchasing habits. The authors believe this is the first ever empirical study to employ representative microeconomic data.

The two key findings:

• When assessing the P2P downloading population, there was "a strong positive relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchasing. That is, among Canadians actually engaged in it, P2P file sharing increases CD purchases." The study estimates that one additional P2P download per month increases music purchasing by 0.44 CDs per year.
• When viewed in the aggreggate (ie. the entire Canadian population), there is no direct relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchases in Canada. According to the study authors, "the analysis of the entire Canadian population does not uncover either a positive or negative relationship between the number of files downloaded from P2P networks and CDs purchased. That is, we find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole."

Bear in mind, this is not a study with a particular desired outcome or sponsor - it is the government commissioning independent research to help it make better policy decisions. The results of that research, consistent with earlier Canadian Heritage sponsored study by Shelley Stein-Sacks that refused to blame P2P for the industry's problems, is that P2P actually increases CD sales since those that download also tend to buy more music.

The study also addresses a number of other frequently discussed issues. It finds that:

• there was no statistically significant relationship between P2P downloads and digital download purchases from stores such as iTunes. In other words, P2P downloads neither increase nor decrease the likelihood of such purchases.
• CD prices have little impact on CD purchases, though there was some indirect evidence of pricing being factored into those that P2P file share.
• people who buy digital downloads are not less likely to buy CDs
• people who own MP3 players are less likely to buy CDs
• people who buy large numbers of DVDs, videogames, cinema and concert tickets also buy a higher number of CDs. In other words, consumers of entertainment consume more entertainment, not less.
• household income has no statistically significant effect on CD or digital download purchases

The study is a tough read for the non-economist, yet given the breadth of its data and the importance of its findings, it is a must-read. When combined with the income generated from the private copying levy, much of which is seemingly linked to P2P copying, it becomes increasingly clear that the industry has benefited from P2P and that there is no "emergency" that necessitates legislative intervention.

Judge Holds RIAA Evidence Insufficient

No details...no judgment
Ray Beckerman

In a Rochester, New York, case, Atlantic v. Dangler, Judge David G. Larimer has denied the RIAA's request for a default judgment, on the ground that the evidence the RIAA presented (a) failed to include any details of any distribution or downloading, and (b) failed to prove that the defendant was properly identified as the individual who had operated the file sharing program:
[T]here are significant issues of fact regarding the identification of the defendant from his alleged “online media distribution system” username, an issue not addressed by the record. See Van Limburg Stirum v. Whalen, 1993 WL 241464, at *4 (N.D.N.Y.1993)(“A ‘default is not treated as an absolute confession by the defendant of his liability and of the plaintiff’s right to recover.’”)(quoting Nishimatsu Const. Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat’l. Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir.1975)).

Clearly, plaintiffs are entitled to relief if Dangler downloaded and distributed the Copyrighted Recordings without plaintiffs’ consent. The question this Court must decide is whether plaintiffs have proven that those circumstances exist here. Although the complaint establishes that someone using the “KaZaA” online peer-to-peer file sharing service uploaded the Copyrighted Recordings, or otherwise offered them for distribution, the complaint does not identify details such as the time period during which the violations allegedly took place, or explain how that user, dentified only by the username heavyjeffmc@KaZaA, was determined to be the defendant.

Two months earlier a similar RIAA default judgment application was rejected by Judge Rudi Brewster in San Diego, California, in Interscope v. Rodriguez, on the ground that the complaint failed to allege specific factual details of the type whose absence was noted here by Judge Larimer.

Decision (PDF)

Oregon Says No to RIAA
Ray Beckerman

In Arista v. Does 1-17, a new ex parte case to get discovery from the University of Oregon about the identities of its students, the Oregon Department of Justice has made a motion, on behalf of the University of Oregon, to quash the subpoena obtained by the RIAA.

This is the first such motion of which we are aware that has been made by the university itself, rather than by the students.

It is also the first instance of which we are aware of a State Attorney General bringing a motion to quash an RIAA subpoena.

The motion papers of the Attorney General argue that it is impossible to identify the alleged infringers from the information the RIAA has presented:

7. [We] have attempted to identify all seventeen alleged infringers and have been unable to do so.
8. Five of the seventeen John Does accessed the content in question from double occupancy dorm rooms at the University. With regard to these Does, the University is able to identify only the room where the content wis accessed and whether or not the computer used was a Macintosh or a PC. No login or personally identifiable information, i.e. authentication, was used by the Does to access the University's network because none is required. The University cannot determine whether the content in question accessed by one occupant as opposed to another, or whether it was accessed instead by a visitor.
9. Two of the seventeen John Does accessed the content in question fiom single occupancy dorm rooms at the University. No login or personally identifiable information, i.e. authentication, was used by the Does to access the university's network because none is required. The University cannot determine whether the content was accessed by the room occupant or visitor.
10. Nine of the seventeen John Does accessed the content in question from the University's wireless network or a similar system called the "HDSL Circuit." These systems do record a user name associated with the access. For these John Does, the University can determine the identity of the individual who bas been assigned the user name, however, it is unable to determine whether the content was accessed by the individual assigned that user name or by someone else using the computer associated with the user name.
11. In the case of sixteen of the seventeen John Does, I believe it is not possible for the University to identify the alleged infringers without conducting interviews and a forensic investigation of the computers likely involved.

Accordingly, the AG concludes,

Plaintiffs' subpoena is unduly burdensome and overbroad. It seeks information that the University does not readily possess. In order to attempt to comply with the subpoena, the University would be forced to undertake an investigation to create discovery for Plaintiffs -- an obligation not imposed by Rule 45. As the University is unable to identify the alleged infringers with any accuracy, it cannot comply with its federal obligation to notify students potentially affected by the subpoena. Plaintiffs' subpoena is additionally invalid because Congress intended Plaintiffs to use the DMCA subpoena process to obtain the information they seek, not Rule 45. Lastly, the University should be allowed access to Plaintiffs through interrogatories and depositions to determine whether Plaintiffs have additional information with which to identify Defendants. For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs' subpoena should be quashed.

The University of Oregon is represented by the Attorney General of the State of Oregon.

Italian Pirates Handed Massive Fines
Mark Worden

Four illegal music uploaders have been handed fines totalling €12 million ($17 million) by Italian authorities. The fines follow a series of raids by officers in the "Guardia di finanza," or fiscal police, in the town of Melegnano, near Milan.

The raids formed part of "Operation Genux." Some 120,000 illegal files were uncovered, including material by Madonna and U2, plus works by domestic artists Vasco Rossi and Elisa. Illegal files of DVDs, software and video games were also seized.

The four uploaders, who are described as being between the ages of 30 and 45, also face criminal charges.

Operation Genux follows the cracking of the illegal P2P system "Discotheque", in which seven uploaders were handed fines in excess of €8.5 million ($12 million). The "Discotheque" raids took place in Brescia and Bergamo, which, like Melegnano, are in northern Italy. Traditionally, music piracy has been seen as a southern and central Italian phenomenon, with strong links to the mafia.

In a statement, Enzo Mazza, president of major label representative body FIMI and Italy's anti-piracy organization FPM; says: "These raids show that Internet piracy isn't about a bunch of youngsters downloading their favorite music. Instead it poses a serious threat to the new business model of on-line music."

FPM, estimates that Internet piracy caused the Italian music industry damage in the region of €70 million ($100 million) in 2006.

The Pirate Bay Sees a Future Without BitTorrent

The guys from The Pirate Bay are always working on interesting side-projects, but there is one in particular that’s so significant, it might be the future of filesharing. For a while now, they have been working on a brand new protocol - which may come to replace BitTorrent in the near future.

Why a new protocol? Well, the current BitTorrent protocol is developed and maintained by BitTorrent Inc. This company, founded by BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen, recently decided to close the source of some newer additions to the protocol. According to The Pirate Bay, this gives them too much power and influence.

Another reason for a new and improved protocol is the massive number of spammers and anti-piracy organizations that abuse the BitTorrent protocol, either to make money or to bust people who download infringing material. The new protocol will be designed with these potential problems in mind.

The protocol will most likely use the .p2p file extension compared to the .torrent extension BitTorrent uses right now. The good thing is that the .p2p files will be backwards compatible which should ensure a smooth transition from .torrent to .p2p files.

It will be interesting to see whether other BitTorrent sites will support the new protocol. Erik from Mininova, the most popular BitTorrent site at the moment, told us they will absolutely support the new protocol. We at TorrentFreak are of course a bit concerned about these new developments since we owe our name to BitTorrent, but we wish The Pirate Bay crew the best

The new protocol is still in the development phase, but the initial release is planned for sometime early next year. More features and information about the new protocol, which is still nameless at this point, can be found at the protocol design page.

Trent Reznor and Saul Williams Discuss Their New Collaboration, Mourn OiNK
Ben Westhoff

Spoken-word and hip-hop artist Saul Williams toured with Nine Inch Nails last year, and Trent Reznor liked him so much that he decided to produce his new album. The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!, a mind-boggling fusion of genres — think NIN meets Gnarls Barkley meets Justice, if you can do so without your head exploding — will be released tomorrow through Williams's Website as a free download (or you can chip in five bucks to support Saul). The two artists spoke with Vulture by phone from L.A. this afternoon, discussing the album's genesis, the imploding record industry, and how much they paid for the new Radiohead album.

How did this collaboration come about?
Trent: I'd come across Saul through his "List of Demands" video, and it really impressed me as strong piece of work, as an aggressive rock-type track that jumped out of the television. So I checked to see if he was interested in touring with me. And it impressed me that he could go in front of an audience that probably didn't know who he was. He won the crowd over, and I watched it happen every night. I said, "Hey, if you ever want to experiment on some tracks, let's see what happens."

How would you characterize the music?
Saul: Gosh, I don't know, ghetto gothic? I guess I'd characterize it as hard-core dance. I don't know if I'd include spoken word in it, actually. It's so danceable. I have a lot to say, but I wanted to find a way to say it that didn't get in the way of me dancing my ass off.

Did you ever butt heads?
Trent: There were times when we disagreed on things, certainly, but sooner or later he'd realize that I was right. [They both laugh.]

What inspired you to go the In Rainbows route with this album?
Saul: From the start, I remember Trent saying, "Let's give it away for free." At first, I was like, "This dude is out of his mind!" But then it really started making sense, and, of course, with Radiohead doing it, we were like, "What the fuck? The idea that we had was great, and we should really follow it through."

Trent: I think it's just an awkward time right now to be a musician. The reality is that people think it's okay to steal music. There's a whole generation of people, that's all they've known. I used to buy vinyl. Today, if you do put out a record on a label, traditionally, most people are going to hear it via a leak that happens two weeks — if not two months — before it comes out. There's no real way around that. I'm truly saddened because I think music has been devalued, so that it's just a file on your computer, and it's usually free. But we can't change that. What we can do is try to offer people the best experience that we can provide them. Will it work? I don't know. But I think it's a great way to get music out to people who are interested. At the end of the day, all I care about is the integrity of the music, and that the feeling of those who experience it is as untainted as possible. I'd rather it not be on an iPod commercial. I'd rather it not be a ringtone that you have to get with a free cell phone or any of that bullshit.

Are you using this project, Trent, to test the waters for a self-released NIN record?
Trent: There isn't a Nine Inch Nails record done. I'm starting one right now. If I had one that was done, I would [release] it today in exactly the same way. I won't have one done for several months. One of the things that started this in motion with Saul was me sitting around thinking about finally getting off a major label, which I think is the right move for Nine Inch Nails. I wasn't looking to jump right back into another binding contract with a big company, and I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't advising Saul to do that in today's climate. We decided to go the route we did, and we'll see what happens.

How long do you think before the labels are out of business?
Trent: I mean, who knows? I remember a time when it felt like, being on a major label, our interests were aligned. At times, it's a pretty well-oiled machine and the luxury is that I feel like I've got a team of people who are taking care of the shit I don't want to think about. I don't care about the radio guy, I just want to make music. But those days are gone. Because, mainly, that infrastructure is broken at the moment. How long before [record companies] are irrelevant? Who knows? They seem to be doing everything they can to make sure that happens as quickly as possible.

Saul: I had already had experiences with my first album, with Rick Rubin and Sony and everything, where the company basically sat on it for two years and told me it wasn't hip-hop. So, I was also very familiar with the infrastructure, and this just made the most sense.

What do you think about OiNK being shut down?
Trent: I'll admit I had an account there and frequented it quite often. At the end of the day, what made OiNK a great place was that it was like the world's greatest record store. Pretty much anything you could ever imagine, it was there, and it was there in the format you wanted. If OiNK cost anything, I would certainly have paid, but there isn't the equivalent of that in the retail space right now. iTunes kind of feels like Sam Goody to me. I don't feel cool when I go there. I'm tired of seeing John Mayer's face pop up. I feel like I'm being hustled when I visit there, and I don't think their product is that great. DRM, low bit rate, etc. Amazon has potential, but none of them get around the issue of pre-release leaks. And that's what's such a difficult puzzle at the moment. If your favorite band in the world has a leaked record out, do you listen to it or do you not listen to it? People on those boards, they're grateful for the person that uploaded it — they're the hero. They're not stealing it because they're going to make money off of it; they're stealing it because they love the band. I'm not saying that I think OiNK is morally correct, but I do know that it existed because it filled a void of what people want.

How much did you guys pay for the new Radiohead album?
Saul: I paid $7, which is like, what, fourteen pounds? No, wait, that's like three pounds!

Trent: I bought the physical one, so I spent a whopping $80. [Pauses.] But, then I re-bought it and paid $5,000, because I really felt that I need to support the arts, so people could follow in my footsteps. [Saul laughs.]

P2P Startup GridNetworks: $9.5M
Justin Moresco

The Internet will be televised.

GridNetworks on Tuesday said it snagged a $9.5 million first round of funding to back its peer-to-peer delivery of Internet-based content for TV.

The Seattle, Washington-based company’s software, dubbed GridCasting, helps shuttle user-generated video and other Internet-based video to TVs. GridNetworks claims its software will enable millions of viewers to simultaneously watch broadband-delivered programming without interruptions.

Menlo Park, California-based Panorama Capital led the funding, which had contributions from two strategic investors to be named later.

“What we’re going to do is make Internet television possible,” GridNetworks CEO Tony Naughtin said. “We make a true television experience that is compelling.”

Mr. Naughtin said he hopes to persuade some of the largest studios to embrace GridCasting. The company would also like to embed its software into consumer devices.

The market for Internet-based video is poised to surge, according to analyst firm In-Stat. There were 540 million users last year, said analyst Gerry Kaufhold, and he estimates that number will grow to 4 billion by the end of the decade. Analysts said viewing Internet video on TV could prove a next logical step.

Many people will also be viewing it on mobile devices. Half of the new traffic is expected to come from handheld device users—not television sets—according to In-Stat research.

GridCasting uses peer-to-peer technology, which has increasingly found its way into legitimate forms of businesses beyond its early days of illegal sharing of music files.

Mininova Breaks 3 Billion Downloads Barrier

Mininova reached another milestone as they just passed the 3 billion .torrent download mark. The impressive number of 3 million daily users now download almost 10 million .torrent files a day.

Mininova is by far the most visited BitTorrent site at the moment, and they are still growing. The site currently has over 3 million visitors per day which places them in the list of 100 most visited websites on the Internet.

Erik from Mininova told TorrentFreak that he expected to reach the 3 million downloads faster than this, but he’s not complaining since the current traffic numbers keep the servers busy enough. “We hope to reach the 4 billion mark in 4 or 5 months from now” he added.

Mininova continues to optimize their site and server park in order to cope with the increasing traffic. As can be seen from the graph, the 3 billion download mark was reached by the end of October, and there is no sign that the growth is slowing down any time soon. I wonder if it will ever stop.

Mininova Closes Distribution Deal for TV-Show

The “old media” is slowly realizing that BitTorrent is a great distribution platform, and above all, an excellent marketing tool. Today, The Red Band Film Company and Mininova announce the first official deal to distribute a TV-show on the popular BitTorrent site.

The immense popularity of TV-shows on BitTorrent doesn’t go unnoticed, not even to TV-producers. Several TV-production companies already leaked their pilots on BitTorrent, but Red Band and Mininova take it one step further.

Mininova and Red Band made a distribution deal for the upcoming TV-show Pariah Island, a new comedy series which parodies reality TV shows like “Survivor” or “Pirate Master”. Although Red Band can’t be compared to billion dollar production studios such as 20th Century Fox Television and Warner Bros., it is a sign that times are changing and that TV-producers are looking for alternative distribution channels.

“We at Red Band recognize that downloading sites such as Mininova are a distribution medium, one which can be partnered with in a true participatory arrangement,” says the Red Band production team.

The Red Band team adds: “With this deal, Mininova gets overnight credibility as a partner of content producers, thereby disproving the notion that such sites are “pirates” seeking only to break copyrights. Mininova gets producer credit on Pariah Island, and their logo will eventually appear on Pariah Island. In exchange, Pariah Island gets advertising space and other promotional activities on Mininova.org.”

Erik, one of the founders of Mininova told TorrentFreak that the partnership will show that Mininova is more than a venue for pirated material, and hopes that more production companies will choose Mininova as a distribution platform in the future.

It is an interesting development to see these new partnerships like this. Both parties will most certainly benefit from the deal, and let’s hope it will appeal to the Mininova users as well.

BitTorrent CEO Addresses Comcast P2P Actions

Comcast "symptom of a larger problem."
Shirley Brady

BitTorrent president and CEO Ashwin Navin confirmed details of Comcast's limits on peer-to-peer file-sharing. "We have verified that in certain geographies that Comcast will send what’s called a connection reset packet to BitTorrent users if they’re uploading and sharing for long periods of time," Navin told Ohio University's The Post. "And in fact, it’s if they’re uploading for a significant period of time longer than they’re downloading." He also said the network architecture of Comcast.net isn't designed to accommodate P2P activity. "The way the networks have been implemented are in direct conflict with all of those trends and ISPs are going to face some scaling problems as applications evolve that tax those connections," Navin said. "So what you see between BitTorrent and Comcast is actually a symptom of a larger problem."

Google Caught in Comcast Traffic Filtering?

Comcast users are reporting "connection reset" errors while loading Google. The problem seems to have been coming and going over the past few days, and often disappears only to return a few minutes later. Apparently the problem only affects some of Google's IPs and services. Analysis of the PCAP packet dumps reveals several injected fake RSTs, which are very similar to the ones seen coming from the Great Firewall of China [PDF]. Did Google somehow get caught up in one of Comcast's blacklists, or are the heuristics flagging Google as a file-sharer due to the heavy traffic?

The Secret World of Bandwidth
Shelly Palmer

Do you know how fast your Internet connection is? If you believe the hype on TV, DSL is a zillion times faster than dial-up and FiOS is a zillion times faster than DSL and Cable modems rock because of the triple play, blah, blah, blah.

But what do you really know about your broadband connection to the outside world? Does is take all night to upload a big flash memory card's worth of photos to Kodak Easy Share? Do you have a static IP address? Can you access the files on your desktop computer from off premises? How quickly can you upload your files to an online back-up service? Can you join a peer-to-peer (P2P) network and be a valuable node? Can you share a legally purchased movie file with yourself through a P2P service in the amount of time you would expect it to take based upon your ISP's specifications? Welcome to the secret world of bandwidth. It's a covert place where the dark arts of traffic shaping and bandwidth throttling are usually hidden from view.

But last week, the Associated Press reported that Comcast was "actively interfering with file sharing by some of its Internet subscribers." The report went on to say that, "The AP also found that Comcast's computers masqueraded as those of its users to interrupt file-sharing connections." Initially, Comcast denied everything. But just a few days ago, Mitch Bowling, senior vice president of Comcast Online Services, backtracked a little, saying: "During periods of heavy peer-to-peer congestion, which can degrade the experience for all customers, we use several network management technologies that, when necessary, enable us to delay - not block - some peer-to-peer traffic. However, the peer-to-peer transaction will eventually be completed as requested."

As you can imagine, the blogosphere has exploded with pundits and commenters crying foul. Internet watchdog groups were up in arms denouncing Comcast's actions and conspiracy theorists everywhere were positing that other cable companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were doing exactly the same thing.

"This is exactly what Net Neutrality legislation is all about," said one very disgruntled lobbyist. "All Internet traffic is supposed to be treated equally!" Perhaps, but Net Neutrality is not yet a law and, considering how powerful the lobbyists are on both sides of this issue, it may never be.

So, without getting too technical -- is there a smoking gun? If there is, it may be in the form of a publicly traded company called Sandvine Corp. (SVC.TO). A quick browse through their published financial documents and investor materials show the company bragging about having "eight of the top 20 broadband service providers in the US" as customers.

What do Sandvine's applications do? In a perfect world, they help big ISP's efficiently and profitably manage their Internet traffic. However, in the hands of an anti-P2P Auror, the software can forge TCP RST packets that cause Internet connections to drop. This technique is regularly used in mainland China to facilitate Internet censorship. Simply put, the system sends a message that fools computers into thinking that the peer they are connecting to doesn't want to continue the connection. Where is Mad-eye Moody when you really need him?

What this means in the long run is unclear. But here are a few things to think about. ISP's can sort out and route traffic as they see fit. This means that a 911 call over a VoIP system (Voice over Internet Protocol) can be differentiated from the outgoing traffic your teenager is sending from his XBox Live session and the photos you are simultaneously uploading to Flickr. At first, this seems like a very good thing. You would not want the call to EMS delayed because you are about to find out what happened to Master Chief. On the other hand, if you can sort out one kind of traffic, it means that you can sort out other kinds of traffic as well.

As I love to say, you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. In practice, your ISP completely controls what you can do with the bandwidth you think you are paying for. On paper, my home broadband connection is 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up. In practice, due to contention and network congestion, it is never anywhere near that fast. In reality, the speeds I see on my bandwidth meter have nothing to do with the speed at which the data I send will travel around the Internet -- that's up to my ISP.

The AP story about Comcast is interesting, but it's just the beginning of a fascinating journey we are all about to take into the secret world of bandwidth. With new wired and wireless broadband choices coming to market everyday, it won't be long before consumers force this issue into the open. In the mean time, if you're having a little trouble with your broadband connectivity -- call your ISP and ask some very hard questions. The answers may surprise you.

Once Thought Dead, Net Neutrality Roars Back to Center Stage
Nate Anderson

Conventional wisdom has it that net neutrality is dead. Embalmed. Buried. Covered with six feet of dirt and a mahogany lid. But just in time for All Hallows Eve, the concept has risen from the dead like a zombie and started shambling round the halls of Congress as two senators asked the Senate Commerce Committee to look into the issue of network discrimination this week.

Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have tag-teamed in the past on the net neutrality issue, and they're still a formidable bipartisan duo. On Friday, the two senators asked the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to see if a lack of network neutrality rules were causing problems for Americans in the wake of some widely-publicized PR gaffes by some of the country's largest telecommunications firms.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. Critics argued only a few weeks back that the issue had lost traction, both in Congress and among the public, because there just weren't any actual problems to get worked into a lather about. Who needed rules when the telcos and cable operators were all behaving themselves so well?

And then came the bad behavior, the litany of minor cases, dropping like early Christmas gifts into the laps of net neutrality advocates across the country. AT&T censored political lyrics in a Pearl Jam webcast (then apologized). Verizon initially blocked a mass text message from NARAL Pro-Choice America (then apologized). Comcast was found to be delaying BitTorrent and Lotus Notes traffic (and remains unapologetic). AT&T's new terms of service appeared to prohibit criticism of the company (the company apologized and changed the terms).

The companies have all been quick to see just how bad such censorship looks from a PR perspective; even Comcast has gone on a PR offensive to convince journalists and customers that it is not monitoring, filtering, or throttling traffic (it's just... delaying it a bit). But the damage appears to have been done. No matter how many apologies or explanations are offered, net neutrality backers now have solid examples of the ways in which ISPs can affect the lives of ordinary netizens.

Whether the renewed Congressional interest in the matter will lead anywhere is one of the world's great imponderables, right up there with "How far past its expiration date can I drink from this carton of milk?" Several federal agencies that might be charged with implementing network neutrality laws have already made their stances clear, though. The FTC has weighed in with its opinion on network neutrality ("No"), and the Department of Justice wrote a less-than-convincing position paper of its own that came to the same conclusion, but in stronger terms ("Hell, no!"). The FCC is still looking into the issue.

Despite this federal skepticism, Dorgan and Snowe's letter will come as a relief to network neutrality backers, who could only be more pleased if Ed Whitacre came out of retirement and started shooting off his mouth again.

Obama Pledges Net Neutrality Laws if Elected President
Anne Broache

If elected president, Barack Obama plans to prioritize, well, barring broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast from prioritizing Internet content.

Affixing his signature to federal Net neutrality rules would be high on the list during his first year in the Oval Office, the junior senator from Illinois said during an interactive forum Monday afternoon with the popular contender put on by MTV and MySpace at Coe College in Iowa.

Net neutrality, of course, is the idea that broadband operators shouldn't be allowed to block or degrade Internet content and services--or charge content providers an extra fee for speedier delivery or more favorable placement.

The question, selected through an online video contest, was posed via video by small-business owner and former AT&T engineer Joe Niederberger, a member of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org. He asked Obama: "Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate Net neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint FCC commissioners that support open Internet principles like Net neutrality?"

"The answer is yes," Obama replied. "I am a strong supporter of Net neutrality."

He went on to explain the issue briefly: "What you've been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you're getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites...so you could get much better quality from the Fox News site and you'd be getting rotten service from the mom and pop sites," he went on. "And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet--which is that there is this incredible equality there."

Obama added that companies like Google may not have gotten started without a "level playing field" and pledged to make sure Net neutrality "is the principle that my FCC commissioners are applying as we move forward."

Obama's revelation wasn't exactly jaw-dropping. After all, when debate over enacting Net neutrality laws was raging in earnest last summer, he devoted a podcast to touting the need for regulations and denying the Bells and cable the ability "to change the internet as we know it." He also signed on as a cosponsor of legislation proposing Net neutrality regulations for broadband providers.

He's also not the only presidential candidate to voice support for the rules. On the Democratic side, so have Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), former Democratic senator John Edwards, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), and Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

Among the Republicans, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has also reportedly given a thumbs up to the idea, although some opponents of Net neutrality laws contend he was blindsided in a conference call with bloggers and questioned whether he was familiar enough with the issue to take a real stand. With only a few exceptions, however, Republicans have generally rejected proposals for Net neutrality regulations, arguing the market should be left to sort out complaints of discrimination and that new regulations will stifle investment in new broadband networks.

If nothing else, Obama's remarks are noteworthy because they seem to affirm that Net neutrality is alive and well as a political issue. His decision to promise "concrete steps," as MoveOn.org called them, at a public forum could create a ripple effect, eliciting similar pledges (or opposite ones, as the case may be) from rivals and becoming a defining issue in the campaign.

Still, I don't know about you, but as polarizing as the proposed regulations may be, I'm just not sure I can picture Net neutrality becoming a make-or-break issue akin to healthcare, immigration or the Iraq War.

Verizon Sales Rise Led By Wireless Growth
Ritsuko Ando

Verizon Communications Inc said on Monday its quarterly revenue rose due to strong wireless subscriber growth, although profit fell after merger-related costs and other items.

The second-largest U.S. phone company after AT&T Inc. also said it would increase its 2007 share buyback target by 25 percent to $2.5 billion.

"It's a story of tremendous strength in wireless and continued deterioration in wireline," said Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett.

Verizon's third-quarter net income was $1.27 billion, or 44 cents per share, compared with $1.92 billion, or 66 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding items such as merger integration costs, access line spinoff-related charges and international taxes, profit was 63 cents per share, a cent above the analysts' average forecast of 62 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Operating revenue rose 6 percent to $23.77 billion, slightly above the $23.6 billion forecast by Wall Street.

Verizon shares rose 0.8 percent to $45.98 in early trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

"It was a very solid quarter, not spectacular," said analyst Chris King of Stifel Nicolaus, who was not impressed with the performance of Verizon's DSL service, which offers high speed Internet over traditional phone lines.

"If there was one weak spot in the numbers that's on the DSL side," but King added that was "a relatively low profit margin business for them so it's something I'm not overly concerned with. FiOS and wireless are far more important."

Verizon Communications has been expanding its FiOS high-speed fiber optic service, which allows the phone company to offer video. The service lets Verizon compete against cable operators' all-in-one packages of video, phone and Internet.

Verizon added 202,000 new FiOS TV subscribers in the third quarter, taking the total to 717,000. It added 229,000 FiOS Internet subscribers.

Verizon Wireless, which Verizon Communications owns with Vodafone, added 1.8 million net retail customers in the quarter, taking total subscribers to 63.7 million.

FIOS On Track

Verizon Chief Operating Officer Denny Strigl told analysts on a conference call that Verizon was on track to post a 2008 profit for FiOS before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.

The cost of deploying FiOS hurt quarterly earnings by 9 cents per share, Verizon said. It said in September it expected to invest $18 billion from 2004 through 2010 to deploy the FiOS network.

Most analysts have said the investment, while costly, was necessary to offset a decline in home phone subscribers. But critics have said it was a risky bet, preferring AT&T's more cost-conscious approach that uses less fiber.

Including DSL, which offers high speed Internet over traditional phone lines, and FiOS, Verizon said it added a net 285,000 new broadband connections.

Moffett was unimpressed with the broadband growth. "It raises the question whether the lion's share of gains from FiOS are simply cannibalization of DSL," he said.

King also noted that AT&T's exclusive agreement to sell the iPhone from Apple Inc did not appear to have hurt Verizon Wireless customer additions in the quarter.

"If I was AT&T I'd be a little disappointed I wasn't able to take more market share from Verizon Wireless," King said.

Verizon repurchased nearly $800 million of its shares in the quarter, and was increasing its 2007 buyback target by $500 million to $2.5 billion.

(Additional reporting by Sinead Carew)

Devices Enforce Cellular Silence, Sweet but Illegal
Matt Richtel

One afternoon in early September, an architect boarded his commuter train and became a cellphone vigilante. He sat down next to a 20-something woman who he said was “blabbing away” into her phone.

“She was using the word ‘like’ all the time. She sounded like a Valley Girl,” said the architect, Andrew, who declined to give his last name because what he did next was illegal.

Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chatterer’s cellphone transmission — and any others in a 30-foot radius.

“She kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end,” he said. His reaction when he first discovered he could wield such power? “Oh, holy moly! Deliverance.”

As cellphone use has skyrocketed, making it hard to avoid hearing half a conversation in many public places, a small but growing band of rebels is turning to a blunt countermeasure: the cellphone jammer, a gadget that renders nearby mobile devices impotent.

The technology is not new, but overseas exporters of jammers say demand is rising and they are sending hundreds of them a month into the United States — prompting scrutiny from federal regulators and new concern last week from the cellphone industry. The buyers include owners of cafes and hair salons, hoteliers, public speakers, theater operators, bus drivers and, increasingly, commuters on public transportation.

The development is creating a battle for control of the airspace within earshot. And the damage is collateral. Insensitive talkers impose their racket on the defenseless, while jammers punish not just the offender, but also more discreet chatterers.

“If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people,” said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communication Studies at Rutgers University. “The cellphone talker thinks his rights go above that of people around him, and the jammer thinks his are the more important rights.”

The jamming technology works by sending out a radio signal so powerful that phones are overwhelmed and cannot communicate with cell towers. The range varies from several feet to several yards, and the devices cost from $50 to several hundred dollars. Larger models can be left on to create a no-call zone.

Using the jammers is illegal in the United States. The radio frequencies used by cellphone carriers are protected, just like those used by television and radio broadcasters.

The Federal Communication Commission says people who use cellphone jammers could be fined up to $11,000 for a first offense. Its enforcement bureau has prosecuted a handful of American companies for distributing the gadgets — and it also pursues their users.

Investigators from the F.C.C. and Verizon Wireless visited an upscale restaurant in Maryland over the last year, the restaurant owner said. The owner, who declined to be named, said he bought a powerful jammer for $1,000 because he was tired of his employees focusing on their phones rather than customers.

“I told them: put away your phones, put away your phones, put away your phones,” he said. They ignored him.

The owner said the F.C.C. investigator hung around for a week, using special equipment designed to detect jammers. But the owner had turned his off.

The Verizon investigator was similarly unsuccessful. “He went to everyone in town and gave them his number and said if they were having trouble, they should call him right away,” the owner said. He said he has since stopped using the jammer.

Of course, it would be harder to detect the use of smaller battery-operated jammers like those used by disgruntled commuters.

An F.C.C. spokesman, Clyde Ensslin, declined to comment on the issue or the case in Maryland.

Cellphone carriers pay tens of billions of dollars to lease frequencies from the government with an understanding that others will not interfere with their signals. And there are other costs on top of that. Verizon Wireless, for example, spends $6.5 billion a year to build and maintain its network.

“It’s counterintuitive that when the demand is clear and strong from wireless consumers for improved cell coverage, that these kinds of devices are finding a market,” said Jeffrey Nelson, a Verizon spokesman. The carriers also raise a public safety issue: jammers could be used by criminals to stop people from communicating in an emergency.

In evidence of the intensifying debate over the devices, CTIA, the main cellular phone industry association, asked the F.C.C. on Friday to maintain the illegality of jamming and to continue to pursue violators. It said the move was a response to requests by two companies for permission to use jammers in specific situations, like in jails.

Individuals using jammers express some guilt about their sabotage, but some clearly have a prankster side, along with some mean-spirited cellphone schadenfreude. “Just watching those dumb teens at the mall get their calls dropped is worth it. Can you hear me now? NO! Good,” the purchaser of a jammer wrote last month in a review on a Web site called DealExtreme.

Gary, a therapist in Ohio who also declined to give his last name, citing the illegality of the devices, says jamming is necessary to do his job effectively. He runs group therapy sessions for sufferers of eating disorders. In one session, a woman’s confession was rudely interrupted.

“She was talking about sexual abuse,” Gary said. “Someone’s cellphone went off and they carried on a conversation.”

“There’s no etiquette,” he said. “It’s a pandemic.”

Gary said phone calls interrupted therapy all the time, despite a no-phones policy. Four months ago, he paid $200 for a jammer, which he placed surreptitiously on one side of the room. He tells patients that if they are expecting an emergency call, they should give out the front desk’s number. He has not told them about the jammer.

Gary bought his jammer from a Web site based in London called PhoneJammer.com. Victor McCormack, the site’s operator, says he ships roughly 400 jammers a month into the United States, up from 300 a year ago. Orders for holiday gifts, he said, have exceeded 2,000.

Kumaar Thakkar, who lives in Mumbai, India, and sells jammers online, said he exported 20 a month to the United States, twice as many as a year ago. Clients, he said, include owners of cafes and hair salons, and a New York school bus driver named Dan.

“The kids think they are sneaky by hiding low in the seats and using their phones,” Dan wrote in an e-mail message to Mr. Thakkar thanking him for selling the jammer. “Now the kids can’t figure out why their phones don’t work, but can’t ask because they will get in trouble! It’s fun to watch them try to get a signal.”

Andrew, the San Francisco-area architect, said using his jammer was initially fun, and then became a practical way to get some quiet on the train. Now he uses it more judiciously.

“At this point, just knowing I have the power to cut somebody off is satisfaction enough,” he said.

I, Robot: The Man Behind the Google Phone
John Markoff

A RETINAL scanner emitting a blue glow monitors the entrance to Andy Rubin’s home in the foothills overlooking Silicon Valley. If the scanner recognizes you, the door unlocks automatically. (The system makes it easier to deal with former girlfriends, Mr. Rubin likes to joke. No messy scenes retrieving keys — it’s just a simple database update.)

Those forced to use the doorbell are greeted with another technological marvel: a robotic arm inside the glass foyer grips a mallet and then strikes a large gong. Although Mr. Rubin won’t reveal its cost, it may be one of the world’s most expensive doorbells.

“It’s not about the cost,” said Zarko Draganic, a former colleague of Mr. Rubin’s at Apple Inc. “It’s the classic Rubin thing: You do it for the sake of doing it and because it’s cool, and as a result there’s a childlike innocence about it.”

Mr. Rubin is one of the primary architects behind another product that also smacks of potential über-coolness — the Google Phone. As Google’s “director of mobile platforms,” Mr. Rubin oversees dozens of engineers who are developing the software at the company’s sprawling campus here. The software embodies the promise of extending Google’s reach at a time when cellphones allow consumers to increasingly untether themselves from their desktop computers, as well as the threat that greater digital mobility poses to Google’s domination of Internet search.

The Google Phone — which, according to several reports, will be made by Google partners and will be available by the middle of 2008 — is likely to provide a stark contrast to the approaches of both Apple and Microsoft to the growing market for smartphones. Google, according to several people with direct knowledge of its efforts, will give away its software to hand-set makers and then use the Google Phone’s openness as an invitation for software developers and content distributors to design applications for it.

If the effort succeeds, it will be the most drastic challenge to date of the assertion by Microsoft — the godfather of the desktop PC — that Google and other members of the so-called open-source world can imitate but not innovate.

And as the cellphone morphs further into a mobile personal computer, a new software standard is likely taking shape. Whoever takes the lead in this market may become a technological gatekeeper wielding the same power, and reaping the same profits, that Microsoft does through its Windows operating system.

As the industry shifts, Google doesn’t want to fall behind, and the Google Phone reflects its bid to remain at the center of things. It plans to do that, industry executives said, by offering free mobile software and then presumably cashing in by providing a menu of services linked to those products, like e-mail, photos, news and other services.

“Instead of making money on software, you have someone who is saying they’re trying to make their money on services,” said Michael Kleeman, a technology strategist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology at the University of California at San Diego. “The interesting question is whether the carriers will authorize the Google hand-sets on their networks.”

ALL of these developments and uncertainties underscore why visitors to Mr. Rubin’s office here get an immediate sense of his project’s importance for Google. Large signs in the corridors leading to his laboratory warn that only employees are allowed to pass.

The company refuses to comment on the Google Phone, but Mr. Rubin’s responsibilities, as well as recent leaks from the as-yet-unannounced alliance that Google is building to develop the software, indicate that the company plans to do more than merely develop an operating system for cellular phones: it plans to muscle its way into the center of the business at a time when people worldwide are searching the Web from just about anywhere they happen to be.

Consumers are using smartphones to find directions, meet their friends and locate nearby stores, restaurants and movie theaters. That simple business and cultural shift has touched off an information-age gold rush, as Google, its search competitors, hand-set makers and cellphone operators all try to stake their claims to the mobile Web.

Already this year, Apple has redefined what people expect from a cellphone by introducing the iPhone, just as it did previously with its Macintosh computer. Microsoft is making progress as well, projecting that 20 million phones will be sold with its Windows Mobile software next year. Nokia, Palm, Research in Motion and a number of other hand-set makers are fashioning ever more datacentric phones.

With these battle lines drawn, Google is placing its mobile bets in the hands of Mr. Rubin, 44, an engineer who has proved adept at designing the highly integrated hardware and software ensembles that are the hallmarks of Silicon Valley companies.

And even though he is in charge of developing Google’s answer to the Internet phone of the future, Mr. Rubin is a throwback. While Silicon Valley is now in the midst of a “Web 2.0” entrepreneurial frenzy, with an emphasis on clever business ideas that quickly attract millions of Internet users, Mr. Rubin is a proven member of an earlier group of engineers-turned-entrepreneurs who have a passion for building complete digital systems.

“Today Silicon Valley is full of ‘network-effect entrepreneurs,’ but Andy represents a generation that is equally comfortable with a soldering gun, writing software programs or designing a business,” said Steve Perlman, another former Apple engineer who was a co-founder of WebTV and a handful of other technology-oriented companies.

In that regard, Mr. Rubin may be one of the clearest links between the computing industry’s recent past and its rapidly emerging future — and the embodiment of how Google hopes to bridge the two realms.

In the spring of 2002, the Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page began sporting flashy smartphones on their belts that could gain access to the Internet and their popular search engine wherever they roamed.

With a switchblade-style flip-out screen revealing a tiny keyboard, the phone, known as the Sidekick, became a fashion accouterment for urban hipsters and Silicon Valley’s digerati. More versatile than e-mail-centric BlackBerrys, it was one of the first smartphones to seamlessly integrate the Web, instant messaging, mail and other PC applications.

The Sidekick was made by Danger Inc., a start-up in Palo Alto, Calif.; Mr. Rubin, one of its founders, named the company after the glass-tube-topped robot on “Lost in Space,” the old science-fiction TV series. (On the show, the robot rolled across quasi-lunar sets issuing “Danger!” warnings to the cast.)

Mr. Rubin grew up in Chappaqua, N.Y., the son of a psychologist who later founded his own direct-marketing firm. His father drummed up business by sending offers of electronic gadgets with credit card bills, so Mr. Rubin’s bedroom was festooned with the latest devices.

“After the products were photographed to go in the marketing catalogs, they ended up in my room,” he recalls. “I got the first of everything, and the gene was definitely set.”

Mr. Rubin evolved into a computer and electronics hobbyist. After college he went to work for Carl Zeiss A.G., a maker of industrial and consumer optical products, as a robot engineer, focusing his talents on the digital communications between networks of manufacturing and measurement machines. He moved to Switzerland and went to work for another robotics concern, where he says he would have happily remained but for a chance encounter in the Cayman Islands.

Walking on the beach there very early one morning in 1989, Mr. Rubin said, he came across someone asleep in a chair — a vacationing Apple engineer named Bill Caswell who had been evicted from his beach cottage after a fight with a girlfriend. Mr. Rubin gave him a place to stay. Mr. Caswell reciprocated by offering him a job at Apple, at the very moment the company was enjoying the first heady peak of the Macintosh’s popularity.

At the time, Apple was a hothouse of wild ideas, and engineers basically ran the company. High-tech high jinks were common, and Mr. Rubin got into trouble with the company’s I.T. department after he reprogrammed the company’s internal phone system to make it appear as if calls were coming from the chief executive, John Sculley, offering special stock grants to Mr. Rubin’s colleagues in engineering.

Mr. Rubin started out as a manufacturing engineer at Apple before taking on research-and-development tasks including development of the Quadra, a desktop computer, as well as an early effort to develop a software modem. In 1990, Apple spun off a unit of the company that was exploring hand-held computing and communications devices into a separate entity called General Magic.

Mr. Rubin joined the new company two years later; he says he thrived in General Magic’s total-immersion engineering culture. He and several other engineers built loft beds above their cubicles so they could essentially live at the office and work around the clock developing Magic Cap, a groundbreaking operating system and interface for hand-helds and smart cellphones.

When General Magic went public in 1995, its stock almost doubled on its first day of trading. But Magic Cap was a great idea that was about a decade ahead of its time. Just a handful of manufacturers and telecommunications companies adopted it — and only briefly — and General Magic’s engineering team gradually dissolved to join other start-ups.

“It was like being in grad school,” recalls Mr. Draganic, who worked at General Magic with Mr. Rubin. “We all worked really hard and we bonded, and built the cool things we wanted, but the market wasn’t interested.”

A portion of the General Magic team reunited when three veteran Apple and General Magic engineers, Steve Perlman, Bruce Leak and Phil Goldman, set up Artemis Research, a company that ultimately became WebTV — an early attempt to build a consumer device that could marry the Internet and television.

Mr. Rubin joined Artemis, reconstructed his loft in his new office, and went back to working around the clock. Microsoft bought Artemis in 1997 and Mr. Rubin stayed on, quietly fiddling on the side with his robots.

Yet another corporate misadventure from that period has gained legendary status among his pals: Trying to build a supergadget that could unobtrusively record the sights and sounds behind the creation of a new consumer product, he modified a mobile robot with an articulating, arm-mounted Web camera and microphone and turned it loose to scurry around the company.

But there was a small problem. The robot was also connected to the Internet.

One weekend, Microsoft security officials called Mr. Perlman to tell him that hackers had broken into the computer powering the robot. The hackers hadn’t yet discovered that the computer they had taken over was mobile and had video capabilities, but the security team was outraged and Mr. Rubin was ordered to corral the wayward robot.

Mr. Rubin left WebTV in 1999. He rented a retail store he called “the laboratory” in downtown Palo Alto, populating it with robots that he brought back from frequent trips to Japan. The space became a clubhouse for Mr. Rubin and his engineer friends to congregate late at night and to brainstorm about ideas for new products; they eventually decided to make a device about the size of a small candy bar that cost less than $10 and allowed users to scan objects and unearth information about them on the Internet.

“The idea was to create a digital sponge to draw people back to online Web sites,” Mr. Rubin recalled.

Cool idea. But no one would fund it.

Undeterred, Mr. Rubin’s team, which had by then named itself Danger Inc., added a radio receiver and transmitter to the device, which in mocked-up form was about the size of a bar of soap. They pitched it as an Internet-savvy smartphone called the Sidekick. A novice venture capitalist, Greg Galanos, financed it as his first deal shortly after the dot-com bubble burst.

In early 2002, Mr. Rubin gave a talk on the development of the Sidekick to an engineering class at Stanford. Mr. Page and Mr. Brin attended the lecture. It was the first time they had met Mr. Rubin; after the lecture, Mr. Page walked up to examine the Sidekick and found that Google was the default search engine. “Cool,” he said.

At the time of Mr. Rubin’s talk, the idea of a hand-held device that included cellphone capability was already in the air, but the recent emergence of digital wireless networks was giving it new life. Mr. Page, in particular, soon became enamored with the idea of a Google Phone and a complete operating system for mobile devices.

For Mr. Rubin, his time at Danger transformed him from an engineer into a manager. He was deeply involved in both defining a product and building a business from the bottom up. “We worked hard at developing a strategy,” he says. “It was the first time I switched on that part of my brain.”

Mr. Rubin had also figured out a way to break through the tension between wireless carriers and the manufacturers of cellphone hand-sets. Until then, the two groups had been sharply divided: cellphone makers wanted to sell loads of expensive hand-sets, while carriers wanted to control access to the devices and to lasso customers to a single device for long stretches of time.

The Danger designers came up with another model, one that Apple and AT&T recently emulated in part through their iPhone deal. Rather than placing itself in competition with wireless carriers, Danger aligned its goals with theirs by sharing in the revenue generated from service fees and not making its financial success dependent on the sale of phones.

“We were giving devices away and taking a share of revenue,” Mr. Rubin says.

Despite the Sidekick’s cult following, it never generated huge sales.

THREE years ago, Danger’s board decided it was time to replace Mr. Rubin as chief executive. Mr. Rubin says he agreed with the board’s decision. Although neither Mr. Rubin nor board members would discuss the specific reasons, they agreed that a replacement was needed, and Mr. Rubin participated in the search.

After a new C.E.O. joined Danger, Mr. Rubin decided to leave. He says that he had met his goals at the company and wanted to move on. Other people close to the matter, however, said he became disillusioned with the new arrangement.

Mr. Rubin then became an entrepreneur in residence at a Silicon Valley venture firm and retreated for a few months to the Cayman Islands, where he began writing software and tried developing a digital camera. But he could not find a backer for the camera, so he returned to his original idea of creating a next-generation smart cellphone. Using a domain name that he had owned for several years, Android.com, he started a new business and assembled a small team of engineers and product planners. Their goal was to design a mobile hand-set platform open to any and all software designers.

Mr. Rubin spent all his savings on that project. He called his friend Mr. Perlman and told him he was broke.

“How soon do you need the money?” Mr. Perlman asked.

“Now!” was the answer.

Mr. Perlman went to the bank and withdrew $10,000 in $100 bills, brought them to Mr. Rubin’s office and set them in a stack on Mr. Rubin’s desk. Ultimately, he lent him a total of $100,000, which helped Android complete its business plan.

This time, venture capitalists loved the idea. So did Craig McCaw, the early cellular telecommunications pioneer who is now chairman of Clearwire, a wireless network operator. As Mr. Rubin was negotiating terms with Mr. McCaw, he sent an e-mail message to Mr. Page informing him of the potential partnership. Within weeks, Google acquired Android for an undisclosed sum. Mr. McCaw declined to comment on the sale.

AS a testament to Mr. Rubin’s inner robot, a kitchen cabinet in his home bears a long scar from a laser-controlled Segway, the self-balancing, two-wheeled scooter, that crashed into it recently. It’s just one example of the web of computer technology that he lives in. Mr. Rubin has also tricked out his home theater system to slightly brighten his living-room lights once the screen credits roll at the end of a movie. Several model helicopters are parked downstairs in his house, all programmed to fly autonomously.

Mr. Rubin readily acknowledges his obsession with consumer gadgets and even more expensive toys — an obsession that put him at odds with Google’s stated aversion to conspicuous consumption.

The day before Google went public in 2004, Wayne Rosing, then the vice president for engineering, stood on a stage during a companywide meeting and brandished a baseball bat. He threatened to use it on anyone’s car in the Google parking lot that was anything flashier than a 3 Series BMW.

As a result, Mr. Rubin had to buy a new car when he came to Google. (A souped-up German sports car that he recently acquired sits at home in his garage.) He acknowledges the discomfort created by the situation. “One of the things that Google’s really good at is not encouraging conspicuous consumption,” he says. “I’m a big fan of well-engineered things, and so I’m wrestling with how those two things can coexist.”

Mr. Rubin is also wrestling with another responsibility: trying to reinvent the cellphone on his second try. He declined to offer any insights into his strategy, and whether he has the answer won’t be clear for about a year — perhaps longer. Google has a tremendous amount of corporate momentum, and its search service is a huge consumer magnet. At the same time, wireless carriers jealously guard their networks and worry constantly about the possibility of losing control to potential competitors like Google.
Moreover, the market is already crowded. Microsoft got a head-start with its Windows Mobile platform a half-decade ago and in the past year has accelerated its efforts by persuading hand-set makers like Motorola, Palm and Samsung to include the software with its phones. Microsoft is certain to invest heavily to ward off Google’s incursions into the market.

An irony in all of this, of course, is that Google, though not in a dominant position in this field, might be able to replay the strategy that Microsoft itself used to bulldoze Netscape in the mid-1990s. Just as Microsoft successfully “cut off” Netscape’s air supply by giving away its Explorer Web browser as part of the Windows operating system, Google may shove Windows Mobile aside if the Google Phone is given away to hand-set makers.

And if the strategy works, it will be because a robotics fanatic named Andy Rubin and his team will have successfully developed the smartphone of the future. That’s what Mr. Rubin says means the most to him.

“The thing that gets me going is touching a large number of people — if there’s 3.1 billion phones out there, it’s a great way to touch people,” he says. “I want to find something that delights people so they use it, and they use it for the merits of it being it.”

Locked vs. Unlocked: Opening Up Choice
Cyrus Farivar

NOKIA, the world’s largest maker of cellphones, has been running ads that read, “Open to Anything” and “Unlock your potential.”

The company wants cellphone buyers to know that its phones can be used with whatever carrier they choose, unlike a certain other phone that has been getting considerably more attention lately: Apple’s iPhone. That phone is locked, meaning it is intended to be used with AT&T, the only carrier Apple chose in the United States.

A Nokia spokesman says that the advertising campaign is not aimed at the iPhone. “A lot of people interpreted it as a shot at another product,” said Keith Nowak, a Nokia spokesman. “It wasn’t its intention, to be honest.”

Indeed, most phones sold in the United States are locked into the carrier that sold them. Nearly all mobile phone providers discount the price of the handset in exchange for a fixed contract. But even some phones sold at full price without contracts remain locked.

But that has not stopped many from unlocking phones, either with the permission of the carrier or, as is more commonly the case, without it. Apple said that nearly one of every six iPhones sold in the United States was bought with the intention of unlocking it.

Apple has tried to thwart the practice by updating the operating system software, which rendered any updated and unlocked phone useless. But rogue programmers were quickly back at it, and they say they have created software that makes it possible to break the newly updated software lock on the iPhone. As this knowledge spreads across the Internet, more and more Americans are becoming aware of the issues surrounding locked phones in general.

Though there are questions about the legality of the practice, more carriers are offering customers the option, even though it means a customer can use that phone with another carrier. T-Mobile says it unlocks its phones after an account has been active 90 days.

AT&T said it would unlock a handset once the customer had fulfilled the terms of a contract. It will sell customers an unlocked phone at full price — with the exception of the iPhone. Sprint agreed in a class-action lawsuit settlement proposal last week that it would provide the unlock codes to customers after their contracts expired so the phones could be used with other carriers. Verizon says it does not unlock its phones.

All this locking and unlocking is most relevant to the type of mobile phone that is widely used around the globe: those on a Global System for Mobile communication system, or GSM network. In the United States, only AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM providers. The other major carriers, Verizon and Sprint, use a different standard known as CDMA, for Code Division Multiple Access, which is more common in Japan and South Korea.

The advantage of having an unlocked GSM phone is that the phone can easily be used in other countries at a fraction of the usual charge by buying a local prepaid SIM card, the microchip that contains the telephone number and other data. Otherwise, consumers are left paying exorbitant international roaming fees.

In the United States, however, some carriers — and in the case of the iPhone, a phone maker — say that unlocking the phone may violate the company warranty and thus the company will not repair or replace it if something goes awry.

Some imply that it is not legal to unlock a phone, but the legal issues are murky at best.

A subsection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 could be interpreted as saying that anyone who unlocks a phone for someone else or tells others how to do it might face legal action.

Some legal scholars, like Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School and an authority on digital copyright law, have argued that interpreting the act that way has little to do with protecting copyrights, and more to do with limiting competition. The Librarian of Congress, the office that determines what things are covered under the copyright act, exempts the unlocking of mobile phones from the law.

Several recent cases support Professor Crawford’s view. In one of those cases, Lexmark, a printer manufacturer, tried to use the act to sue a company that made compatible ink cartridges. In another, a garage door opener manufacturer tried to sue a rival company for making a universal door opener.

In both instances, federal courts ruled that these cases were not about preventing copyright infringement, but rather about stifling competition, Professor Crawford said.

“Courts have said you shouldn’t use the D.M.C.A. to leverage your copyright monopoly into other markets,” she said.

Like the exclusive AT&T deal in the United States, Apple is currently pursuing deals with carriers overseas, and has announced exclusive agreements with O2 in Britain, T-Mobile in Germany and Orange in France.

Some European lawyers, however, have noted that certain countries require mobile phones be sold in an unlocked state, which would eliminate Apple’s exclusivity. Antoine Gendreau, a French intellectual property lawyer, said in an e-mail message that a seller must offer the product without a service plan even if he can sell it with a service plan at a lower price.

“A purchase with a service plan that is locked on an operator’s network must be able to be unlocked so it can be used on any network at the request of the buyer, and must be done at no charge after six months,” Mr. Gendreau said. Orange has said it would sell an unlocked phone.

Short of booking a trip to France to get an unlocked cellphone, customers who want one will have to turn to the online gray market: Craigslist and eBay.

Today, there are plenty of vendors who will unlock phones or sell unlocked phones. Prices for an unlocked iPhone range from $400 to $700, depending on whether the phone has a four-gigabyte or eight-gigabyte storage capacity. Similar services are available online for unlocking nearly any GSM handset. Sometimes small and independent mobile phone retailers will even unlock certain models for a small fee, usually $50 or less. Some even openly advertise the phones or the service.

Unlocking an iPhone is something that anyone can do, says Kyle Matthews, the 25-year-old co-founder of ModMyiFone.com. He said that the whole process of installing various pieces of software takes a little less than an hour to complete.

“People that have no technological experience would be a little put off by it, because it’s a little bit of work, but for anyone who has basic computer knowledge it’s really easy to do,” he said. He has personally unlocked approximately 50 iPhones, he said.

For more popular handset models like BlackBerrys and Treos, various online guides exist at sites like unlockblackberry.net and 680unlock.com/. For other models, however guides may be more difficult to find on the Internet.

Professor Crawford thinks that the attention to unlocking the iPhone could help Americans realize that they may want to have more choice when it comes to mobile operators.

“There hasn’t been much consumer incentive in the past to challenge the wireless carriers controls,” she said. “This may lead consumers in the U.S. to rise up and demand that their phones be unlocked.”

Apple Not Just Refusing Cash, Also Refusing Apple Gift Cards for iPhones
Ryan Block

You can chalk this one up to our bad in assuming best intentions, but when Apple said no cash for iPhones, they damn well meant it -- enough to extend the policy out to no cash for anything that could in turn purchase an iPhone. Turns out you can't even use your Apple bucks to buy an iPhone anymore, not even if someone bought you an Apple Gift Card with their credit card. Ok, for a lot of you this isn't a big deal, but who gets hit hardest? Try all those teenage Apple fanboys begging various family members for small denomination gift cards that will add up to the iPhone they've been after. We've never heard any company being so adamant about keeping non-paper trail for every single damned purchase, but now we're just left wondering how long until someone (or some state) sour from this bitter pill decides to challenge Apple on that whole US dollar bills being "legal tender for all debts, public and private" thing.

P.S. -No we're not lawyers, but yes, we're aware that it's probably completely legal for Apple to do. But that doesn't make it right, nor does that mean it will go unchallenged, you feel us?

F.C.C. Set to End Sole Cable Deals for Apartments
Stephen LaBaton

The Federal Communications Commission, hoping to reduce the rising costs of cable television, is preparing to strike down thousands of contracts this week that gave individual cable companies exclusive rights to provide service to an apartment building, the agency’s chairman says.

The new rule could open markets across the country to far-ranging competition. It would also be a huge victory for Verizon Communications and AT&T, which have challenged the cable industry by offering their own video services. The two companies have lobbied aggressively for the provision. They have been supported in their fight by consumer groups, satellite television companies and small rivals to the big cable providers.

Commission officials and consumer groups said the new rule could significantly lower cable prices for millions of subscribers who live in apartment buildings and have had no choice in selecting a company for paid television. Government and private studies show that when a second cable company enters a market, prices can drop as much as 30 percent.

The change, which is set to be approved Wednesday, is expected to have a particular effect on prices for low-income and minority families. They have seen cable prices rise about three times the rate of inflation over the last decade. A quarter of American households live in apartment buildings housing 50 or more residents, but 40 percent of households headed by Hispanics and African-Americans live in such buildings.

“Exclusive contracts have been one of the most significant barriers to competition,” Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, said in an interview. Cable prices have risen “about 93 percent in the last 10 years,” he said. “This is a way to introduce additional competition, which will result in lower prices and greater innovation.”

The decision is the latest in a series of actions by the commission under Mr. Martin to put pressure on cable companies to lower their rates and make their markets more competitive. In December, in a 3-to-2 decision, the commission approved a proposal by Mr. Martin to force municipalities to accelerate the local approval process for the telephone companies to enter new markets. The phone companies had asserted that many municipalities had been delaying approvals, often in the face of cable industry lobbying.

Last month, the commission approved a rule that requires the largest cable companies to provide programs produced by their affiliates to all of their rivals, including the phone companies and satellite television companies. The commission is also considering a proposal to make it less expensive for independent programmers to lease channels from cable companies.

Mr. Martin has also pressed the cable companies to offer so-called à la carte plans that would permit subscribers to buy individual channels, or groups of channels, at lower rates than they now pay.

The new rule would shift the bargaining power over cable and broadband services to apartment residents from landlords and tenant associations. It has been long sought by consumer groups as part of a broader effort to cut prices to the roughly 100 million households that pay for access to television.

The change would be an abrupt reversal for the commission, which only four years ago ruled that such exclusive agreements sometimes actually promoted competition by giving landlords the leverage to negotiate for the best terms.

Commission officials said they had prohibited other exclusive contracts involving telecommunications, including those in commercial buildings, but trade groups representing cable companies and building owners have indicated they may challenge the commission’s move in court.

Commission officials said the rule aims to put an end to some common practices of landlords and tenant associations that have deprived tenants of choices. They said that in many communities, there has been only one cable provider, and while landlords and tenant associations could select a satellite television provider, the competition from those companies has not led to lower cable prices.

The cable companies have also managed to shut out competition by signing long-term exclusive deals. The officials said they hoped that opening the apartment doors to the telephone companies, which offer the same packages of television, broadband and phone services as the cable companies, would force the cable companies to cut their rates.

A few states, including New York, have laws that either restrict or prohibit a landlord or tenant association from entering into an exclusive contract with a cable company. But most states have no such laws, and no state has struck down existing exclusive contracts. Commission officials, consumer groups and rival companies maintain that even in those states like New York with access laws, the rules are not uniformly enforced. They said a federal regulation would fix that.

In one area alone, Hilton Head, S.C., a small cable provider, the Hargray CATV Company, has been battling for two years with its larger rival, Time Warner, which claims to have an exclusive contract forever to provide service in developments to more than 20,000 customers. Similar battles have been waged between other cable companies and rivals involving buildings across the country.

Moreover, consumer groups said the number of lengthy exclusive contracts appears to have increased in recent months as AT&T and Verizon have begun to expand their video services and as the commission has indicated it might intervene to ban exclusive arrangements.

“For people in apartment buildings, this could be the most significant step towards bringing down cable prices,” said Gene Kimmelman, vice president for federal affairs at the Consumers Union. “Most people in apartment buildings have been subject to a monopoly provider, with little or no local control and no federal control over pricing. This is the most significant step regulators can take short of regulating prices.”

But large cable companies, as well as associations representing building owners and tenant groups, said the change would fundamentally alter the economics of cable television in apartments in ways that would be harmful to consumers. They are threatening to challenge the commission in court.

“It is both unlawful and, as a matter of public policy, wholly inappropriate and counterproductive for the commission to bar cable operators from enforcing existing exclusive contracts,” said Daniel L. Brenner, a senior vice president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the cable industry’s main trade association in Washington. “Exclusive contracts and building-by-building competition can, in fact, promote investment, efficiency and competition.”

The commission and trade groups said they did not know the precise number of contracts, though they estimated the amount to be in the thousands.

The cable industry and the owner associations said the cable companies were often granted exclusive rights to buildings after agreeing to make major capital investments in upgrading systems, and that a new rule striking the exclusivity clauses would be an illegal taking of property in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

“The F.C.C.’s approach is wrongheaded,” said Jim Arbury, senior vice president for government affairs at the National Multi-Housing Council, which represents about 1,000 owners, managers and developers. “They think that banning exclusives means there will be more competition, when the fact is that exclusive contracts play a definite role in the area of promoting competition.”

He continued: “It allows the apartment owner to play the various providers off against each other and get the best deal for residents in terms of quality and price.”

Commission officials say that the agency has previously prohibited exclusive contracts in other telecommunications areas, and that the courts have upheld such restrictions.

The commission has, for instance, prohibited exclusive contracts for telecommunications services in commercial buildings. It has also required telephone companies that provide service to apartments to offer access to their wires to rival companies.

Advocacy Group to FCC: Comcast's Traffic Blocking Defense is Bogus
Eric Bangeman

A handful of consumer groups, including members of the Savetheinternet.com coalition, have asked the Federal Communications Commission to stop Comcast from interfering with BitTorrent and other P2P traffic. A new complaint filed by Public Knowledge and Free Press accuses Comcast of "secretly degrading" P2P traffic, calling it a violation of network neutrality principles, and asks the FCC to enjoin Comcast from blocking P2P traffic in the future.

The complaint comes in the wake of revelations the Comcast is using Sandvine to actively interfere with and block some BitTorrent, Gnutella, and even Lotus Notes traffic. The ISP is using forged TCP reset packets, which tell both ends of a connection that the other party has reset the connection, to accomplish the task. Comcast admits to managing traffic on its network to ensure a "good Internet experience" for all of its customers. The company argues that its management techniques will occasionally "delay" traffic, but denies that it blocks or degrades traffic, despite evidence to the contrary.

Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, disagrees, and believes something fishy is going on. "Comcast's defense is bogus," said Scott in a statement. "The FCC needs to take immediate action to put an end to this harmful practice. Comcast's blatant and deceptive BitTorrent blocking is exactly the type of problem advocates warned would occur without Net Neutrality laws."

The complaint accuses Comcast of engaging in "deliberately secretive" traffic "jamming" practices that are designed to obscure its actions from users. It also argues that the ISP's actions violate the FCC's Internet Policy Statement. That statement outlined four policy principles, which are subject to "reasonable network management":

• Consumers are entitled to access their choice of lawful Internet content
• Consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement
• Consumers can connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network
• Consumers are entitled to competition from ISPs and content providers

Free Press and Public Knowledge believe that Comcast's actions violate the first three principles. In the complaint, they remind the Commission of Chairman Kevin Martin's February testimony before a Congressional committee, in which he pledged to enforce those principles: "Although we are not aware of current blocking situations, the Commission remains vigilant and stands ready to step in to protect consumers' access to content on the Internet," Martin said.

With the Commission having argued that it's capable of addressing net neutrality violations after the fact, argues the complaint, the moment of truth is here. The complaint wants the FCC to put its money where its mouth is—in addition to permanently barring Comcast from blocking P2P traffic, the consumer groups want the ISP fined $195,000 ($97,500 for discrimination and $97,500 for deception) for each consumer affected by the problem.

In response to the complaint, Comcast reiterated its carefully-worded stance that it does not block access "to any Web sites or online applications," including BitTorrent. "As the FCC noted in its policy statement in 2005, all of the principles to encourage broadband deployment and preserve the nature of the Internet are 'subject to reasonable network management,'" Comcast executive VP David Cohen told Ars. "The Commission clearly recognized that network management is necessary by ISPs for the good of all customers."

Comcast is hoping that the FCC will agree that its blocking P2P traffic does indeed fall under the category of "reasonable" traffic management and dismiss the complaint. If that doesn't happen, the ISP faces the possibility of massive fines and being forced to substantially alter how it handles P2P traffic. If nothing else, the complaint gives more fodder to recently reanimated discussions over network neutrality.

Comcast Hunts BitTorrent Memo Leaker

According to an inside source, Comcast is trying to hunt down who leaked the internal BitTorrent memo to us last week. The rumor is that they're interrogating supervisors and then customer service representatives. Memos regarding the dire consequences of providing internal information to the press are being distributed.

Reached for comment, the leaker said, "I really don't care... I am happy I turned over a few rocks and let the world know."

Trust us, Comcast, you're never going to find Deep Throat. Go back to doing what you do best, sleeping on customer's couches and raising prices.

Is U.S. Stuck in Internet's Slow Lane?

'We're now in the middle of the pack of developed countries' says expert
Peter Svensson

The United States is starting to look like a slowpoke on the Internet. Examples abound of countries that have faster and cheaper broadband connections, and more of their population connected to them.

What's less clear is how badly the country that gave birth to the Internet is doing, and whether the government needs to step in and do something about it. The Bush administration has tried to foster broadband adoption with a hands-off approach. If that's seen as a failure by the next administration, the policy may change.

In a move to get a clearer picture of where the U.S. stands, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would develop an annual inventory of existing broadband services — including the types, advertised speeds and actual number of subscribers — available to households and businesses across the nation.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is intended to provide policy makers with improved data so they can better use grants and subsidies to target areas lacking high-speed Internet access. He said in a statement last week that promoting broadband would help spur job growth, access to health care and education and promote innovation among other benefits.

The inventory wouldn't cover other countries, but a cursory look shows the U.S. lagging behind at least some of them. In South Korea, for instance, the average apartment can get an Internet connection that's 15 times faster than a typical U.S. connection. In Paris, a "triple play" of TV, phone and broadband service costs less than half of what it does in the U.S.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development — a 30-member club of nations — compiles the most often cited international comparison. It puts the U.S. at 15th place for broadband lines per person in 2006, down from No. 4 in 2001.

The OECD numbers have been vigorously attacked by anti-regulation think tanks for making the U.S. look exceedingly bad. They point out that the OECD is not very open about how it compiles the data. It doesn't count people who have access to the Internet at work, or students who have access in their dorms.

"We would never base other kinds of policy on that kind of data," said Scott Wallsten, director of communications policy studies at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank that favors deregulation over government intervention.

But the OECD numbers are in line with other international measures. Figures from the British research firm Point-Topic Ltd. put the U.S., with 55 percent of its households connected, in 17th place for adoption rates at the end of June (excluding some very small countries and territories like Macau and Hong Kong).

"We're now in the middle of the pack of developed countries," said Dave Burstein, telecom gadfly and the editor of the DSL Prime newsletter, during a sometimes tense debate at the Columbia Business School's Institute for Tele-Information.

Burstein says the U.S. is lagging because of low levels of investment by the big telecom companies and regulatory failure.

Several of the European countries that are doing well have forced telephone companies to rent their lines to Internet service providers for low fees. The ISPs use them to run broadband Digital Subscriber Lines, or DSL, often at speeds much higher than those available in the U.S.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission went down this regulatory road a few years ago, but legal challenges from the phone companies forced it to back away.

In 2004, President Bush called for nationwide broadband access by 2007, to be nurtured by an absence of taxation and little regulation. The U.S. is very close to Bush's goal, thanks to the availability of satellite broadband across the lower 48 states.

But the Internet by satellite is expensive and slow. Nearly everyone may have access to the Internet, but that doesn't mean they're plugging in.

Part of the problem may be that people don't see fast Internet access as an essential part of modern life, and may need more of a push to get on. The U.S. does have wider income disparities than many of the countries that are outdoing it in broadband, and people in poverty may have other priorities for their money.

Dan Correa, research analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, believes the U.S. needs a more "proactive" broadband policy, and compares the lack of government involvement in the field with the situation in other utilities, which are mostly heavily regulated.

"In the 1930s, we recognized that electricity was essential. We're not quite at that level in broadband," Correa said.

An FCC chairman appointed by a Democratic president in 2009 may agree. Current Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps has said broadband availability could be encouraged with tax incentives and loans to rural utilities.

The United States doesn't look set to catch up to South Korea or even Canada (with 65 percent of households connected to broadband, according to Point-Topic) by then, because broadband adoption is slowing down after an initial growth spurt.

In the last few weeks, the U.S.'s three largest Internet service providers reported adding 1.2 million subscribers in the third quarter, down from 1.54 million in the same quarter last year, according to a tally by UBS analyst John Hodulik.

But the U.S. does have a few aces up its sleeve. Apart from satellite broadband it has widespread cable networks, which provide an alternative to DSL. Cable has some technical advantages over phone lines, and a new cable modem technology called Docsis 3.0 could allow U.S. Internet speeds to leapfrog those in countries dominated by DSL in a few years.

On the phone side, the country's second largest telecommunications company, Verizon Communications Inc., is spending $23 billion to connect homes directly with super-fast fiber optics.

"Twenty percent of the U.S. is getting a decent network," Burstein acknowledges. The new network can match or outdo the 100 megabits per second Internet service widely available in Japan and Korea, but Verizon isn't yet selling service at that speed.


AP Business Writer Dibya Sarkar contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.

Kremlin Seeks To Extend Its Reach in Cyberspace

Pro-government sites gain influence
Anton Troianovski and Peter Finn

After ignoring the Internet for years to focus on controlling traditional media such as television and newspapers, the Kremlin and its allies are turning their attention to cyberspace, which remains a haven for critical reporting and vibrant discussion in Russia's dwindling public sphere.

Allies of President Vladimir Putin are creating pro-government news and pop culture Web sites while purchasing some established online outlets known for independent journalism. They are nurturing a network of friendly bloggers ready to disseminate propaganda on command. And there is talk of creating a new Russian computer network -- one that would be separate from the Internet at large and, potentially, much easier for the authorities to control.

"The attractiveness of the Internet as a free platform for free people is already dimming," said Iosif Dzyaloshinsky, a mass media expert at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

Putin addressed the question of Internet censorship during a national call-in show broadcast live on radio and television this month. "In the Russian Federation, no control is being exercised over the World Wide Web, over the Russian segment of the Internet," Putin said. "I think that from the point of view of technological solutions, that would not make any sense.

"Naturally, in this sphere, as in other spheres, we should be thinking about adhering to Russian laws, about making sure that child pornography is not distributed, that financial crimes are not committed," he continued. "But that is a task for the law enforcement agencies. Total control and the work of the law enforcement agencies are two different things."

Many people here say they believe Putin didn't mind a free Internet as long as it had weak penetration in Russia. But with 25 percent of Russian adults now online, up from 8 percent in 2002, cyberspace has become an issue of increasing concern for the government.

Some Russian Internet experts say a turning point came in 2004, when blogs and uncensored online publications helped drive a popular uprising in Ukraine after a pro-Moscow candidate was declared the winner of a presidential election. Days of street protests in the capital, Kiev, led to a new vote that brought a pro-Western politician into the presidency.

Today, the Kremlin is ready with online forces of its own when street action begins.

On April 14, an opposition movement held a march in central Moscow that drew hundreds of people; police detained at least 170, including the leader of the march, chess star Garry Kasparov.

Pavel Danilin, a 30-year-old Putin supporter and blogger whose online icon is the fearsome robot of the "Terminator" movie, works for a political consulting company loyal to the Kremlin. He said he and his team, which included people from a youth movement called the Young Guard, quickly started blogging that day about a smaller, pro-Kremlin march held at the same time.

They linked to one another repeatedly and soon, Danilin said, posts about the pro-Kremlin march had crowded out all the items about the opposition march on the Yandex Web portal's coveted ranking of the top five Russian blog posts.

"We played it beautifully," Danilin said.

In a lengthy article published online last fall, three Russian rights activists argued that a strident, vulgar and uniform pro-Kremlin ideology had so permeated blogs and chat rooms that it could only be the result of a coordinated campaign.

Putin's allies in the online world acknowledge that the Internet represents a challenge to the status quo in Russia, which has, since Soviet times, relied on state-controlled television to influence public opinion across the country's 11 time zones.

"You watch the first channel or the second channel and you can only see good things happening in Russia," said Andrei Osipov, the 26-year-old editor of the Web site of Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group, referring to national stations that back the Kremlin. "The Internet is the freest mass media. . . . There is competition between state and opposition organizations."

The Kremlin is also increasingly allying itself with privately run online outlets that foster a new ideal for life in today's Russia, one that is consumerist and uncompromisingly pro-Putin.

The main champion of this ideal is 28-year-old businessman Konstantin Rykov. The pearl of Rykov's media empire is the two-year-old Vzglyad ("View") online newspaper, which features a serious-looking news section with stories toeing the Kremlin line and a lifestyle section that covers the latest in luxury cars and interior design. Surveys rank Vzglyad as one of Russia's five most-visited news sites.

"Rykov is a man who created a good business on the government's view that it has to invest in ideology," said Anton Nossik, an Internet pioneer in Russia now in charge of blog development for Sup, an online media company. Nossik said that Vladislav Surkov, Putin's domestic political adviser, organized private funding for Rykov's projects.

Kremlin officials deny any involvement. "It is a general habit of everyone to connect every popular occurrence and success with the Kremlin," deputy Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said when asked about Rykov. "In reality, it is not so."

In an interview, Rykov would not comment on his investors. A framed portrait of Surkov hung above his desk; Rykov is running for parliament on the list of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in elections slated for December.

"The Vzglyad newspaper has created this appearance of a state publication for itself since the very beginning," Rykov said. "And from the perspective of business and selling ads, that's very good."

Allies of the Kremlin have also begun buying some of the companies that have helped make the Internet a bastion of free expression in Russia. Gazeta.ru, long the country's most respected online newspaper, was sold in December to a metals magnate and Putin loyalist.

And last October, Sup, which is owned by Alexander Mamut, a tycoon with ties to the Kremlin, bought the rights to develop the Russian-language segment of U.S.-based LiveJournal. The segment, with half a million users, is Russia's most popular blog portal.
"Mr. Rykov is pro-Kremlin. Mamut and Sup are pro-Kremlin. The social networks are all being bought by pro-Kremlin people," Ruslan Paushu, 30, a popular blogger who works for Rykov, said in an interview. "Everything's okay."

So far, Gazeta.ru has continued to publish articles critical of the Kremlin, and no widespread censorship has been reported on blogs run by Sup. But as the government wakes up to the Internet's potential, many of Putin's critics are growing nervous.

Prosecutors have begun to target postings on blogs or Internet chat sites, charging users with slander or extremism after they criticize Putin or other officials. Most such incidents have occurred outside Moscow, and federal officials deny that they signal any broader campaign to control the Internet.

"Personally, I am against developing and adopting a special law that would regulate the Internet," Leonid Reiman, minister of information technology and communications, said in a written response to questions. "The Internet has been always developing as a free medium, and it should remain as such."

But in July, Putin briefed his Security Council on plans to make Russia a global information leader by 2015. Russian news media reported that those plans included a new network apart from the global Internet and open only to former Soviet republics.

"To put it bluntly, we need to fight for the water mains," Gleb Pavlovsky, the Kremlin's foremost political consultant, said in an interview. "We need to fight for the central networks and for the audience segments that they reach."

Wolfgang Kleinwaechter, special adviser to the chairmen of the Internet Governance Forum, a group convened by the United Nations, said some Russian officials he has spoken to are considering a separate Internet, with Cyrillic domain names, and appear to be studying China's Internet controls.

Peskov, the deputy presidential spokesman, said in an interview that a Russia-only Internet was still in the "investigative phase," adding, "I don't know if it's more than thinking aloud."

"It's not meant to get rid of the global network," he said. "It's a discussion of creating an addition."

For now, supporters as well as critics of Putin see the Kremlin doing something atypical: competing on more or less equal terms with its opponents.

"Certainly, there's the dark segment that is still saying words like 'prohibit' and 'limit,' " said Marat Guelman, who worked as a political consultant for the Kremlin until 2004, when he broke with the administration. But "what is happening on the Web vis-a-vis the authorities is very good," he added. "That is, they're trying to play the game."

That strategy is in contrast to the way Putin brought the independent television network NTV to heel at the beginning of his term, using highly publicized court cases and raids by heavily armed security forces.

Marina Litvinovich, a blogger who used to work for Pavlovsky, the Kremlin consultant, and now works for Kasparov's United Civil Front, said she is satisfied with the government's approach to the Internet because it forces Putin's allies to respond to criticism rather than simply ignore it.

She also argued that as the Kremlin consolidates political power, it has less incentive to come up with sophisticated online propaganda. "They're not really in need of particular creativity right now," she said.

Faulty Intel Source "Curve Ball" Revealed

60 Minutes: Iraqi's Fabricated Story Of Biological Weapons Aided U.S. Arguments For Invasion

60 Minutes has identified the man whose fabricated story of Iraqi biological weapons drove the U.S. argument for invading Iraq. It has also obtained video of "Curve Ball," as he was known in intelligence circles, and discovered he was not only a liar, but also a thief and a poor student instead of the chemical engineering whiz he claimed to be.

60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon's two-year investigation will be broadcast this Sunday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Curve Ball is an Iraqi defector named Rafid Ahmed Alwan, who arrived at a German refugee center in 1999. To bolster his asylum case and increase his importance, he told officials he was a star chemical engineer who had been in charge of a facility at Djerf al Nadaf that was making mobile biological weapons.

60 Minutes has learned that Alwan’s university records indicate he did study chemical engineering but earned nearly all low marks, mostly 50s. Simon’s investigation also uncovered an arrest warrant for theft from the Babel television production company in Baghdad where he once worked.

Also appearing in Sunday's segment is video that 60 Minutes obtained of Alwan at a Baghdad wedding in 1993 - the first time images of him have ever been made public.

He eventually wound up in the care of German intelligence officials to whom he continued to spin his tale of biological weapons. His plan succeeded partially because he had worked briefly at the plant outside Baghdad and his descriptions of it were mostly accurate. He embellished his account by saying 12 workers had been killed by biological agents in an accident at the plant.

More than a hundred summaries of his debriefings were sent to the CIA, which then became a pillar - along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons - for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq. The CIA-director George Tenet gave Alwan’s information to Secretary of State Colin Powell to use at the U.N. in his speech justifying military action against Iraq.

Tenet gave the information to Powell despite a letter - a copy of which 60 Minutes obtained - addressed to him by the head of German intelligence stating that Alwan appeared to be believable, but there was no evidence to verify his story.

Through a spokesman, Tenet denies ever seeing the letter. "[Tenet] needs to talk to his special assistants if he didn’t see it," says Tyler Drumheller, a former CIA senior official. "I am sure they showed it to him and I am sure ... it wasn’t what they wanted to see," he tells Simon.

Other CIA officials doubted Curve Ball’s authenticity, including former Central Group Chief Margaret Henoch, who speaks publicly for the first time, telling Simon she openly refuted Alwan’s story. "And it was like 'Whack a Mole.' He just popped right back up. It was unbelievable."

Alwan was caught when CIA interrogators were finally allowed to question him and confronted him with evidence that his story could not be as he described it. Weapons inspectors had examined the plant at Djerf al Nadaf before the fall of Baghdad and found no evidence of biological agents.

In the end, however, Alwan got what he wanted. He is believed to be in Germany, free and probably living under an assumed name.

Why did he do it?

"It was a guy trying to get his green card essentially, in Germany, and playing the system for what it was worth," says Drumheller. "It just shows ... the law of unintended consequences," he tells Simon.

A War on Every Screen
A. O. Scott

THERE is a lot in Brian De Palma’s new movie, “Redacted,” that audiences are likely to find shocking and painful to watch. An Iraqi teenager is raped and then killed, along with her family, by American servicemen. An improvised bomb blows one character to pieces, and another soldier is beheaded by insurgents. But the most disturbing images come at the end, after the lightly fictionalized atrocities are over. At that point the film’s fake-documentary conceit gives way to the genuine article as the screen fills with photographs of dead and maimed — and very real — Iraqis.

Even though “Redacted” will not open until Nov. 16, these pictures have already been the subject of intense argument, some of it between Mr. De Palma and Magnolia Pictures, the film’s distributor. Because the eyes and some other facial features of the people in the photographs have been blacked out, Mr. De Palma has complained that his film was itself subjected to redaction, its confrontational impact blunted. Magnolia says the modification of the photographs arose from straightforward legal considerations having to do with the risk of showing the faces of real people without permission.

This explanation hardly settles the aesthetic and ethical questions raised by the intrusion of reality into a cinematic fiction. The sickening, saddening power of the photographs is undeniable. But what beyond that stark, literal reminder of horrors outside the movie theater is their purpose, their relevance? What, in the context of a moviegoer’s expectations and experience, do they mean? These are questions that reverberate far beyond those pictures, and beyond “Redacted.” They can also be addressed to a growing roster of movies that try, in different styles and with varying degrees of success, to bring the conventions of cinematic storytelling into contact with the truth of the war. Not just the conflict in Iraq, but also the larger, more nebulous struggle — War on terror? Clash of civilizations? Response to 9/11? Imperial overreach? — of which it is part.

The season started with “In the Valley of Elah,” a somber thriller about Iraq, and “The Kingdom,” a frenetic thriller about Saudi Arabia. “Rendition,” a drama about the kidnapping and brutal interrogation, under C.I.A. auspices, of an innocent Egyptian-born resident of Chicago, opened Oct. 19. Along with “Redacted” November will bring Robert Redford’s “Lions for Lambs,” in which two soldiers in Afghanistan fight to survive while, stateside, a professor argues with a student about civic engagement, and a senator lectures a journalist on military strategy. And then, in time for the holidays, come “Grace Is Gone” with John Cusack as a military husband who must tell his two daughters that their mother has been killed in Iraq; “The Kite Runner,” based on Khaled Hosseini’s best seller about life under the Taliban in Afghanistan; and “Charlie Wilson’s War,” about American involvement in an earlier phase of that country’s painful history.

This is just a partial list, omitting documentaries and some smaller, independent films. But the upshot is clear: Jihad; torture; suicide bombings; terrible things done by and to American soldiers; official secrets and government lies; the failures and responsibilities of journalists, politicians, law enforcement officials and ordinary citizens in the face of terror — such matters will be hard to avoid in movie theaters between now and Christmas.

Except, of course, that the public may well succeed in avoiding them. Even the most politically engaged among us may pause over the movie listings and ask the question that comes up in those last moments of “Redacted”: Do I really need to see this? And soft box office returns — already the fate of “In the Valley of Elah” and “Rendition” — are likely to help solidify the emerging conventional wisdom that we don’t. Public indifference, in turn, may bolster the ideologically convenient notion that Hollywood is out of touch with the American people, and also the economically convenient idea that people go to the movies to escape the problems of the world rather than to confront them.

All of which may be true, at least partly. According to polls, a majority of the population is unhappy with American foreign policy under the Bush administration, in particular with the war in Iraq. It may be that this opposition finds its truest expression in the wish that the whole thing would just go away, rather than in an appetite for critical films. It may also be that even the most zealous opponents of the president and his policies don’t want to be preached at when they go to the movies.

When filmmakers leave such touchy, serious political issues alone they tend to be scolded for complacency or cowardice. But to describe even a movie as angry and confrontational as “Redacted” as an exercise in finger-wagging or sloganeering is to miss the point. What is notable about this new crop of war movies is not their earnestness or their didacticism — traits many of them undoubtedly display — but rather their determination to embrace confusion, complexity and ambiguity.

“Redacted” itself seems less interested in making a single argument than in staging a series of angry, unpredictable and sometimes incoherent debates between the soldiers. You hear a lot of heated, pointed arguing in “Rendition” and “Lions for Lambs” too. And while it is clearly not the intention of those films to be neutral or evenhanded — “Rendition” is as unmistakably anti-torture as “Lions” is opposed to military adventurism — they try to give a fair hearing to other points of view.

In “Rendition” a high-ranking C.I.A. official played by Meryl Streep lectures a young Senate aide on the strategic necessity and moral defensibility of secret prisons and harsh interrogation methods. Not torture, since, as she says, “the United States does not torture,” an almost verbatim rendition of the real-world administration line. Nor does the steadfast, clear-sighted talk of victory offered by Senator Jasper Irving, Tom Cruise’s character in “Lions for Lambs,” sound terribly exaggerated. His interlocutor, a journalist played by Ms. Streep, must fight to hold on to her professional skepticism, a fight that she is ashamed of having lost when the case for the Iraq war was being made.

Senator Irving, by the way, is a Republican, with pictures of George W. Bush prominently displayed in his office. This may not sound surprising, but in the movies it is something of an anomaly. A visitor from outer space who tried to understand the American system from recent American cinema would learn something about the institutional tensions between, say, the F.B.I. and the State Department or the C.I.A. and the legislative branch, but not necessarily about the two parties whose rivalry is surely among the system’s most salient real-life feature.

The only real politician whose name is mentioned in “Rendition,” for example, is Bill Clinton, under whose watch the practice that gives the movie its title got started. This bit of accurate historical background is followed by the observation that, “after 9/11” the policy of snatching up suspected terrorists and sending them overseas for interrogation intensified. But the leaders who may have been responsible for this shift — did it just happen, like a change in the weather? — are left unnamed, like the North African country where the interrogation takes place.

The vocabulary most of us have acquired over the past six years is heavily edited for entertainment purposes. While there may be an anti-Bush agenda in “Redacted,” “Rendition,” “Lions for Lambs” and “In the Valley of Elah,” the president’s name is barely uttered. Nor are others, like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Gonzales, bin Laden, Hussein and Musharraf.

I’m not suggesting that filmmakers are obligated to lay out a factual bill of particulars. Realism is a loose cloak, not a suit of armor. And facts are what documentaries are for, at least documentaries like Charles Ferguson’s “No End in Sight,” which came out last summer and painstakingly reconstructed the fateful decisions made in Washington and Baghdad in the early months of the American occupation.

There are other stories to tell and other ways to tell them, and Hollywood, in spite of its reputation for liberal bias, does not like to risk alienating potential ticket buyers by taking sides. This fear may be misplaced, since the highest-grossing Iraq-related movie released is also among the most polemical, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.” But it is remarkable that nondocumentary filmmakers consistently draw the boundary between fact and fiction in such a way that the most vexed political event of our time has its political meaning blunted.

Instead the movies supply emotion, sentiment, metaphor and abstraction. Even those bloody Iraqis at the end of “Redacted” function as symbols, since we know nothing about who they were or how they died. In other Iraq movies, including quite a few documentaries, the local population is almost entirely invisible. Films set in other contemporary war zones — Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, wherever “Rendition” is supposed to take place — manage to include more Arab and Muslim characters, but their function tends to be symbolic as well.

And the final image of “In the Valley of Elah” — an American flag flying upside down — is, similarly, both disturbing and vague. It is a sign of danger and distress, and it brings home the grief and confusion that have haunted the film’s main character, a retired army officer played by Tommy Lee Jones whose son has gone AWOL shortly after returning from Iraq.

The grief and confusion are left hanging like that flag, and like the feelings of sorrow, anger and impatience that linger at the end of “Lions for Lambs,” “Redacted” and the others. What is missing in nearly every case is a sense of catharsis or illumination. This is hardly the fault of the filmmakers. Disorientation, ambivalence, a lack of clarity — these are surely part of the collective experience they are trying to examine. How can you bring an individual story to a satisfying conclusion when nobody has any idea what the end of the larger story will look like?

During World War II Hollywood churned out combat pictures and home-front melodramas with the speed and efficiency that characterized so much wartime production. Those movies reflected a consensus that it was also their purpose to promote. The best of them were more than simple propaganda, but they tended to share a sense of clarity and purpose in their narrative structure as well as in their themes. Even before the war was over, its desired outcome — the defeat of the Nazis, the rolling back of the Japanese empire — could be prefigured in microcosm. The resistance fighters would be freed; the bad guys would receive their comeuppance; the strategic spot named in the title (“Objective: Burma,” “Wake Island”) would be captured or heroically defended.

And the Vietnam movies that came after the end of that war could at least rely on a shared knowledge of how the larger story ended, a knowledge that is implicit in the shape of the smaller stories they tell. Their politics range from the wounded liberalism of “Coming Home” and “Platoon” to the wounded conservatism of “The Deer Hunter” and “Rambo,” but they nonetheless agree that the wounds are there, to be healed, avenged or perhaps reopened.

But how do you end a movie about the war in Iraq or about the war on terror? Is it possible to picture victory — concretely, in visual and narrative detail? Is it possible to imagine defeat? To tell the difference? Where will we find the sweet relief or bitter catharsis we expect from movies?

We have been told from the start, by both the administration and its critics, that this will be a long, complicated, episodic fight. And so attempts to make sense of it piecemeal and in medias res, in discrete narratives with beginnings and ends, are likely to feel incomplete and unsatisfying.

The exception, so far, is “The Kingdom,” but not because it offers deeper political insights or greater realism than the other films. On the contrary. It is, without pretense or apology, a genre movie, an action-revenge fantasy in which four tough Americans investigate a crime and collect some payback. They are identified as F.B.I. agents, but really the four are a team of superheroes who take out scores of jihadis and (sorry about the spoiler) return home in triumph. But not quite; at the very end we hear the chief terrorist, as he draws his last breath, promise another round of vengeance. A sequel.

And this may be the lesson that filmmakers need to absorb as they think about how to deal with the current war. It’s not a melodrama or a whodunit or even a lavish epic. It’s a franchise.

Spies Do a Huge Volume of Work in Invisible Ink
Scott Shane

THE splotches of black ink that block out words, sentences and sometimes whole pages of Valerie Plame Wilson’s new memoir, “Fair Game,” pose an irresistible challenge to readers: What did the Central Intelligence Agency not want us to know?

So let’s play Guess the Redaction!

Right in the middle of Page 7, Ms. Wilson describes her first C.I.A. training class: “It looked like I was the [BLACK INK] by far.” Logic, and eyeballing the width of the splotch, tells me the word the vigilant censors have kept from me has got to be “youngest.”

That would make sense, because the agency has used its obliterating markers to remove all proof of Ms. Wilson’s long covert service, including the year she arrived at the agency (1985), and where she was first posted (Greece).

I’m not just guessing about those details. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, has appended an 80-page afterword by a journalist that essentially unredacts the redactions, giving many of the facts that the C.I.A.’s Publications Review Board cut from Ms. Wilson’s text. Unlike Ms. Wilson, the journalist, Laura Rozen, never signed an agreement to have her words vetted by the agency.

Nothing expresses American ambivalence about government secrecy as vividly as the old Washington craft of redaction, the selective removal of passages from once-secret papers or books by spies. It is the bureaucratic equivalent of lingerie, covering the very parts you most want to see.

In every nook of the national security agencies, redactors labor anonymously. The federal Information Security Oversight Office says 460 million pages of previously classified records have been made public since 1996, usually after a markup by the overworked gnomes of declassification.

The redactors sometimes slip. Before the days of e-mail, it was occasionally possible to make out imperfectly deleted passages of a document by holding it up to a light. More recently, journalists receiving electronic documents have been thrilled to learn that a mere mouse-click can restore some redactions, as one researcher, Russ Kick of TheMemoryHole.org, discovered with a Justice Department diversity report in 2003.

In 2005, with such mishaps in mind, the National Security Agency published a handy 14-page guide: “Redacting With Confidence: How to Safely Publish Sanitized Reports.”

Such sanitizing is so subjective that a document rarely is redacted the same way twice. The National Security Archive at George Washington University, a prolific requester of declassified documents, has sometimes managed to obtain a complete page by requesting it from two agencies. The first redactor decides the top half of the page is too dangerous for release; the second redactor decides to delete the bottom half. It all becomes public.

“There’s no shortage of absurd and even entertaining redactions,” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.

Mr. Aftergood said that publishing a book that shows its deletions dates at least to 1974, when “The C.I.A. and the Cult of Intelligence” by Victor L. Marchetti and John D. Marks appeared with 168 redactions on view.

More recently, Gary Berntsen showed readers the deletions from his book, “Jawbreaker,” about his role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2001. First, however, he sued the agency over its editing, recounting in court papers that when he first told Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, then the C.I.A.’s executive director, of his book plans, Mr. Foggo objected. “We will have no more books,” Mr. Foggo told him, according to Mr. Berntsen’s lawsuit. “I will redact the [expletive] out of your book so no one wants to read it.”

Aggrieved spy-authors are not the only critics of the redactors’ heavy hand. Senator Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican who is usually friendly toward the spy agency, grumbled publicly about its editing of the 2004 Senate report on pre-Iraq-war intelligence.

“If the agency were classifying basically an elementary book and the book had, ‘See Spot run,’ it would redact ‘Spot,’ ” Mr. Roberts said.

But why would the C.I.A. cut out of Ms. Wilson’s “Fair Game” that she joined the agency in 1985, a fact noted in the Congressional Record? Was the “Alice in Wonderland” approach, as Ms. Wilson describes it, an act of vengeance or merely of incompetence?

Neither, the agency’s deputy director, Stephen R. Kappes explained in a 34-page court filing that lays out the C.I.A.’s view. Harm to intelligence sources by a disclosure in the media is compounded if the agency, in effect, confirms it, he wrote. The agency, after all, sought a criminal investigation of the leak of Ms. Wilson’s covert C.I.A. employment, reflecting its concern about her overseas agents.

“Intelligence sources would note that the C.I.A. was willing to confirm publicly a clandestine human intelligence source’s involvement with the C.I.A.,” Mr. Kappes wrote. Agents, or future potential agents, “could decide that the risks are too great to cooperate with the C.I.A.”

In 1947 the U.S. Called Waterboarding a War Crime, Sentenced Enemy Officer to 15 Years Hard Labor

Mukasey won’t say it’s torture
Jon Ponder

Immoral Relativism: George Bush’s nomination of Michael Mukasey for U.S. attorney general — once thought to be smooth sailing — is experiencing a bit of turbulence. The problem is, Mukasey can’t bring himself to say whether or not waterboarding is torture:

“I don’t know what’s involved in the techniques. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.”
– Mukasey

During his confirmation hearings earlier this month, Mukasey said he believes torture violates the Constitution, but he refused to be pinned down on whether he believes specific interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, are constitutional.

“I don’t know what’s involved in the techniques. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional,” he said.

But after World War II, the United States government was quite clear about the fact that waterboarding was torture, at least when it was done to U.S. citizens:

[In] 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk.

“Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor,” Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) told his colleagues last Thursday during the debate on military commissions legislation. “We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II,” he sai

Mukasey’s non-answer has raised doubts among Democrats, and even some Republicans, on the Senate Judiciary Committee:

[The] Democrats on the committee signed a joint letter to Mukasey, making sure that he knew what’s involved, and demanded an answer to the question as to whether waterboarding is torture.

Then two days later, the doubts grew louder. Two key Democrats, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT ) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) both said publicly that their votes depended on Mukasey’s answer to the waterboarding question.

Then it was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who saw an opening after Rudy Giuliani refused to call waterboarding torture (”It depends on who does it.”). Most certainly it’s torture, McCain said. When pressed, he stopped short of saying that he would oppose Mukasey’s nomination if he didn’t say the same, but he added to the chorus of those who professed to be interested in what Mukasey’s answer to follow-up questions will be.

Yesterday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said that if Mukasey “does not believe that waterboarding is illegal, then that would really put doubts in my own mind.”

Rep. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has also thrown in his lot of doubts and concerns.

Of course, if the past is a guide, Mukasey will easily win nomination, and nearly all these senators who have expressed concern will vote for him.

Waterboarding has become an isssue because the Bush White House signed off on it as an interrogation technique — and thus moved the United States into the company of pariah states that permit torture — after the 9/11 attacks.

Nominee’s Stand May Avoid Tangle of Torture Cases
Scott Shane

In adamantly refusing to declare waterboarding illegal, Michael B. Mukasey, the nominee for attorney general, is steering clear of a potential legal quagmire for the Bush administration: criminal prosecution or lawsuits against Central Intelligence Agency officers who used the harsh interrogation practice and those who authorized it, legal experts said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, scheduled a confirmation vote for Tuesday amid deep uncertainty about the outcome at the committee level. If Mr. Mukasey’s nomination reaches the Senate floor, moderate Democrats appear likely to join Republicans to produce a majority for confirmation. But a party-line vote in the Judiciary Committee, which seemed a possibility, could block the nomination from reaching the floor.

The biggest problem for Mr. Mukasey remains his refusal to take a clear legal position on the interrogation technique. Fear of opening the door to criminal or civil liability for torture or abuse, whether in an American court or in courts overseas, appeared to loom large in Mr. Mukasey’s calculations as he parried questions from the committee this week. Some legal experts suggested that liability could go all the way to President Bush if he explicitly authorized waterboarding.

Waterboarding is a centuries-old interrogation method in which a prisoner’s face is covered with cloth and then doused with water to create a feeling of suffocation. It was used in 2002 and 2003 by C.I.A. officers questioning at least three high-level terrorism suspects, government officials say.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the committee’s top Republican, said at a hearing Wednesday that any statement by Mr. Mukasey that waterboarding is torture could fuel criminal charges or lawsuits against those responsible for waterboarding.

“The facts are that an expression of an opinion by Judge Mukasey prior to becoming attorney general would put a lot of people at risk for what has happened,” Mr. Specter said.

Mr. Specter, who said he was briefed on the interrogation issue this week by the C.I.A. director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, noted that human rights groups had filed a criminal complaint on torture against Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, while he was visiting France this month. Such cases, based on the legal concept of “universal jurisdiction” for torture and certain other crimes, have proliferated in recent years, though they have often posed more of an aggravation than a serious threat.

Jack L. Goldsmith, who served in the Justice Department in 2003 and 2004, wrote in his recent memoir, “The Terror Presidency,” that the possibility of future prosecution for aggressive actions against terrorism was a constant worry inside the Bush administration.

“I witnessed top officials and bureaucrats in the White House and throughout the administration openly worrying that investigators, acting with the benefit of hindsight in a different political environment, would impose criminal penalties on heat-of-battle judgment calls,” Mr. Goldsmith wrote.

Scott L. Silliman, an expert on national security law at Duke University School of Law, said any statement by Mr. Mukasey that waterboarding was illegal torture “would open up Pandora’s box,” even in the United States. Such a statement from an attorney general would override existing Justice Department legal opinions and create intense pressure from human rights groups to open a criminal investigation of interrogation practices, Mr. Silliman said.

“You would ask not just who carried it out, but who specifically approved it,” said Mr. Silliman, director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke. “Theoretically, it could go all the way up to the president of the United States; that’s why he’ll never say it’s torture,” Mr. Silliman said of Mr. Mukasey.

Robert M. Chesney, of Wake Forest University School of Law, said Mr. Mukasey’s statements could influence the climate in which prosecution decisions are made.

“There is a culture of concern about where Monday-morning quarterbacking could lead to,” Mr. Chesney said. If Mr. Mukasey declared waterboarding illegal, “it would make it politically more possible to go after interrogators in the future,” he said. “Whether it would change the legal equities is far less clear.”

Mr. Chesney and other specialists emphasized that prosecution in the United States, even under a future administration, would face huge hurdles because Congress since 2005 has adopted laws offering legal protections to interrogators for actions taken with government authorization. Justice Department legal opinions are believed to have approved waterboarding, among other harsh methods.

Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said Mr. Mukasey “is hedging in the interest of protecting current and former administration officials from possible prosecution,” either in other countries or by a future American administration. “What he should be doing is providing a straightforward interpretation of the law,” she said.

Mr. Mukasey, 66, a retired federal judge from New York, referred to the criminal liability issue several times in nearly 180 pages of written answers delivered to the Senate on Tuesday. He said that while he personally found waterboarding and similar interrogation methods “repugnant,” he could not call them illegal. One reason, he said, was to avoid any implication that intelligence officers and their bosses had broken the law.

“I would not want any uninformed statement of mine made during a confirmation process to present our own professional interrogators in the field, who must perform their duty under the most stressful conditions, or those charged with reviewing their conduct,” Mr. Mukasey wrote, “with a perceived threat that any conduct of theirs, past or present, that was based on authorizations supported by the Department of Justice could place them in personal legal jeopardy.”

If the judiciary committee were to split along party lines, the deciding vote could go to Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who first suggested Mr. Mukasey to succeed Alberto R. Gonzales.

That would leave Mr. Schumer, ordinarily an enthusiastic partisan combatant, with a difficult decision: whether to break with his fellow Democrats and save Mr. Mukasey’s nomination or to vote to kill the nomination of a man he has highly praised.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schumer was uncharacteristically reluctant to discuss his views. He avoided television crews waiting outside an unrelated press conference and refused to answer questions about the judge’s letter on waterboarding.

“I’m not going to comment on Judge Mukasey here,” he said. “I’m reading the letter, I’m going over it.”

Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, said Democrats were “playing politics” with the waterboarding issue, noting that Mr. Mukasey had not been briefed on classified interrogation methods. “I can’t imagine the Democrats would want to hold back his nomination just because he is a thoughtful, careful thinker who looks at all the facts before he makes a judgment,” Ms. Perino said.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, offered a fierce defense of Mr. Mukasey, who he said had spent “40 days in the partisan wilderness,” on the Senate floor. “What kind of crazy, topsy-turvy confirmation process is this?” Mr. Hatch asked.

But Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, declared on the floor that he would vote against confirming Mr. Mukasey, whom he called a good man and a brilliant lawyer, because of the torture question. “I don’t think anyone intended this nomination to turn on this issue,” Mr. Whitehouse said.

Three Republicans who have denounced waterboarding wrote to Mr. Mukasey on Wednesday, suggesting that they would support him but urging him to declare waterboarding illegal after he is confirmed.

The senators, John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said anyone who engaged in waterboarding “puts himself at risk of prosecution, including under the War Crimes Act, and opens himself to civil liability as well.”

Carl Hulse and Steven Lee Myers contributed reporting.

Rumor mill

Rumsfeld Said to Have Fled France to Avoid Torture Arrest
Jon Ponder

On Friday, while former Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld was visiting France, human rights groups based there and in the United States filed complaints against him, charging him with approving torture:

Rumsfeld is accused of authorizing torture at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

The French complaint accuses Mr. Rumsfeld of authorizing torture at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and says it violated the Convention Against Torture, which came into force in 1987.

As part of their complaint, the groups submitted 11 pages of written testimony from Janis Karpinski, the highest-ranking officer to be punished in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. She was demoted to colonel from brigadier general and lost command of her military police unit. She contended that the abuses at the prison had started after the appearance of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was sent by Mr. Rumsfeld to assist military intelligence interrogators.

French prosecutors were said to have the power to pursue the case while Rumsfeld was in the country.

One source cites unconfirmed reports that Rumsfeld was abruptly whisked away from a breakfast meeting on Friday in order to avoid his arrest:

U.S. embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint against the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” for six years.

Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.

The report said Rumsfeld fled to Germany because similar charges were dismissed against him there in the spring.The German court ruled that Rumsfeld’s criminality was an internal matter for the United States.

At Busy Airports, Only Laptops Go Through Security Screening Quickly

Long lines of passengers have an effect on the speed with which airport security screeners do certain aspects of their jobs, according to a study by researchers in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University at Buffalo.

The study's findings demonstrate empirically for the first time that security screeners do speed up when lines are long, but only when inspecting laptop computers.

While the effect of long lines seems to be small, the researchers say, the fact that it exists at all has potential relevance for queues in all kinds of other settings, too, from supermarket cashiers to tollbooths and border crossings.

The UB study found that the security screeners did not change their behavior regardless of how long the lines were when inspecting carry-on bags or plastic bins for overcoats, keys and other accessories.

UB researchers made more than 40 separate trips to a mid-sized airport, studying the correlations between how long lines were and how long servers took to inspect each type of item.

The research was presented earlier this month at the 51st annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in Baltimore. It also is in press with OR Insight journal.

"If you're going to have a speed-up anywhere, it's probably safest to have it with laptops because that's a more difficult item to hide something in," said Rajan Batta, Ph.D., professor of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and a co-author on the paper.

"We didn't see a speedup with carry-on bags when the lines were long, so that's reassuring," he said.

The researchers, an interdisciplinary group of industrial engineers, were interested in finding out if there is a "speed-accuracy tradeoff" in security screening when lines are long.

"We conjecture that the screeners are more comfortable speeding up inspections of laptops because that's an item they're well-trained to inspect and because laptops are more uniform, as opposed to carry-on bags, where there are many more variations," said Batta.

The UB researchers say that the study has implications for a subfield of industrial engineering called queuing theory, which, until now, has not looked specifically at how servers may change their behavior when lines of customers get very long.

"In more than four decades of mathematical and modeling research on queuing, there has been a general assumption that service time is a random function with known properties and that no matter how long the queue is, service time doesn't change," said Colin G. Drury, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor emeritus in the UB Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Drury, an expert on the speed-accuracy tradeoff, has focused his career on human factors, such as ergonomics, fatigue and training, especially in the aviation industry.

Historically, segments of the service industry have developed policies about how long their customers can be made to wait in lines based on data that come primarily from mathematical models.

The UB study is one of the first to examine the question in a real-world setting.

"These findings will be reassuring to the Transportation Security Administration, because the speedup we detected will not have a drastic effect on security," said Drury.

But, the UB researchers say, the findings have implications that go far beyond the security screening queues at airports.

"We think this study will open up a new set of theories on queuing, because if service time does change with queue length, then we're going to have to rewrite the models," said Drury.

He said that in some situations where it is critical that servers not speed up when lines are long, it may be desirable to hide or conceal the length of the line from servers, while in other situations companies may want servers to be able to be fully cognizant of the length of queues.

Comprised of experts in operations research, model simulations and human factors, the UB research team takes a far more comprehensive look at queuing than have previous studies.

In related work, the UB researchers have been able to predict the amount of time passengers will typically spend waiting in airline security queues.

In addition to Drury and Batta, the research was co-authored by Li Lin, Ph.D., professor, and Clara V. Marin, doctoral candidate, both in the UB Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Bob Schieffer Slams FEMA For Phony Press Conference
Logan Murphy

Following FEMA’s fake presser, Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer lambasted the agency for their hackery and suggests they do the right thing by firing those responsible for deceiving the American people and try doing their job if they want to improve their reputation.

Schieffer: “…Fire these people and the people who hired them, then explain to the new people that the best way for a disaster relief agency to get good publicity is to do a good job helping victims. As part of a massive new PR campaign, you might even consider taking the PR staff from behind their desks and sending them out to deliver food and water to fire victims. Now that would make a great start.”

UPDATE: From Think Progress -

On Tuesday, while “wildfires raged” in California, FEMA staged a live press conference at which agency staffers posed as journalists and asked softball questions. One of those staffers, Director of External Affairs John “Pat” Philbin, has now resigned. He has instead landed an “amazing opportunity” to head public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Wow….really, just wow…

FEMA Director Lashes Staff for Fake News Conference

In an internal memo obtained Monday by CNN, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief David Paulison rips the agency's public affairs staff for a staged news conference in which staff members posed questions to FEMA's No. 2 official, Harvey Johnson.

Paulison said the entire episode "represented egregious decision-making" by the director of external affairs for FEMA, Pat Philbin, and his staff, who, he said, "lost perspective of the core imperative that they preserve the credibility of our agency."

Philbin was scheduled to become director of public affairs for the director of national intelligence -- a job National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell said Philbin will not be doing.

It was not immediately clear whether Philbin offered his resignation or was fired just as he was set to begin the job.

"Their actions represented a breach of ethical practice that tore at the credibility of FEMA, the deputy administrator and that of their own office," Paulison wrote in his memo. "I do not condone their actions, no matter how well-intended, and have conveyed my displeasure directly through formal reprimand and admonishment to those involved."

Watch what happened at FEMA's fake news conference.

Paulison said reporters were given only 15 minutes notice for the news conference, held last Tuesday after the agency received a number of media queries about its response to the California wildfires. When reporters did not show up on time, staffers asked the questions -- and reporters, who had been given a phone number to call in to the conference, could only listen.

"Inadequate notice is not acceptable," Paulison said in his memo, and setting up a "listen only" conference call for reporters was "inappropriate."

"Under no circumstances is it appropriate for FEMA employees to pose questions during a FEMA press event," he wrote.

He added, "I am extremely displeased by what transpired and will make the necessary changes in order to regain confidence and credibility in the eyes of the people we serve."

In a telephone call to CNN earlier Monday, Paulison said Philbin sent him an e-mail in which he took full responsibility for the incident.

Paulison said the events were "not acceptable," adding that not allowing reporters on the telephone to ask questions was "ridiculous."

"I am calling to apologize and say it will not happen again," he said.

He said "the rules are changing" to prevent any recurrence. Reporters will now be given at least an hour's warning before a press conference and reporters calling in will be able to ask questions in the future, he said.

FEMA got generally high marks for its response to the California wildfires, but Paulison said he was sure the press conference flap has had a bad effect on morale.

"The last two years of planning for a major disaster fell in place. ... Things were working as they were supposed to ... and that just killed everything you tried to have happen," he said.

Johnson, a retired admiral who fielded the staged questions at the news conference, "really didn't have an awareness" of what was taking place, Paulison said. He said Johnson was not familiar with all the people working in the press office and did not recognize that they were the ones asking questions.

"He just feels sick about it," said Paulison. "He feels his credibility has been hurt."

However, reporters noted that Johnson called on at least one person by name.

Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, will be moving over to the FEMA press operation temporarily to complete an investigation into the news conference incident and find a replacement for Philbin.

White House Edits ABC News Then Takes it Back
Jonathan Karl

The White House has selectively edited a report on Iraq, taking out negative information and distorting the report's meaning.

This isn't about intelligence or weapons of mass destruction. It's my report on Thursday's evening on World News with Charles Gibson.


The report noted "violence in Iraq is down and down considerably" in virtually every category, but my report also noted that "there has been almost no political progress on the national level" and that "U.S. officials know military gains won't mean much if the Iraqi government doesn't get its act together."

The White House sent out an edited version of my report in an official White House publication called "White House Iraq Update."

Iraq Update is put together by the National Security Council and distributed by the White House via email to government officials, Congressional staffers, radio & television talk show hosts, journalists and foreign policy experts.

As edited by the White House, my report looked like an unqualified declaration of success in Iraq. The White House e-mail publication is headlined: "In Case You Missed It: "Violence Is Down in Iraq and Down Considerably."

Here's is what it included from my report:

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: "At the Pentagon today, military officials gave one of the most upbeat assessments of the security situation in Iraq that we have heard since the opening months of the war. Jonathan Karl is at the Pentagon tonight. Jon?"

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: "Charlie, nobody over here is anywhere near ready to declare victory. But the military statistics tell an unmistakable story. Violence in Iraq is down. And down considerably.

"Baghdad's marketplaces are slowly coming back to life, as violent attacks in Iraq have fallen to less than half of what they were a year ago. Until recently, the trends had been deadly and consistent, violence steadily increasing to an all-time high in June. Since then, however, attacks have fallen four straight months -- in every category."

LT. GEN. RAY ODIERNO: "What I'm confident about, is the progress we're making I think is real."

KARL: "Roadside bombs fell in October to an average of 20 a day. Still high, but the lowest level since October 2004. Iraqi civilian deaths have fallen to a third of where they were a year ago. And after the deadliest summer ever for US forces in Iraq, US combat deaths fell to 29 last month, the lowest level in more than 3 years."

MICHAEL O'HANLON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: "The fact that we're seeing a durable trend over half a year time period tells us something real is going on. It doesn't mean, however, that it's guaranteed to last. …"

Here is what the White House left out:

O'HANLON: ... and it doesn't answer the questions about political progress.

KARL: In fact, there's been almost no political progress on the national level, and U.S. officials know military gains won't mean much if the Iraqi government doesn't get its act together, which is one reason the Pentagon doesn't even want to use the word "winning."

[To Defense Secretary] You're not ready to say we're winning, that the surge is working --

ROBERT GATES [Defense Secretary]: (From tape.) I think – I think that those end up being loaded words. I think we have been very successful. We need to continue being successful.

KARL: Today, Defense Secretary Gates said that the reduction in violence would not have been possible without the surge of 30,000 additional troops into Iraq, but, Charlie, those troops are going home in the coming months, raising the question of whether the violence will go up when they leave.

GIBSON: Jonathan Karl tonight reporting from the Pentagon, thanks.

After ABC News expressed concern about the selective editing of the report, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe acknowledged it was inappropriate and agreed to sent out the full text of the ABC report.

"The White House understands your concern and the full text of your report will be released to the same distribution list so that recipients have a chance to see what the entire report was about."

Human Rights Tribunal Orders Calgary Woman to Stop Spreading Hate on Internet

A Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a Calgary woman to stop posting hate messages against minority groups on a U.S.-based white supremacist website.

The commission has fined Jessica Beaumont $1,500 for posting messages that hold Jews, gays, lesbians, Chinese, blacks, aboriginals and other non-whites to hatred or contempt.

It also ordered Beaumont, 21, who once lived in British Columbia, to pay $3,000 in special compensation to a man that she posted hate messages about.

In a judgment released Friday, the tribunal said Beaumont admitted posting more than 1,000 messages on the website under the pseudonym "Jessy Destruction."

Richard Warman filed the complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

The tribunal said Warman has also filed a criminal complaint with the British Columbia Hate Crime Team but no criminal charges have been laid.

Scientists Draw on New Technology to Improve Password Protection

An inventive way of improving password security for handheld devices such as iPhones, Blackberry and Smartphone has been developed at Newcastle University.

The software, which uses pictures instead of letters and numbers, has been initially designed for handheld devices, but could soon be expanded to other areas.

Those who took part in testing this system created passwords that were a thousand times more secure than ordinary textual passwords. Most testers also found them easy to remember.

Researchers now want to examine the system’s potential for helping people with language difficulties, such as dyslexia.

Today, the use of passwords is commonplace in everything from mobile phones to cash machines and computers. But in the wake of growing concerns about traditional ‘weak’ passwords created from words and numbers, Newcastle University computer scientists have been developing alternative software which lets the user draw a picture password, known as a ‘graphical password’.

“Many people find it difficult to remember a password so choose words that are easy to remember and therefore more susceptible to hackers,” explained computer scientist Jeff Yan, a lecturer at Newcastle University.

Along with his PhD student Paul Dunphy, Dr Yan has taken the emerging Draw a Secret (DAS) technology, a graphical password scheme where users draw their secret password as a free-form image on a grid, and taken this a step further.

In DAS, the user draws an image, which is then encoded as an ordered sequence of cells. The software recalls the strokes, along with the number of times the pen is lifted.

By superimposing a background over the blank DAS grid, the Newcastle University researchers have created a system called BDAS: Background Draw a Secret. This helps users remember where they began the drawing they are using as a password and also leads to graphical passwords that are less predictable, longer and more complex.

The BDAS software encouraged people to draw more complicated password images e.g. with a larger stroke count or length, that were less symmetrical and didn’t start in the centre. This makes them much harder for people or automated hacker programs to guess. 'In essence, this is a very simple idea as it’s intuitive,” said Mr Yan. 'It may take longer to create the password initially but it’s easier to remember and more secure as a result.'

For example, if a person chooses a flower background and then draws a butterfly as their secret password image onto it, they have to remember where they began on the grid and the order of their pen strokes. It is recognised as identical if the encoding is the same, not the drawing itself, which allows for some margin of error as the drawing does not have to be re-created exactly.

'Most of us have forgotten a pin number or a password at least once, which is why we tend to make them so easy to guess,” said Mr Yan. “However, the human mind has a much greater capacity for remembering images, and it’s certainly true that a picture is worth a thousand words in this instance.'

People who took part in the Newcastle University study, which compared DAS and BDAS use, had to choose their own background from a selection of five images – stars, map detail, playing card, crowd and flower.

After creating their secret password images on the grid, they were asked to repeat what they had initially drawn. One week later, they were asked to re-create the same image and 95% BDAS users were able to do so within three attempts.

'The recalled BDAS passwords were, on average, more complicated than their DAS counterparts by more than 10 bits,' said Dr Yan. 'This means that the memorable BDAS passwords improved security by a factor of more than 1024. They were also more secure than current textual passwords by an even larger factor.'

He added that, of those who attempted to draw something, the creations were very much dependent on the participants’ artistic ability. 'Most people drew simple everyday objects such as cars, cups and houses, although one participant did write their name in Persian script,' said Mr Yan.

Mr Yan will be presenting these findings in the opening lecture at Association for Computing Machinery Conference (ACM)’s flagship conference on Computer and Communications Security in Washington next week. He received a £66,000 grant from Microsoft Research (MSR) to support his research into designing novel systems that are both secure and usable.

The MSR grant will also enable Mr Yan to carry out further research into how easily the BDAS system can be used by people who traditionally have difficulty with textual systems, such as those with dyslexia.

'The most exciting feature is that a simple enhancement simultaneously provides significantly enhanced usability and security,' concluded Mr Yan.

Report: U.S. Tops List Of Spam-Offending Countries
Marcus Browne

The U.S. remains the world's biggest spammer, according to security firm Sophos, which on Friday released its quarterly report on the world's top spam-offending countries--dubbed the "Dirty Dozen."

The U.S. came in well ahead of its rivals, according to the report, being responsible for 28.4 percent of all spam. South Korea was second (5.2 percent), followed by China (4.9 percent), Russia (4.4 percent) and Brazil (3.7 percent).

"It seems as though a major American spammer is arrested every other week at the moment but, despite these high-profile law-breakers being put away, the U.S. continues to relay far more spam than any other nation on the planet," Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos, said in a statement.

"This level of activity can't be attributed solely to the slick operations of a few cash-hungry criminals. The problem is there are thousands of spammers using many thousands of compromised zombie computers in the U.S.," Theriault said.

The report also identified a growth in spam that contains malicious software, and the virtually overnight rise and fall of PDF spamming.

"The only way we're going to reduce the problem is if U.S. authorities invest a lot more in educating computer users of the dangers, while ensuring ISPs step up their monitoring efforts to identify these compromised machines as early as possible," added Theriault.

Marcus Browne of ZDNet Australia reported from Sydney.

Bogus FTC E-Mail has Virus

The Federal Trade Commission, which has declared war on Internet scams, warned consumers on Monday not to open a bogus e-mail that appears to come from its fraud department because it carries an attachment that can download a virus.

The e-mail says it is from "frauddep@ftc.gov" and has the FTC's government seal.

But it was not issued by the agency and has attachments and links that will download a virus that could steal passwords and account numbers, the agency said.

"It's a treasure trove for identity theft," said David Torok of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "We're concerned. The virus that's attached to the e-mail is particularly virulent."

The agency, which is one of several government agencies investigating cyber fraud, did not know how many people had received the e-mail.

"We've received hundreds if not thousands of calls and complaints, this one may have had a large distribution," he said.

Recipients should forward the e-mail to spam@uce.gov, an FTC spam database used in investigations.

Nine percent of people surveyed in a poll conducted in August and September reported having had their identities stolen, Bari Abdul, a vice president at security software maker McAfee, said at a cybersecurity conference on October 1.

Report: PDF Files Used to Attack Computers

E-mails containing malicious PDF files have been putting computers at risk since Friday, Finnish security software firm F-Secure said on Saturday.

"The e-mails sent in bulk looked like credit card statements, and contained an attachment called 'report.pdf'," its Chief Research Officer Mikko Hypponen said in a statement.

When such PDF files are viewed on vulnerable machines, they start downloading software from servers in Malaysia or Sweden, which are now being cleaned, he said. "There will be more such attacks."

"We are worried about this case, as PDF attachments are typically not filtered at e-mail gateways."

A security update for Adobe Acrobat Reader, which opens PDF files, was made available a few days ago, but many users have not updated the program yet, Hypponen said.

Trojan Targets Mac Users
Dan Kaplan

Apple users, your days of worry-free web surfing could be numbered. A Mac internet security and privacy software maker has discovered what is believed to be the first professionally crafted in-the-wild malware targeting the Mac operating system.

The trojan, a DNS changer that can be used to hijack search results and divert traffic to the hacker's website of choosing, has been spotted on numerous pornography sites, according to Intego. Attackers have attempted to navigate users to the malicious sites through comment spam posted to Mac forums. The trojan masks itself as a QuickTime plug-in.

Security experts said the discovery is proof that cybercriminals are beginning to consider the Mac a financially viable vector for attack. Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, said hackers likely were spurred on by the release of the iPhone and iPod Touch, which generated millions of new Mac OS X users.

"The economic motivation for the Mac has reached the tipping point," he told SCMagazineUS.com today. "The Mac is emerging as a more widespread platform in general. I think Mac users need to get off their complacency about Macs being safe."

According to Intego, the trojan masks itself as a link to download a new version of codec, which claims to allow victims to view porn movies. If users try to download the codec, a page loads and if the they checked "Open safe files after downloading" in Safari's general preferences setting, the "install" function will launch and the trojan can be downloaded.

Once running, the trojan will change Mac's DNS server settings to allow attackers to hijack web requests and attempt to lead users to phishing sites for popular destinations such as eBay and PayPal, according to Intego.

None of 31 anti-virus engines analyzed by Virustotal detected the malware, Eckelberry said on his blog.

He told SCMagazineUS.com that similar threats are on the horizon.

"It is the start of something," Eckelberry said.

Last year a proof-of-concept virus appeared that spreads via the iChat instant messaging system.

An Apple spokeswoman did not return a call for comment.

Apple OS X 10.5 (Leopard)
Edward Mendelson

After three intense days with Apple's Mac OS X Leopard Version 10.5, I have three main things to say about it. First: despite minor problems, it's by far the best operating system ever written for the vast majority of consumers, with dozens of new features that have real practical value—like truly automated backups, preview images in folders, and notes and to-do lists integrated into the mail program. Propeller-heads with IT know-how will no doubt hold up Linux as the better choice, and Vista has its devotees as well(and will probably have more when SP1 is widely available), but, for the average user, Leopard is the most polished and easiest to use OS I've tested. Second: Leopard still has a generous share of first-version glitches, some of which are merely annoying, and others of which can cause serious problems for anyone upgrading an existing system. Finally, Leopard is extravagantly overdressed for the jobs that it's designed to do. Don't get me wrong, I really like it but the pervasive eye-candy starts out looking dazzling can become distracting.


Vista Sales Slow Despite Record MS Profit

The sales rate of Microsoft's Windows Vista is gradually slowing down as the operating system reaches the one-year anniversary of its release to businesses, according to the company's latest financial results. The Redmond, Washington-based company shipped approximately 28 million copies of Vista in the latest quarter ended September, or 9.3 million copies per month. Though the Windows developer pointed to 27 percent growth in business licenses and noted that many home users were buying the more lucrative Vista Home Premium or Ultimate editions, the rate represents a decline from the 10 million per month reported early in summer. Shipments of the OS peaked in the first three months after its January release, when the company sold an average of 20 million copies per month thanks to a wave of early adopters and users waiting for Vista to replace older systems. Over 88 million copies of Vista have been shipped to date, Microsoft says.

Microsoft for now does not appear to express worry about the decline. Overall customer demand "continued to build" during the quarter ended September, claims company Platform and Services head Kevin Johnson.

The slowdown marks a relatively lukewarm result in a positive quarter for the company, which saw its profit climb 23 percent year-over-year to $4.29 billion. Shipments of Office grew by 20 percent from the same period in 2006, while the company's Entertainment division -- responsible for the Xbox 360 and the Zune -- saw some of the best growth in any one aspect of the company, turning from a loss in summer 2006 to a $165 million profit in 2007. Much of this was attributed to the $330 million in software sales from Halo 3 during its first few days on sale and a linked jump in console sales.

Advertising was Microsoft's primary sore point in the quarter, posting a $264 million loss due largely to the expensive purchase of ad firm aQuantive and similar investments.

Forecasts by the company did not specifically name Windows but painted an optimistic picture for the year's overall results by raising the guidance for investors. The company's Entertainment branch was not expected to be a part of this, however, as sales were predicted to either remain flat or drop by as much as 8 percent as the publicity for Halo 3 died down. Although the division plans to launch new Zunes in mid-November, their sales are not expected to be strong enough to curb a downward trend.

Tiny Chips Flash Memory Advance

Electronics giant Samsung has shown off what it claims is the world's most powerful chip for use in memory cards.

The 64 gigabit (Gb) chips could be used to make 128 gigabyte memory cards, commonly used in MP3 players, capable of holding the equivalent of 80 DVDs.

The chips are built using circuits with a minimum feature size of just 30 billionths of a metre (nanometre).

Rival firm Toshiba has said it is also working with similar technology. Both firms will release products in 2009.

Flash advance

Flash memory is a so-called non-volatile computer memory, primarily used in memory cards, USB drives and MP3 players.

Non-volatile memory retains information even when there is no power to the device.

Samsung said there was currently "exploding demand" for flash memory as a storage medium in a range of applications.

The new chips are designed to be used in a specific type of memory known as NAND flash.

NAND is one of two types of flash memory and offers higher storage and faster speeds than the cheaper NOR flash.

NOR is commonly used in low-end applications where smaller memory capacity and slower speeds are acceptable, such as in cheaper mobile phone handsets.

Samsung has said that a single chip could be used in an MP3 player capable of holding 18,000 songs.

Combining 16 chips would allow 128GB devices, the company said, making Flash a rival to hard drives.

"This has the biggest storage capacity of a single memory chip ever developed in the world," Kwon Hyosun of the firm told AFP.

Toshiba announced its plans to use 30nm technology earlier this month.

"Our goal is to gain an edge over rivals by supplying the most advanced chips before anyone else," a spokeswoman for Toshiba said at the time.

Terabyte Thumb Drives Made Possible by Nanotech Memory
Alexis Madrigal

Researchers have developed a low-cost, low-power computer memory that could put terabyte-sized thumb drives in consumers' pockets within a few years.

Thanks to a new technique for manipulating charged copper particles at the molecular scale, researchers at Arizona State University say their memory is, bit-for-bit, one-tenth the cost of -- and 1,000 times as energy-efficient as -- flash memory, the predominant memory technology in iPhones and other mobile devices.

"A thumb drive using our memory could store a terabyte of information," says Michael Kozicki, director of ASU's Center for Applied Nanoionics, which developed the technology. "All the current limitations in portable electronic storage could go away. You could record video of every event in your life and store it."

The new memory technology -- programmable metallization cell (PMC) -- comes as current storage technologies are starting to reach their physical limits. At the tiny scale envisioned for new devices, flash memory becomes unstable. The physical limits of flash are already being approached, and could be reached in the near future, which could slow product development for portable device makers like Apple and Sandisk.

PMC memory stores information in a fundamentally different way from flash. Instead of storing bits as an electronic charge, the technology creates nanowires from copper atoms the size of a virus to record binary ones and zeros.

In research published in October's IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, Kozicki and his collaborators from the Jülich Research Center in Germany describe how the PMC builds an on-demand copper bridge between two electrodes. When the technology writes a binary 1, it creates a nanowire bridge between two electrodes. When no wire is present, that state is stored as a 0.

The key enabling technology for the memory is nano-ionics, a field that focuses on moving and transforming positively charged atoms. In PMC memory, the charged atoms, or ions, are harnessed by applying a negative charge, which transforms them into copper atoms lined up to form nanowires.

Kozicki says the process is like condensing a crystal from a solution, except that the process is almost infinitely reversible. If the PMC is fed a positive charge, the copper atoms return to their previous free-floating state, and the nanowires disassemble.

Kozicki says the technology can be built from materials commonly used in the memory industry, which should help keep manufacturing costs down.

The memory industry has already taken an interest. Three companies, Micron Technology, Qimonda and Adesto (a stealth-mode startup) have licensed the technology from Arizona State's business spin-off, Axon Technologies.

Kozicki says the first product containing the memory, a simple chip, is slated to come out in 18 months.

Market-research firm iSuppli projects the flash-memory market growing from $20 billion in 2006 to $32 billion in 2011. Mark DeVoss, a senior analyst in flash memory at iSuppli, says a lot of companies are gunning for a share of that $12 billion in growth, but it's hard to handicap the likely winners.

"There's a lot of elegant technologies," DeVoss says. "But you have to be able to scale it down and deliver a low cost-per-bit."

Kozicki's licensees believe the technology will deliver the outsize improvements that could drive the memory mainstream.

"No other technology can deliver the orders-of-magnitude improvement in power, performance and cost that this memory can," says Narbeh Derhacobian, CEO of Adesto, who previously worked at AMD's flash-memory division.

Adesto has received $6 million from Arch Venture Partners and additional funding from Harris & Harris, a venture firm specializing in nanotechnology.

Nanotech Will Replace Disk Drives in 10 Years, Researcher Says
Sharon Gaudin

Nanotechnology will replace magnetic disk drives in iPods, laptops and servers within five to 10 years, making them more durable, lighter and faster.

That's according to Michael Kozicki, a researcher at Arizona State University who is developing ways to store data in nanowires instead of as electrons in cells. He's also researching ways to stack multiple layers of memory on top of a single layer of silicon.

All of this, Kozicki said, would mean dramatic advances in storage, as well as dramatic differences in the way we use our favorite devices.

"Someday you'll store all your music, movies, photos and favorite TV shows on something the size of an iPod. It'll all be right there," said Kozicki. "Nanotechnology will replace all the disk drives in the world. Sure, we could create a terabyte thumb drive, but if you could do that, why would you use magnetic disks that are everywhere from iPods to servers to data farms? If you drop a device, it could wreck the fragile disc drive. Not with this, though."

If device manufacturers can get rid of disk drives, laptops and MP3 players would be significantly more durable, faster and lighter, according to Kozicki. They also would boot up immediately and have much better memory capacity.

"This isn't pie in the sky," he said. "I'm not talking about flying robots delivering breakfast in the morning. This is not that far away. This is exciting to anyone who uses an iPod or a laptop or a server."

And Kozicki noted that he's not the only one looking to use nanotechnology in storage devices.

He pointed out that Micron Technology Inc., Qimonda AG and Adesto Technologies all have licensed such technology from Axon Technologies Corp., an Arizona State spin-off that commercializes its research. Kozicki also said Sony is experimenting with the technology but hasn't yet licensed it for official use.

"It's a tremendously exciting time," he added. "This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of companies working on this. Companies are turning to nanotechnology for the future of memory and storage."

The new technology could also be used to store multiple pieces of information in the same space that used to hold only one piece of data, Kozicki said.

Traditionally, each cell holds one bit of information. However, instead of storing simply a 0 or a 1, that cell could hold a 00 or a 01. Kozicki said the ability to double capacity that way -- without increasing the number of cells -- has already been proven. Now researchers are working to see how many pieces of data can be held by a single cell.

And another piece of the nano-storage puzzle lies in layering memory, he said.

Kozicki explained that today, only one layer of memory can sit on a silicon chip. Using ionized metal that he creates through nanoionics, he's able to stack memory layers -- two, four or maybe more -- on top of each other, and those layers would sit on top of the silicon.

However, Kozicki said he's also working on changing the way we store data now. Traditionally, information has been stored as electrons in cells. He is working on using nanowires to hold the data, using less energy and taking up less space than the capacitors that store the electrons.

"There's some fascinating things here," he added. "And interest in this has been keen."

Just last week, a professor and researcher at the University of Edinburgh School of Engineering and Electronics said he has made important strides in handling nanowires.

Michael Zaiser told Computerworld that he has been studying how tiny wires -- 1,000 times thinner than a human hair -- behave when manipulated. He explained that each miniscule wire tends to behave differently when put under the same amount of pressure. Therefore, it has been impossible to line them up close to each other in tiny microprocessors in a production atmosphere.

Zaiser said he's now figured out how to make the wires behave uniformly. He separates the interior material of the wire into distinct groups so the wire can't react as a whole. That makes it much easier to control. "It's like crowd control," he added. "If they can all go one way, you have a big mess."

Seagate to Repay Customers Over Inaccurate Gigabyte Definition
Brian Fonseca

Seagate Technology LLC has agreed to settle a lawsuit by offering customers who purchased a hard drive from the company during the last six years a cash refund or free backup and recovery software.

Michael Lazar and Sarah Cho, who had purchased Seagate hard drives in the U.S., had filed an initial lawsuit in March 2005, alleging that the storage capacity of the hard drives was 7% less than the vendor promised.

A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 7, 2008, in San Francisco Superior Court to approve the settlement of Cho vs. Seagate Technology (US) Holdings Inc.

Cho alleges that Seagate said its hard drives would produce approximately 7% more usable storage capacity than buyers actually received after purchasing the devices.

Cho alleged that Seagate's use of the decimal definition of the storage capacity term "gigabyte" (GB) whereby 1GB equals 1 billion bytes, was misleading to consumers because computer operating systems instead report hard drive capacity using a binary definition of GB, whereby 1GB equals 1, 073, 741, 824 bytes -- a difference of approximately 7% from Seagate's figures.

In court papers, Seagate said between March 22, 2001, and March 31, 2007, the disk drive maker sold approximately 6.2 million retail hard drives in the U.S.

Once the settlement is approved, anyone who bought a Seagate brand hard disk drive between March 22, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2006, has the right to submit an online claim form for cash or software from Seagate by March 10, 2008, according to court documents.

Money returned by Seagate toward settlement class members will be the equivalent to 5% of the net amount paid for the Seagate hard drives, excluding taxes or rebates, according to court documents.

To qualify for cash payment benefit, the hard drives must have been bought before Jan. 1, 2006, and will require the serial number for each drive or proper documentation. Customers who purchased Seagate hard drives between Jan. 1, 2006, and Sept. 26, 2007, are only eligible submit an online claim for free backup and recovery software.

The Seagate drives must have been purchased in the U.S. from an authorized Seagate retailer or distributor, separately as a Seagate product that was not preinstalled into and bundled with a PC or any other type of electronic device.

A separate claim must be issued for each individual hard drive purchased and will require a documentary proof of purchase, the specified hard drive name and model number, the amount paid, the date of purchase and the name of the merchant.

Although Seagate denies each of the plaintiff's claims and feels that no one deserves compensation for its actions, the Scotts Valley, Calif.-based company ultimately decided to settle the class-action lawsuit in its "best interest," according to court documents. As part of the settlement, Seagate said it will make "certain disclosures" regarding storage capacity of its hard drives.

Researcher: Handheld Supercomputers Only 10-15 Years Away

Recent advances in nanowire technology could be the key to developing tiny processors
Sharon Gaudin

One nanotechnology researcher said supercomputers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand are only 10 or 15 years away.

"If things continue to go the way they have been in the past few decades, then it's 10 years," said Michael Zaiser, a professor and researcher at the University of Edinburgh School of Engineering and Electronics. "The human brain is very good at working on microprocessor problems, so I think we are close -- 10 years, maybe 15."

Zaiser's research into nanowires should help move that timeline along.

For the last five years, he has been studying how tiny wires -- 1,000 times thinner than a human hair -- behave when manipulated. He explained that each such miniscule wire tends to behave differently when put under the same amount of pressure. Therefore, it has been impossible to line them up close to each other in tiny microprocessors in a production atmosphere.

Zaiser said he's now figured out how to make the wires behave uniformly. He separates the interior material of the wire into distinct groups so the wire can't react as a whole. That makes it much easier to control. "It's like crowd control," he added. "If they can all go one way, you have a big mess."

These nanowires will go inside microprocessors that could, in turn, go inside PCs, laptops, monile phones or even supercomputers. And the smaller the wires, the smaller the chip can be.

Shrinking down the microprocessors is a big step toward shrinking down computers.

Zaiser was quick to point out that his nanowire discovery won't immediately lead to the development of supercomputers that can fit in the palm of a hand or even shrink down to the size of a book of matches. In addition to smaller microprocessors, engineers will need to deal with thermal fluctuations that erupt at that size.

But he does humbly admit that taming nanowires is a big step toward the goal of small supercomputers.

"This will enable chips to become much smaller," he said. "Think 10 years back. You could hold [a mobile phone] the size of a telephone receiver and it didn't work so well. Today, you can fit what is a powerful computer onto a small device."

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, said with advances like nanowire technology continuing to come along, Zaiser's predictions for tiny supercomputers may not be so far off. And that will be a huge step for the industry, considering that not so long ago supercomputers filled up enormous rooms or even entire buildings.

"Actually, what he's saying is not crazy," said King. "The wire problem was an important one. Solving that particular issue, one so fundamental, needed to be done. If he can solve that, a lot of people, a lot of companies, will appreciate that. The industry is aligning in a direction where we're going to be seeing continuing improvements and developments."

Jim McGregor, an analyst at In-Stat, said he definitely can see palm-size supercomputers coming out within 10 to 15 years, but he thinks they'll be based on the basic silicon technology used today. He added that the next generation of tiny supercomputers -- made with carbon nanotubes and nanowires -- may be as far off as another 30 to 40 years, though.

"You know, everybody says we'll get to a physical limit but every time we think we're going to hit it, we overcome it," said McGregor. "They end up being speed bumps instead of road blocks."

King added that over the last 10 or 20 years, technology advancements have put smaller and more powerful computers into the hands of children and researchers alike. That leads him to believe that the shrinking of supercomputers is just ahead of us.

"We're at the beginning of some very exciting times in supercomputing," he said.

IBM Turns Chip Industry Trash to Solar Industry Treasure

The scrap wafers traditionally have been crushed and sent to landfills.
David Ho

IBM Corp. is scheduled to announce today that is has developed a way to easily refurbish scrap material left over from the creation of microchips so it can be used in solar energy panels, a process that could save money and help feed the solar industry's growing appetite for silicon.

Big Blue said it plans to share the technique with the semiconductor industry. Analysts say it could be widely adopted.

The semiconductor industry imprints patterns on silicon wafers to build the chips used in computers, video games, cell phones and other electronics. A small fraction of these thin silicon discs are scrapped, adding up to more than 3 million wafers discarded worldwide each year, according to industry and IBM estimates.

The scrap wafers, etched with patterns that companies consider intellectual property, are often crushed and sent to landfills.

IBM's new process uses existing wafer-polishing equipment to erase the patterns, said Thom Jagielski, environmental manager at the IBM chip plant in Burlington, Vt., that developed the technique. He said this allows wafers to be reused for equipment testing and later sold to solar panel manufacturers.

The 3 million scrapped wafers each year could be used to create solar panels to power 6,000 houses, IBM said.

"It's a simple process but it really returns benefits on so many different levels," Jagielski said. "Not only do we reduce our overall use of silicon, but then to be able to create a raw material for the solar panel industry is kind of a good story all the way around."

IBM has used the abrasion process for more than a year at the Vermont plant and is rolling it out at its chip factory in Fishkill, N.Y.

"It's a low-entry fee to do this," Jagielski said.

IBM's prominence in chip production means the process could affect many manufacturers, said Jim McGregor, an analyst with the technology research firm In-Stat.

"Whatever IBM develops gets filtered down to their partners," he said. "That's a big chunk of the industry."

That, in turn, could lead to more partnerships between the semiconductor and solar energy industries and the sharing of technology and resources, McGregor said.

"It's a shot in the arm for the solar industry, which has been hurting," said Richard Doherty, research director of the Envisioneering Group market research and consulting firm. "There hasn't been enough wafer material."

Most chip makers have scrapped leftover wafers when faced with the trouble and expense of reclaiming them internally or the risk of losing trade secrets by sending them out for recycling, McGregor said.

"There's always been concern that you never let raw wafers out unless they are highly controlled," McGregor said. He said the concern is over someone "backward engineering your product, learning what you did and how you did it."

Reusing scrap wafers as the "monitor" wafers used for equipment calibration and testing saves 90 percent of the energy that would be expended to make a new one, Jagielski said. He said wafers can be reused this way half a dozen times.

Each abrasion session makes the wafer thinner, but the end product can still be used for solar panels, Jagielski said.

IBM said these lower-energy demands also translate into lower emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming.

Public Knowledge Group Calls For Copyright Law Changes

The group's six-point policy change includes seeking a law to exempt search indexing from infringement claims.
K.C. Jones

Copyright law has lost touch with reality and needs a serious overhaul, according to an intellectual property lobby group that is pushing for a six-point policy change.

Public Knowledge released a reform proposal Friday, calling for fair use reform, limits on secondary liability, protection from frivolous takedown requests, new royalties for broadcasters, "orphan works" reform, and clear notification from copyright holders regarding limitations on fair use.

The group wants to add incidental, transformative, and noncommercial use of content to the legal test for fair use and it is seeking a law to exempt search indexing from infringement claims. Public Knowledge wants the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1984 Sony Betamax case to become law, meaning technology manufacturers cannot be held liable as long as the technology has "substantial noninfringing use."

Another example of this is the lawsuit that the French news agency Agence France-Presse filed against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) in March 2005. The news organization claimed Google, through its search indexing technology, infringed its copyrights by taking photos and stories from AFP subscribers' Web sites and offering them to Google users.

Congress should amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by allowing legal relief for legitimate users who have suffered from frivolous takedown requests, the group said.

"Pre-VCR copyright policies must be transformed to embrace our new user-generated culture," Public Knowledge President Gigi B. Sohn said in a speech to the New Media and the Marketplace of Ideas Friday. "For the past 35 years, the trend has been nearly unmitigated expansion of the scope and duration of copyright, resulting in a clear mismatch between the technology and the law. Over the past decade, copyright reformers like Public Knowledge have stopped the pendulum from swinging even farther away from digital reality. Now it is time to move the pendulum towards the future and away from the past."

Sohn's group also wants to require broadcasters to pay royalties like satellite and Internet radio companies do, limit the damages for use of works whose holders cannot be found after a good-faith search, and to create visual registries to protect visual artists and photographers.

Bye Bye Pampers: Google Is Fifth Most Valuable Company
Saul Hansell

Much is made of round numbers. And so there will be some discussion today of Google’s stock hitting $700 a share.

That big-sounding number itself, of course, is testament to nothing more than the company’s founders’ insistence on not splitting its stock. It does show that Google’s value has increased more than eight times since its initial public offering three years ago.

But the most interesting number is Google’s market capitalization — the value of all of its shares combined. Henry Blodget of Silicon Alley Insider does a little fast fingering to calculate that with the $20 jump in Google’s stock in the last two days, its market value is now about $217 billion. That ranks it the fifth most valuable company in the country.

Most valuable are Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft, and AT&T. Google has now become worth more than Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and Citigroup. Google of course is a lot smaller than the companies it passed. P&G, for example, has nearly eight times the revenue and three times the profit of Google. But of course Google is growing far, far faster.

Mr. Blodget calls Google’s price-to-earnings ratio of 55 “not preposterous.” What has been amazing to watch is that investors keep bidding up the share price and the company responds by earning so much money as to bring each new dream back into the not-preposterous range.

Searching For The Best Engine

A global effort is underway to invent a better way of finding things on the Web. Could Google be vulnerable?
David H. Freedman

Tui Stark is searching for a vacation paradise and can't find it. Googling "snorkeling beaches blue water" turns up listings for scuba diving, real-estate firms, rafting outfits. So Stark, a photography stylist in Needham, Massachusetts, turns to Quintura, one of many upstart search engines, which allows her to focus the results on snorkeling. "The Google results just had too much stuff I wasn't looking for," she says. "I wanted to zoom in on the best snorkeling beaches." And within seconds, Quintura delivers.

That's a bad result for Google, which is more vulnerable than you think. By virtue of dominating Web search—Google draws 60 percent of all searches worldwide, says market-research firm comScore, with Yahoo a distant second at 14 percent and mighty Microsoft limping along at 4 percent—Google has not only become the reigning heavyweight of the online world, but it has also transformed advertising, riled governments and sent tremors through Wall Street. As of last week its stock was valued at $200 billion, more than five times that of Yahoo's, and nearly three quarters of Microsoft's. Now it's threatening to shake up the trillion-dollar corporate-computing and wireless-communications markets.

Despite spending billions trying to diversify beyond the straightforward search offered on its stripped-down, almost childlike home page, Google reaps about 60 percent of its outsize revenues and more than 80 percent of its profits from ads on that page, according to analysts' estimates. That means the company's success continues to hinge on the dominance of its simple search. There are no guarantees that its dominance will last. It is threatened by a massive worldwide effort to build a better search, involving giant high-tech rivals, governments in Europe and Asia, and hundreds of tiny start-ups founded by academic wunderkinders much like Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the Stanford graduate students who founded Google in 1998. And it's also dependent on an online public that may make up the most fickle market in history, an audience whose interests are already showing signs of wandering outside the search box.

Google may well be able to continue its charmed life by holding onto its search lead and getting its non-search businesses to kick in more profit, and Wall Street is certainly betting that way. But the computer world has a way of bringing seemingly golden brands down to earth with surprising speed, as Lotus, Novell, AOL and other firms have discovered. It's not farfetched that five years from now we may wonder why everyone thought Google was such a big deal. "Google has won the first stages of the Web-searching race," says Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research in San Francisco. "It won't win the next one."

History shows how quickly search leaders can lose their way. The race kicked off in 1995, when researchers at Digital Equipment Corp. (remember them?) figured out how to store the words on Web pages as an index that lent itself to lightning-fast searches. The resulting AltaVista search engine quickly became a favorite home page for early Web users, and seemed destined to rule search. But in 1998 word started getting around about a new search engine from a tiny company with a goofy name that sometimes returned more-useful results, and by 2000 Google was the search engine to beat. Yahoo, with a stunning lack of foresight, put Google's search box on its home page that year, burnishing Google's reputation with Yahoo's tens of millions of users. Microsoft, caught napping, wouldn't even enter the search-engine race in earnest for another three years. When Google tweaked its business model by linking ads to searches and charging advertisers only when searchers clicked on them—an approach it copied from rival online marketing firm Overture—it converted its search box into a money machine. Right now that machine is producing $15 billion a year, of which almost $4 billion is profit.

If Google has been able to crush its search competition, it's not because it has perfected the art and science of Web searching. Far from it. Google is what the industry calls a "second-generation" search engine. First-generation engines like AltaVista found Web pages containing words that matched the user's search words. Google's innovation was to further rank a Web page by the other pages that link to it, on the somewhat shaky assumption that if a page is much-linked-to, it must be useful. Charles Knight, an analyst who runs the AltSearchEngines Web site, notes there's a plethora of good ideas for what a third-generation engine might bring to the party, and no shortage of companies trying to prove those ideas. "Each has shown they can do some aspect of a search better than Google can," says Knight.

Yahoo, for one, has been frantically working to leapfrog Google. One new feature of its engine provides search-term suggestions that pop up as soon as you start typing your query—a possible antidote to the frustrating process of having to keep repeating a search with different terms in order to find helpful results. (Google reminds you of searches you've previously typed in.) Another offers shortcuts to following up on certain types of popular searches. Typing in a movie title, for example, brings up a trailer and local showtimes; typing in "restaurants" and a city narrows down the choices by neighborhood, cuisine or popularity. More is coming, says Vish Makhijani, head of search for Yahoo. "We'll know when you're ready to make a reservation versus when you're just doing research, and we'll let you make the reservation right there on the search page," he says.

Microsoft, too, is eager to provide new ways to merge its Windows Live Search with other online and PC-based tasks. So far the company hasn't taken advantage of the dominance of Windows to drive search traffic its way, but that will change, says Microsoft's search chief, Brad Goldberg. "We've just begun integrating search in a meaningful way with our assets," he says. "We're working on ways to capture what the user is doing and carry it into the search experience." In theory, that could mean a Microsoft search on "Coke" would give an accountant financial information on the Coca-Cola Corp., while a student writing a term paper on health and diet might get the nutritional rundown on a can of soda.

In fact, the biggest competitive hurdle for Yahoo and Microsoft is not that their searches don't work as well as Google's, but that people just don't try them as often. According to a recent Nielsen/NetRatings survey, the gap between Google, Yahoo and Microsoft narrows when you look at the percentage of users of each site who keep returning—79, 69 and 65, respectively. A University of Michigan study released in August shows that Yahoo passed Google in customer satisfaction in the past year.

Google has already been relegated to also-ran status in several key markets worldwide. It gets less than 2 percent of queries in Internet-happy South Korea, and 17 percent of the queries in China, the world's most important emerging online market. The company has also been trounced by local competition in Russia. Google dominates searching in Western Europe—82 percent of queries come its way in Germany—but the German and French governments plan to put up $165 million and $122 million, respectively, for search-engine research. In Japan, not only is Google running behind Yahoo, but the government is reportedly pumping some $125 million into local search efforts. Meanwhile, notwithstanding rumors of a forthcoming phone, Google hasn't yet established leadership in the mobile-phone search market, expected to be lucrative.

Yahoo, Microsoft and governments aren't the only ones seeking a cure for Google envy. In 2005 and 2006, venture-capital firms injected $350 million into 79 search-related start-ups. Knight tracks no fewer than 1,000 search contenders, mostly U.S.-based, that have something to recommend them. Among the features that he and other experts believe might be hallmarks of a third-generation search engine:

Word smarts. Some search engines, like Hakia, the forthcoming Powerset and Sydney-based Lexxe, are trying to go beyond matching your exact query words—they seek to get a sense of what you're looking for and pull up the best pages based on an understanding of their content. "In most cases the document you want won't contain all your search terms," notes Rohini Srihari, a University of Buffalo computer scientist and CEO of Janya, an Amherst, New York, company specializing in searching for counterterrorism leads. "And if you're looking to discover who or what has suddenly become a hot topic, you won't even know what search terms to use." A smart search engine might know that when you plug in "Paris," "Tokyo" "New York" and "hottest restaurants" that you're looking for popular new restaurants around the world.

Editing. No matter how clever a computer program, it will never match a human brain for determining quality and relevance. Some new search engines, including Mahalo and ChaCha, rely in part on human editors or guides to pre-cull the most relevant pages for some searches. You'll probably get more select results than on Google—but only if your search terms are among those the editors have explored.

Focus. Google searches everything—but you don't want everything. You'll actually get more relevant results with a search engine that indexes a much smaller number of pages, as long as the pages are on-topic. Trulia searches out homes for sale, Healthline lets you plug in symptoms to track down possible causes and treatment, Globalspec's searches are aimed at industrial engineers, Like.com offers pictorial product searches, and Spock specializes in information about people.

Guided queries. It's hard to guess which search terms will do the best job, but some search engines help by suggesting terms, as do Yahoo and a start-up engine called Accoona, or by grouping results into categories that focus on the desired topic, as do Ask.com and Clusty. Type "spears" into Ask.com, for example, and it will suggest you steer the topic in either the pointy or pop direction; Google just mixes them up. A number of cutting-edge engines, including France's KartOO, KooltTorch and Quintura—founded in Moscow and now based in Virginia—display the categories in graphic maps that visually suggest which categories are likely to be the most useful.

Community. NosyJoe, Squidoo and Sproose allow other users to help determine which pages are most useful, cutting down on the often irrelevant and spam-ridden results that come up via Google's link-counting approach. Wikia, which has ties to the online, everyone-can-chip-in encyclopedia Wikipedia, is working on a search engine based on user contributions, and the Web-page bookmarking service Del.icio.us, bought by Yahoo in 2005, allows searching through everyone else's labeled bookmarks to find relevant pages.

Right now all these underdog search engines (except Ask.com, the No. 4 search site) have a combined share of less than 5 percent of all queries, according to Knight. But even if one or more of them starts to gain traction, does Google really have to worry about being bested by some obscure search engine, given its longstanding, widespread popularity? After all, Microsoft continues to dominate software, in spite of persistent claims that better alternatives like Apple and Linux are out there. Google's dominance, however, is different from Microsoft's. The costs of dumping Windows can be intimidating, between setting up new hardware or software, retraining and lost productivity. What's to keep someone stuck on Google? "The moment someone proves themselves better than Google, people will switch in a heartbeat," Srihari says. Just ask anyone who was at AltaVista in the late 1990s.

Google isn't waiting around to be AltaVistaed. Its smaller challengers can't hope to match the company's massive investments in computing infrastructure, said to include more than 450,000 servers. So be prepared to wait an annoying three seconds or so for results on some of the wanna-be search sites, compared with Google's blink-of-an-eye speed. And with $12 billion cash on hand, Google can buy hot companies that pose a threat, much as it plopped down $1.65 billion last year for YouTube, whose video search crushes Google's popularity. "Google was buying tiny search companies at the rate of two per week at one point," says Knight.

Even $12 billion and the billions more Google could borrow wouldn't buy all the world's search competition. The performance gap won't be hard to narrow for a hot new company freshly fueled by investors. In the end, Google has to have a better search to stay on top. Thus its army of software engineers is looking at every wrinkle in search, insists Google's research director, Peter Norvig. "I guess we're paranoid," he says. They've already injected several new technologies into its search—for example, results take into account results you've clicked on in the past, provided you've signed up to have your searches tracked. You can type in your query in plain English, get suggestions for search-term refinements, or do any of more than 40 specialized searches, including movies, government Web sites, patents, airline flights and human faces. Google just doesn't advertise any of these features, or make them plain. Although it's clear Google is capable of plenty of search innovation, there's a reason the company sometimes acts as if its hands are tied when it comes to implementing next-generation techniques. "People don't want radical change from us," says Matt Cutts, head of search quality at Google. "Our biggest task is ensuring simplicity."

It's true, most mainstream searchers do tend to value the stripped-down, no-brainer elegance of a thin box that takes a few words and delivers straightforward results. Given that a growing number of queries are being funneled to alternative engines, there are clearly plenty of power searchers willing to accept a little complexity in return for better results. It wouldn't take a smash-hit new search engine to steal Google's thunder; the damage could take the form of a slow leak of searchers to a variety of engines that each have some special appeal. Another threat to Google may be online social networking sites such as MySpace and LinkedIn. "We'll likely see dozens or hundreds of specialized search engines that collectively chip away at Google's dominance," says Brant Bukowsky, founder of Plus1 Marketing, a search consultancy.

Last quarter, Google raked in $925 million in profit, 28 percent more than the same quarter last year. The game is still Google's to lose. Even Stark, who resorted to Quintura to find her snorkeling beach, still makes Google her first stop when she needs to track down a Web site. What, after all, would Google have to fear from a tiny company with a goofy name that sometimes returns more-useful results?

Google Sure of DoubleClick Deal

European, U.S. regulators must approve $3.1 billion bid for online ad tracker
Aoife White

Google is confident that its $3.1 billion bid for online ad tracker DoubleClick will win over European and U.S. regulators, a company executive said Friday - even as advertisers expressed concerns the deal will shrink competition.

Rivals Microsoft and Yahoo also have complained about the deal because it will make Google stronger.

And consumer advocates worry about data privacy and the secondary impact on media that increasingly rely on Internet ads to pull in revenue.

The European Union's executive arm has a Nov. 13 deadline to clear the deal or open a fuller inquiry that could take up to four more months. It will not examine the privacy concerns but stick strictly to how the deal affects the market.

Google chief economist Hal Varian said the deal offers a lot to advertisers and the Internet sites that show ads because Google and DoubleClick together would run a better and leaner operation that will cut costs, place more ads and help expand the booming Internet ad market.

"The way the technology keeps getting cheaper, the competitive environment is there, I would expect to see prices in the industry going down in the future as they have in the past," he told the Associated Press.

He said he believed the EU understands this.

"Both of the antitrust authorities that we've dealt with say that they're applying standard economic analysis," Varian said. "On the basis of conventional economic analysis we think the deal should go right through."

New York-based DoubleClick helps its customers place and track online advertising, including ads alongside search results, which Google - more than its nearest search competitors Yahoo and Microsoft - has turned into an extremely lucrative business.

DoubleClick places ads on Web pages that targeted consumers are likely to use, generating money for smaller publishers and lesser-visited pages.

One of the benefits the new company would offer advertisers would be "unified reporting" to show exactly what online ads were pulling in new business, Varian said.

"One of the downsides of using many different providers is that you get many different reports and you have to figure out how to consolidate them," he said. "We hope to make it very easy for people to use these services."

But the World Federation of Advertising said Friday it was worried about how the takeover and other major ad bids would shrink competition for Internet advertising. It urged European Union regulators to examine the deal closely.

Lowered competition can give allow players to raise prices without creating new products and services that push the industry forward.

"Internet advertisers have benefited from innovation generated, in part, by intense competition," said federation managing director Stephan Loerke. "Global advertisers are keen to see this competitive marketplace maintained."

He mentioned two other deals consolidating the ad industry: Microsoft's $6 billion acquisition of Seattle online advertising firm aQuantive and advertising conglomerate WPP Group's purchase of another online ad company 24/7 Real Media for $649 million.

To eliminate antitrust concerns, the EU can ask companies to consider selling off units or changing the way they do business.

Google pledged earlier this week not to change certain DoubleClick business practices but declined to give details.

Varian stressed that the Internet ad business was wide open because neither advertisers nor publishers are tied to a single provider. He said Google and DoubleClick would open new markets at Internet sites that don't have concerted strategies like big portals or newspapers do.

Google and Friends to Gang Up on Facebook
Miguel Helft and Brad Stone

Google and some of the Web’s leading social networks are teaming up to take on the new kid on the block — Facebook.

On Thursday, an alliance of companies led by Google plans to begin introducing a common set of standards to allow software developers to write programs for Google’s social network, Orkut, as well as others, including LinkedIn, hi5, Friendster, Plaxo and Ning.

The strategy is aimed at one-upping Facebook, which last spring opened its service to outside developers. Since then, more than 5,000 small programs have been built to run on the Facebook site, and some have been adopted by millions of the site’s users. Most of those programs tap into connections among Facebook friends and spread themselves through those connections, as well as through a “news feed” that alerts Facebook users about what their friends are doing.

The New York Times learned of the alliance’s plan from people briefed on the matter. Google, which had planned to introduce the alliance at a party on Thursday evening, later confirmed the plan.

“It is going to forestall Facebook’s ability to get everyone writing just for Facebook,” said a person with knowledge of the plans who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the alliance. The group’s platform, which is called OpenSocial, is “compatible across all the companies,” that person said.

“Facebook got the jump by announcing the Facebook platform and getting the traction they got. This is an open alternative to that,” the person also said.

The alliance includes business software makers Salesforce.com and Oracle, who are moving to let third-party programmers write applications that can be accessed by their customers. The start of OpenSocial comes just a week after Google lost to Microsoft in a bid to invest in Facebook and sell advertising on the social network’s pages outside the United States. And it comes just before the expected introduction by Facebook of an advertising system next week, which some analysts believe could compete with Google’s.

Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google, said that the alliance’s conversations preceded Microsoft’s investment in Facebook. “Obviously, we would love for them to be part of it,” Mr. Kraus said of Facebook. Facebook declined to comment.

Facebook’s success with its platform has proved that the combination of social data and news feeds is a powerful mechanism to help developers distribute their software. They are now seen as must-have functions for many Internet companies. Other social networks and Web companies, including MySpace and the instant messaging service Meebo.com, have announced plans to open their sites in similar ways.

For now, however, Facebook has become the preferred platform for software developers.

By teaming with others, Google hopes to create a rival platform that could have broad appeal to developers. A person briefed on the plans said the sites in the alliance had a combined 100 million users, more than double the size of Facebook.

The developers of some of the most popular Facebook applications, including iLike, Slide, Frixter and RockYou, are expected to be present Thursday evening at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., where they will announce that they will tailor their programs to run on the OpenSocial sites.

The effort faces several hurdles. Developers may not see the advantage to writing programs that run across such remarkably different networks as, for example, LinkedIn, which caters to business professionals, and hi5, which is popular in Central America.
For Google, the effort could breathe new life into Orkut, which is popular in Brazil and other countries, but not in the United States. While the move could also help some rival social networks, Google could benefit from their success, in part, by helping to sell advertising on those sites.

Indeed, that strategy would fit into a model that Google has begun talking about recently. Vic Gundotra, who heads Google’s developer programs, said last week that Google would soon begin an aggressive project to create software tools and give them away free in an open-source format.

The goal, he said, is to improve not just Google’s applications, but any software that runs on the Web. That, in turn, would drive more Internet use, and Google would benefit indirectly by selling advertising, he said.

Google has not been able to establish itself as a force in social networking, and it clearly wants to. “One of the things to say, very clearly, is that social networks as a phenomenon are very real,” Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, said in a recent interview. “If you are of a certain age, you sort of dismiss this as college kids or teenagers. But it is very real.”

Google said it has advertising relationships with several social networks, including a $900 million partnership to sell ads on MySpace, which the company said is performing well. Google is also making some money on Facebook, through ads that run inside applications that are used on that network.

A person familiar with Google’s efforts said that those applications have been far more effective for advertisers on social networks than users’ personal pages. “It is early, but those ads work very well, whereas the ads in overall social media platforms have shown less performance,” the person said. Mr. Kraus said that over time Google hoped to bring other social elements to Web applications, whether or not they run inside social networks. Analysts expect other Google services, including iGoogle, to be equipped with social features eventually.

MySpace Joins Google Alliance to Counter Facebook
Miguel Helft and Brad Stone

MySpace and Bebo, two of the world’s largest social networking sites, today joined a Google-led alliance that is promoting a common set of standards for software developers to write programs for social networks.

The alliance now presents a powerful counterweight to Facebook, which, after opening up its site to developers last spring, has persuaded thousands of them to create programs for its users. The addition of MySpace, the world’s largest social network, and Bebo, the No.1 site in Britain, could also put pressure on Facebook to drop its own standard and join the alliance, called OpenSocial.

“OpenSocial is going to become the de facto standard for developers rights out of the gate,” said Chris DeWolfe, chief executive and co-founder of MySpace. Mr. DeWolfe said that developers using OpenSocial would be able to instantly reach 200 million users across various sites.

Google and others said they had invited other social networks, including Facebook, to participate in the alliance, whose existence was first reported Tuesday.

“The most important principle about openness is that everyone is invited to join,” said Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive.

Other members of the alliance include Friendster, Hi5, LinkedIn, Plaxo and Ning, as well as the business software makers Oracle and Salesforce.com. The creators of several of the most popular programs on Facebook, including Slide, RockYou, iLike and Flixter, have announced their intention to write programs conforming to the OpenSocial standards.

The alliance is not likely to erode the popularity of Facebook or immediately alter the dynamics of the social networking market. But it could help revitalize the sites of some of its members, which have seen their social networks eclipsed by the popularity of MySpace and Facebook. Orkut, Google’s social network, for instance, is popular in Brazil and a few other countries, but has failed to gain traction in the United States.

Google may benefit in other ways. As other social networks draw more users, it could sell more advertising on those sites. TheInternet search giant already has a $900 million advertising partnership with MySpace, and sells advertising on various other social networks. Its ads often appear inside the applications created by third-party developers. Google and MySpace have been in discussions about developing a common set of programming standards for about a year, the companies said.

At a news conference today at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Joe Greenstein, the chief executive of Flixter, whose applications allow users to share movie recommendations, demonstrated his program running inside MySpace.

“We are excited about OpenSocial,” Mr. Greenstein said. But he added that Flixter was not planning to pressure Facebook, where millions of members use the company’s program, to adopt OpenSocial. Mr. Greenstein said that customizing his company’s application that runs on Facebook to run on OpenSocial had been a painless task.Facebook declined to comment.

The Global Sympathetic Audience
Noam Cohen

ON Aug. 1, Nick Starr, a 27-year-old computer consultant from Tampa, Fla., was tapping text messages into his cellphone, telling hundreds of his virtual friends about his day.

Mr. Starr was using Twitter, a relatively new program that allows its mostly young members to post “miniblogs” — running diaries about the mundane details of their lives, in entries of barely two sentences.

Mr. Starr, who was driving around near his hometown, wrote in Twitter’s characteristic staccato, stream-of-consciousness style about picking up some chicken wings and getting a new haircut. Then his postings took a darker turn.

At 6:02, he sent out a note about a nearby bridge: “Maybe I should jump from it?”

At 8:17, bemoaning his lack of close friends, he speculated about being the first “Twitter suicide.”

At 9:39, there was a final note: “Alright this is it. Parked my car. I wish everyone who ever was nice to me well. See you in the next life.”

Mr. Starr didn’t jump from the bridge, the Sunshine Skyway across Tampa Bay. The police found him asleep in his car the next morning. But the incident didn’t go unnoticed among Twitter users: Mr. Starr’s iPhone was jammed with text messages from people frantically trying to reach him. Some had alerted the local police.

“It got to the point where I didn’t know what to say,” Mr. Starr said in an interview.

Since the introduction of connected computing, real-life events have played out over networks. In 1990, Blair Newman, a member of an early online community, the Well, committed “virtual” suicide by deleting all his posts there; several weeks later he killed himself.

What is different about “quick blogging” tools like Twitter (which imposes a strict character count so it can be easily used on a cellphone) and Tumblr (which allows longer messages as well as photographs) is the degree to which people use them for spontaneous and almost continuous communication. Mainly, they describe the minutiae of their day, but when their lives take more dramatic turns, they often take the network along in real time.

More than 400 people, for example, were part of Mr. Starr’s Twitter network, and his suicidal thoughts suddenly appeared on their cellphones or instant-messaging services. In addition to Mr. Starr’s posts, Twitter members have been able to follow other members’ painful, step-by-step descriptions (the individual posts are called “tweets”) of depression, bouts of binge-drinking and bad break-ups.

One blogger and Twitter user, Leisa Riechelt, wrote in an e-mail message that “quite a few of us have been guilty of some emotional, late night, drunken twittering. Some go back and delete the Twitters the next day, others just leave it on the record.”

But Ms. Riechelt, 32, thinks the microblog experience is valuable for those listening in on personal details, sharing in what she calls “ambient intimacy.” She writes that while others may ask: “Who cares? Who wants this level of detail? Isn’t this all just annoying noise?” she counts herself among those “who find great value in this ongoing noise.” She added, “It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances.”

CERTAINLY, the creators of Twitter, which was introduced in 2006, thought of the technology more as a curiosity for the digital age and gave it a flippant name to match. Users were supposed to answer one question and one question only: “What are you doing?”

Biz Stone, a founder of Twitter, said its use has “dramatically morphed” in its brief history. “People put everything out there,” he said.

Despite the personal turn that many Twitter posts have taken, 90 percent of users agree to have all their posts available to the public — including Mr. Starr, whose entries, including his ghoulish words on Aug. 1, are available at twitter.com.

“There is value to that,” Mr. Stone said. “A sort of social alchemy happens. You put this stuff out there and you don’t know what happens. You might make a friend, get a job or a date.”

One highly connected user of Twitter, Chris Messina, a consultant to businesses and nonprofit groups on how to build online communities, spoke from the perspective of one who writes the posts, rather than one who reads them.

“You can be overwhelmed with feeling alone when you’re used to being connected all the time,” he said, calling Twitter entries “sonic pulses that let us know, hey, we’re really not that alone after all.”

He described how in April he and his partner, Tara Hunt, “had a big fight after we’d been drinking and then she Twittered that she was leaving me.” Because her message went out very late, most of the Twitter users who read the posts were in Australia. Many e-mailed Ms. Hunt to ask what happened. Those messages helped persuade the couple to reconsider. “I don’t know what might have happened if people who care about us (for reasons I can’t necessarily fathom) didn’t intervene and diffuse the situation,” Mr. Messina wrote in an e-mail message.

Ms. Hunt put it this way: “We realized in that moment that Twitter wasn’t a fun game, it was our social safety network connection. After that, you watch what you tweet. Or you also know that if you really need help, you are just a tweet away from it.”

Another couple that has shared its breakups with the online world are Jakob Lodwick and Julia Allison, often via Tumblr. Mr. Lodwick, 26, who is the founder of Vimeo, a video sharing site, said that exposing his life had practical value.

“For example, if I get in a fight with Julia, I’ll take a picture of her with my iPhone and send it to my Tumblr with the caption, ‘She is mad at me,’” he wrote in an e-mail message. “This saves me from catching up one-on-one with my friends and family. They just know we had a fight. So next time I talk to them directly, they are already caught up with me, and the conversation picks up from there.”

Mr. Lodwick, who earlier in his short career was a founder of the successful Web site College Humor, and Ms. Allison, a dating columnist for Time Out New York, both chronicle their turbulent relationship on personal blogs and elsewhere online. The media gossip site Gawker is addicted to the soap opera, which the couple appear to stoke for their own self-promotion. “Some people follow us as fans,” Mr. Lodwick noted. “I guess people like stories.”

NOT everyone sees the Twitterization of social interactions in a positive light. Shelley Powers, a computer programmer who writes books and a blog, Burningbird, about social networking, said she followed the Nick Starr story as it unfolded online.

“He has a bummer day, talks about it on Twitter, it’s on Digg and then MetaFilter,” she said in an interview. She calls the entire experience “artificial intimacy” and wonders if people were “concerned about it, or were they titillated.”

People in the social networking world, she said, are in a quest for constant communication. “It began with blogging, then blogging with comments, then instant messaging,” she said. “It keeps getting a higher and higher level of interconnectivity, and it becomes almost addicting.”

When Mr. Starr awoke the day after his suicidal posts and began reading the messages left on his cellphone that night, he felt simultaneously touched and mortified. Many Twitter users who knew him personally were frantic to speak with him. Some he had never met were frantic to have him type something, anything, to confirm that he was alive.

One friend, Drew Domkus, reached out to Mr. Starr’s friends in the area and to his parents, reaching his mother in Tampa. He also contacted the police. “I even sent them a photo of his car showing his license plate,” he said.

Mr. Starr contacted Mr. Domkus the next day, but, feeling embarrassed by his posts, waited for weeks before posting an apology of sorts to his virtual friends.

“It certainly is bigger than you think it is,” he said about his Twitter circle of friends. “Even if it is only 500 people, that is 500 people who are human and care, and get concerned. It is community because they are people you choose, you end up caring about them, you become a part of their life.”

After that long night contemplating suicide, Mr. Starr said he began going to counseling. He also decided to move to San Francisco, where many of his Twitter friends live. “I won’t just be connecting with people on Twitter, but in real life. I don’t have a ton of people who I can talk to here,” he said, referring to his life in Florida. “That’s probably why I went online.”

As he drove across the country late last month, he kept Twittering. Arriving in San Francisco late Saturday night he sent out another message to the world: “Do I have to pay the parking meter this late at night?”

Face It - Oldies Want Chums, Too

Social networking online is no longer the province of the young - more and more 'silver surfers'are joining in, Chris Stevens finds

Facebook, the social-networking website, has a reputation as the online space where hip young things hang out, swapping amusing anecdotes, 'poking'one another, scrawling inappropriate messages on virtual walls, and posting embarassing photos.

But increasing numbers of over-50s are muscling in on the social-networking arena, signing up to sites such as Facebook and its main competitor, MySpace in their droves. While some of the sites'younger users are reacting as if dad just rolled up to the disco, the balance of power is shifting towards these so-called "silver surfers".

If you’ve somehow escaped its lure, Facebook is like a giant online scrapbook for photos and messages swapped between friends. It was, until September last year, exclusively populated by American college students 'poking'each other and swapping pictures of each other passed out under fraternity party beer kegs. Since then the site has opened its doors to anyone with an email address, and grown to include almost 60 million members, making it the world’s seventh most-visited website.

Because the mind of an over-50 is likely superior to that of a drink-addled undergrad, at first there was uncertainty about whether older users would find the Facebook-led social-networking phenomena attractive. You might, for example, question the broader demographic appeal of Facebook applications like "Marry Me, Sex Me, Kill Me" in which your friends decide whether you’re "sexy, marriage material, or dead". But a recent study by analysts comScore showed that nearly one third of Facebook users are aged between 35 and 54, and that this group also made up 41 per cent of MySpace users.

The idea that social networking appeals only to younger internet users is a misconception. In fact, the growing population of over-50s online is encouraging the development of new social networking sites that cater specifically for this older audience. Sites like MyChumsClub (mychumsclub.com) and Saga Zone (www2.saga.co.uk/sagazone), both launched this week, are over-50s-only online communities that offer friendships and, in the case of MyChumsClub, the opportunity to safely meet new cyber friends in the real world. Andrew Thatcher who, on facing the boredom of retirement, decided to start MyChumsClub, thinks that his site is Facebook without the risk, and offers an antidote to retirement.

"Old people lose around half their social network when they leave work. This gives them a chance to find it again. We organise foreign trips and other activities so that people can meet each other in the real world," says Thatcher. "Older users have similar privacy needs to children under 15: they need protecting from exploitation. Facebook is not somewhere to meet people, it’s a place to keep in touch with people you already know. We have a strict vetting process, so you know that you’re safe from unscrupulous emails."

Unlike Facebook, MyChumsClub is capped at 2,000 members in the first year, and all users are asked to pay a £50 subscription fee. In exchange, users are actively encouraged to meet offline and can even go on group holidays organised by the site: the next trip sees website users jetting off to Istanbul. The subscription means that you’re not exposed to advertising on the site, and ensures a degree of exclusivity that Facebook cannot provide.

Attracting an older audience could be hugely lucrative. The over-50s own around 80 per cent of the UK’s personal wealth, and account for 40 per cent of consumer spending. However, this same group has been fiendishly resistant to online advertising.

According to a study by mature marketing specialists Millennium, 80 per cent of advertising professionals are under the age of 40, leading to a widely held suspicion that the people designing online advertising are too young to relate to an older audience, and repeatedly fail to engage them. Ironically, this might be interpreted as a good reason to join Facebook or MySpace if you’re over-50 - since the advertisers there don’t understand you, their ads will have little or no effect on you.

Given that technology icons like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Tim Berners Lee are all well over 50, the market for sites with old-appeal can only grow. Facebook is surrounded by imitators keen to cash-in on the social-networking explosion, and most are promoting themselves as niche alternatives to the one-size-fits-all approach of Mark Zuckerberg’s internet behemoth. T

he next generation of Facebook-alikes will cater for character types beyond simple demographics like age. Already, sites for your household pets, like the Dogbook and Catbook applications on Facebook, let your animals send each other messages online.

As the popularity of social networking grows, expect to find the membership requirements more and more extraordinary.

Wikipedia Becomes a Class Assignment
Jessica Mintz

Some academics cringe when students turn to Wikipedia as a reference for term papers.

University of Washington-Bothell professor Martha Groom has more of an "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" response to the online encyclopedia that anyone can write or edit.

Instead of asking students in her environmental history course to turn in one big paper at the end of the semester, she requires them either to write an original Wikipedia article or to do a major edit on an existing one.

The inspiration came to her as she prepared teaching materials for her class.

"I would find these things on Wikipedia," she said, and would think, "Gosh, this is awfully thin here. I wonder if my students could fill this in?"

Wikipedia has been vilified as a petri dish for misinformation, and the variable accuracy of its articles is a point Groom readily concedes. Since the advent of the Web, she said, the quality of sources students cite has deteriorated.

For her students, the Wikipedia experiment was "transformative," and students' writing online proved better than the average undergrad research paper.

Knowing their work was headed for the Web, not just one harried professor's eyes, helped students reach higher - as did the standards set by the volunteer "Wikipedians" who police entries for accuracy and neutral tone, Groom said.

The exercise also gave students a taste of working in the real world of peer-reviewed research.

Most of the articles were well received, but Groom said some students caught heat from Wikipedia editors for doing exactly what college students are trained to do: write an argumentative, critical essay.

"Some people were a little rude," she said of the anonymous Wikipedia editors. Ultimately, she had to teach the students the difference between good secondary research and the average college paper.

"You don't get to say that last little bit on, 'This is why this is the truth and the way,'" she said.

Hulu Readies Its Online TV, Dodging the Insults
Brad Stone

The knives are out for Hulu.com.

Hulu is the new-media creation of two old-media rivals, NBC, which is owned by General Electric, and Fox, owned by the News Corporation. Since March, when the broadcasters announced their joint effort to bring free, ad-supported television shows to the Web, critics have pounced, predicting the venture would be doomed by diverging agendas, technical challenges and an all-powerful enemy: YouTube.

Skeptical bloggers even slapped Hulu with a derisive moniker: “Clown Co.”

Now the defense is ready to present its case.

Today, Hulu, now an independent company with more than a hundred employees and its own offices in Los Angeles, will begin privately testing its new service with select users at Hulu.com. It will also begin sending its videos to the sites of five distribution partners, Microsoft, AOL, MySpace, Yahoo and Comcast.

Hulu is presenting select episodes of some 90 television shows, including new and old programs from NBC (“The Office,” “The A-Team”), Fox (“24” and “The Simpsons”) and an assortment of smaller broadcasters like USA Networks. It has also added two new partners, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which distributes programs like “Chapelle’s Show” and “Reno 911,” and Sony Pictures Television, which will make selections in its archives like “I Dream of Jeannie,” available on Hulu.com.

All the shows are viewable inside a Web browser and festooned with advertisements.

“You will not find this lineup from top to bottom anywhere else,” said Jason Kilar, 36, chief executive of Hulu and a nine-year veteran of Amazon.com.

Mr. Kilar says that although some of the same shows are also available free to viewers on sites like NBC.com and Fox.com, Hulu has a unique agenda: to marry the largest collection of professionally-produced video to the widest audience possible. “We don’t have to worry about showing TV schedules or letting fans get to know the actors,” he said. “All we have to worry about is the video.”

Rival ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Company, is focusing on bringing high-quality versions of its programs to its own site, ABC.com. CBS has developed its own relationships with video sites like AOL.com and a new independent online video service, Joost.

Hulu, demonstrated last week to reporters, might surprise some of its critics. In addition to television shows, the company is experimenting with free movies. The service will begin with 10 films, including “Master and Commander” and “Sideways,” though each will run with commercial breaks.

Hulu’s long-awaited introduction and new content deals are giving the executives involved in the effort a chance to respond to the criticism.

“I think there’s a snarky desire to say this is big dumb media and this is a big dumb joint venture,” said Peter Chernin, president of the News Corporation. He said he first conceived of Hulu when thinking of ways to get Fox shows distributed as widely as possible. “If there is a product that’s attractive to consumers, we’ll be just fine,” he said.

Hulu might prove most attractive to advertisers, since the videos on Hulu are chock-full of promotional opportunities. Messages for companies like Cisco and General Motors remain above the video player during each program. Hulu is also using overlays, promotional graphics that roam over the bottom of the screen during a show. (YouTube is also experimenting with this ad format). Hulu is, however, cutting by half the length of traditional commercial breaks during its videos.

For each show streamed online, Hulu splits the revenue with the content creator and the distribution site, like MySpaceTV or MSN. The revenue splits vary by the type of program, but the content owner takes a majority, according to Mr. Kilar.

Hulu will offer some features not available on other online video sites. One innovation lets users share television shows and video clips with friends. An easy editing tool lets users isolate a select clip of any length from a program and e-mail that clip to a friend or post it on a blog. “This is a big deal,” Mr. Kilar said. “It is a great way to let users express themselves through our content.”

Mr. Kilar promises that Hulu will continually add new shows from its two primary backers. “Fox and NBC are doing everything possible to clear the rights and get us material,” he said.

Critics have questioned whether NBC and Fox are truly motivated to make Hulu succeed. Both networks make many of the same programs freely available on their own Web sites.

In addition, Fox sells ad-free, downloadable versions of its programs on Apple’s iTunes. NBC pulled its material off iTunes earlier this fall, citing Apple’s reluctance to let content creators set their own price and now sells shows on Amazon.com’s Unbox service.

NBC recently removed its content from YouTube to make way for the Hulu introduction. Hulu “is really the centerpiece of what we’re trying to evolve to digitally,” said Jeff Zucker, president and chief executive of NBC Universal.

Hulu must still overcome some significant obstacles. If it wants to become the true destination site for professionally made TV shows and movies, it must attract other major content providers like Viacom and Disney. Those media companies reportedly rejected previous offers to participate in the service.

The executives involved in Hulu say they will again approach those companies and others when the service is offered more widely, and give them better revenue-sharing terms than they can find anywhere else. But big companies like Viacom will likely be reluctant to embrace an effort jointly owned by two of their largest competitors.

“These are all friends of mine,” Mr. Chernin of the News Corporation said. “They all have their own strategies. They have every right to sit back and see how this works and if it is in their best interests. I’m optimistic that others will join us, but even if nothing else changes, I already think this has more premium video than anywhere else.”

Another challenge: Hulu’s operating costs could quickly escalate. Hulu wants to offer the rich video that people are used to seeing on television. It will have to spend far more than other video sites to store the video on servers and then transmit the files to users, and at the same time give away much of the advertising revenue to its partners.

YouTube, by contrast, does not pay anything for its content (users freely submit it). It gets to keep all its ad revenue and does not provide video in a high-quality format. Still, because of the high operating costs of running a video-sharing service, YouTube is not thought to be very profitable for Google.

“To me the biggest challenge is economics,” said James L. McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research who was briefed on Hulu last week. “The content is good, and they are distributing it in all the right places. But over time they will have pressure to increase the quality of the streams and that is going to raise costs even more.”

Mr. Zucker does not appear to be concerned about the long-term financial viability of Hulu. That might actually provide more fodder for those critics who say Hulu has so many diverging mandates that it will be difficult for it to create an enduring, stand-alone business.

“At a minimum it’s another way for us to offer our content to users and get paid for it,” Mr. Zucker said. “If the site itself does well, that will be gravy on top of it.”

BBC 'Not in Bed with Bill Gates' Over iPlayer

Corporation defends itself over platform bias
Dan Grabham

The BBC's head of technology has hit out at suggestions that it is forming an alliance with Microsoft. Its iPlayer TV catch-up software is currently only available for Windows XP PCs.

Following up a recent interview with our sister magazine .net the BBC's Ashley Highfield carried on the charm offensive, telling ZDNet criticism of the iPlayer project wasn't justified.

"It would be understandable if we'd only ever intended to launch an XP-only iPlayer, but that was never the plan." He had previously told .net magazine that the corporation had to launch to the biggest audience first.

"Launching a software service to every platform simultaneously would have been launch suicide. We always take the approach of launching to the platform with the highest number of users."

He cited the mass market appeal of DAB as another example of how it brought its radio services into the digital age rather than also launching them on digital TV and the internet at the same time.

No Microsoft alliance

In the .net interview, Ashfield denies any alliance with Microsoft. "There is no conspiracy theory, believe me. In no way are we in bed with Bill Gates. We're totally committed to universality, to getting the service out to everyone, and to platform neutrality," he told the magazine.

And as for the battle with the Open Source Consortium? "The 12 people who demonstrated outside our offices have every right to demonstrate," says Ashfield. "But I think 'the 12 people' says it all."

Highfield used the numbers of non-Windows users visiting bbc.co.uk as justification for the corporation's XP-only release. "We have 17.1 million users of bbc.co.uk in the UK and, as far as our server logs can make out, 5 per cent of those [use Macs] and around 400 to 600 are Linux users."

The BBC is to release a streaming version of the iPlayer for those users by Christmas, helped by Adobe. Highfield believes that a download version will be available during 2008.

Highfield also told ZDNet he loves a particular piece of new kit. "I think the iPod touch is a beautiful piece of design. If everything could have that intuitiveness of use... and certainly, in terms of the BBC iPlayer, I aspire to it being that easy to use," he told the site.

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Slingbox
David Pogue

O.K., it’s happened: we’re officially old.

When you sheepishly tell your children that you used to have to watch TV shows by sitting down in a certain place at a certain time — well, you know you’re old.

First came the TiVo and its ilk, eliminating the bit about sitting down “at a certain time.” Then came the Slingbox from Sling Media, which obliterated the need to be “in a certain place.” Later, SlingPlayer Mobile software for cellphones even wiped out the part about “sitting down.”

Of course, the Slingbox isn’t nearly as famous as the TiVo; you may not even have heard of it. In that case, saying that the new Slingbox Solo has a lower price ($180) than its predecessors and has built-in jacks for high-definition gear probably won’t mean much to you.

In that case, a primer is in order.

The Slingbox’s purpose in life is to transmit whatever is on your TV to your laptop or smartphone (like a Treo or Windows Mobile phone) across the Internet. The point, of course, is to allow people who travel — to another room, another city or another continent — to view all the channels and recordings that they’re already paying so much money for at home.

It comes in handy when you want to watch TV upstairs, but your fancy high-definition TiVo is downstairs. It’s also great when you’re in a hotel room, bristling at paying $13 for a movie when your video recorder back home is a veritable Blockbuster. And Slingboxes are also a blessing when you are overseas and longing for the news, or the sports broadcasts, of your hometown.

There are a few other ways to perform a similar stunt, but none with the Slingbox’s high video quality, super-simple setup and ability to display both recordings and live TV.

The new Slingbox Solo is tiny; its trapezoidal shape is meant to evoke the shape of a gold ingot, and it’s now about that size, too (9 by 4 by 2 inches). That’s about half the size of its predecessor, the Slingbox Pro.

(The Pro is still available, however — for $230, plus $50 for an accessory if you want to connect to high-def equipment. The Pro lets you connect up to four video sources — TiVo, satellite box, Apple TV, DVD player and so on — and switch among them by remote control. The Solo, as its name implies, connects to only one. For most people, that’s the TiVo, satellite box or cable box.)

If you’re the kind of person who is terrified by the tangle behind your TV set, the setup is no joyride. For anyone else, though, it’s not bad. You plug your video source into the Solo’s inputs: component cables (for HDTV gear), S-video or composite cables. If a video source has only one output — a cable box, for example — you’ll be grateful that the Solo also has outputs that pass the signal on to your TV. (Another existing model, the Slingbox AV, does not.) In other words, you can wire the Solo in between your cable box and your TV.

You must also connect the Slingbox to a broadband Internet connection. For most people, that means connecting the Slingbox to a home router. This may be the stickiest part of the installation, since your router is probably in the basement, closet or office — not next to the TV. And the Slingbox isn’t wireless.

At this point, you could buy a really long Ethernet cable and thread it through the walls, from Slingbox to router. Sling reports that some people have luck with wireless transmitters, but it recommends its own SlingLink Turbo powerline transmitters ($80 a pair). They use your home’s electrical wiring to carry network signals. You just plug one SlingLink into an outlet near the TV, and the other near your router. And presto: network jacks within a foot of where they need to be.

Finally, you run the setup software on your Mac or PC. It’s supposed to be effortless and automatic, but I wasn’t so lucky; the setup software told me that my oddball router wouldn’t permit automatic configuration. (It’s a Linksys, probably the most popular brand on earth. Some oddball.)

Fortunately, the company’s Web site (slingmedia.com) offers step-by-step instructions for dozens of router models, mine among them; unfortunately, the illustrations didn’t match the hideous configuration screens that I was seeing. Nonetheless, it was enough help to guide me through changing some parameters like IP Address, Port Range Forwarding and Service Management. When it was all over — 20 minutes — I was watching live TV on my laptop over my home’s wireless network.

On your virtual TV screen, you see a perfect replica of the remote control; Sling has re-created on-screen remotes for over 5,000 pieces of video gear. Every button takes a second or two to respond, but it’s still pretty amazing to think that as you sit in Singapore, you’re controlling your TiVo in Tulsa.

The video quality depends on the network speed at both ends. When you’re in your house, connected over your home network, the picture quality is superb: clear, crisp, perfectly smooth (though never quite as good as on the TV itself). Across the Internet, the picture is a good deal softer, more like a VHS recording. It’s still eminently watchable; you just don’t want to watch special-effects blockbusters this way.

For $30, you can even buy a tiny copy of the SlingPlayer software that runs on a growing list of smartphones, including those that run Windows Mobile, PocketPC, the Palm OS (like the Treo and Centro families) and the Symbian OS (many Nokia smartphones).

BlackBerry and iPhone versions are in the works. (The iPhone’s glorious screen should make a terrific TV — while you’re connected in a Wi-Fi hot spot. Unfortunately, the AT&T data network is too slow for a satisfying video transmission when you’re beyond a hot spot.)

Now, a cellphone’s Internet connection generally isn’t fast enough to permit the kind of picture quality you would get on a laptop. But even though there aren’t nearly as many pixels in the picture, they’re shrunken down so tightly on the phone screen that they look sharp anyway.

Incidentally, don’t think that because the Solo accommodates high-def gear, you get a high-def picture on your laptop or cellphone. You don’t. You do, however, get a better picture when watching HDTV broadcasts, especially when you’re viewing on your home network (rather than across the Internet).

There’s really only one prominent drawback of the Solo, and that’s that it commandeers the whole TV setup. If you’re watching in Wilmington or changing channels from Chattanooga, whoever is at home trying to watch TV will be forced to surrender to your tastes. (The more expensive Pro version lets you split the incoming cable signal so that the homebody at least has an independent choice of basic cable channels.) In that regard, the Solo’s name takes on even more relevance; this box is best suited for singletons.

Otherwise, though, the Solo does well what the Slingbox has always done well, but now for less money, in less space and with more flexibility. Nor is Slingbox finished with its upgrading binge; in a month, the company says, it will unleash a free software update that lets you pause, rewind and then fast-forward the incoming video transmission, much the way TiVo owners can. It will also let you record short clips and post them to Sling’s Web site, legal snarls permitting.

So, you can imagine today’s young people explaining TV to their offspring. “When I was your age, we needed a box to place-shift our TV....”

Little Progress in Hollywood as Contract Expires
Michael Cieply

With the clock running out on the contract between Hollywood’s writers and producers Wednesday, negotiators made little progress toward a new deal, and both sides prepared for a strike that could begin as early as Friday.

Representatives of the two unions — the Writers Guild of America East and the Writers Guild of America West — met with bargainers for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers Wednesday morning after a federal mediator helped jump-start the stalled talks.

But the two sides broke off talks Wednesday night, allowing the contract to expire at midnight. Writers had presented freshly drawn proposals that left their principal demands intact, according to a guild leader, and producers made no immediate move to accommodate them.

“This is a little bit like doing jury duty in a bullring,” Michael Winship, president of the East Coast guild, said of the wrangle-then-wait pacing of talks at the Encino, Calif., headquarters of the producers’ group. Mr. Winship acknowledged that the unions’ latest proposals did not change the writers’ posture on key issues, including increased residuals for DVDs and payments for new media.

If the writers strike, the walkout will at first most noticeably affect talk shows and soap operas that use guild writers, sending the programs into repeats or forcing the hosts to ad-lib. The production of television series would then slow, as producers burn through scripts. Moviegoers will not experience immediate effects, as studios have finished, or are rushing into production, movies that will arrive in theaters through 2008, using scripts that are already written.

Leaders of the West Coast guild, which represents more than 9,000 writers under the contract, were to discuss their plans with members at a meeting set for Thursday evening at the Los Angeles Convention center. The East Coast guild, which represents about 2,500 writers under the contract, had no similar meeting scheduled.

Mr. Winship said guild negotiators brought cards and poker chips to Wednesday’s session — and some spent quiet time finishing up screenplays on laptops — in anticipation of late-night bargaining. While the sides talked, Hollywood was left on edge about prospects for the next week. The board of the West Coast guild was set to meet Friday morning to discuss its next step, while the East Coast guild council set a meeting for that afternoon, Mr. Winship said. A producers’ representative declined to comment on the talks.

Already, the guilds have been forging strike rules, making plans to picket and soliciting support from fellow unions.

Two weeks ago, guild members authorized a walkout at their leaders’ discretion. Writers were not ordered to stop work immediately on Thursday, the first day a strike could be called. But the vote opened the way for what could become the entertainment industry’s first shutdown since 1988, when writers struck for five months, and Teamsters and other film workers staged a shorter strike.

This time, writers and producers are separated by differences over payments for the use of programs distributed through new media like the Internet and cellphones, and conflicting demands for a change in payments for the reuse of movies and TV shows on DVDs and elsewhere.

Wednesday’s meetings following more than a week of jostling, during which producers and writers took steps toward agreement on issues like pension and health fund contributions, and the provision of first-class plane tickets for writer travel.

Earlier, the producers withdrew a contentious demand that residuals be paid only after they had recovered the cost of movies and programs. Writers made no matching step, leading to a standoff that persisted this week.

Wednesday’s contract expiration also raised the likelihood that producers would soon turn their attention to talks with the Directors Guild of America.

The producers’ contract with the directors guild expires on June 30, as does yet another contract, with the Screen Actors Guild. Leaders of the directors guild have been quietly preparing over the last several weeks to begin bargaining toward a new agreement, but have remained in the background, pending the expiration of the writers’ contract.

Q & A: How a Writers Strike Would Play Out
Scott J. Wilson

If there's a strike, what writers would be involved?

The nearly 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America, who write primarily for television shows and movies.

What writers are not involved?

Writers for commercials, sports programs and reality TV, who are not covered under the guild contract.

What about writers for animated productions?

This is a gray area. Although the Writers Guild has contracts for prime-time animated TV shows including "The Simpsons," most animated features are covered under Animation Guild Local 839, which is part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Some writers for these animated shows belong to both unions.

A dual member who chooses to work under the Animation Guild agreement would be crossing the picket line in the eyes of the Writers Guild, risking fines and loss of membership. The IATSE says it is prepared to take legal action if the Writers Guild prohibits its members from working on animated features.

If there's a strike, will writers be able to finish their current projects?

The guild says that striking writers must "immediately" stop writing for all the major studios and production companies and cannot begin any new project while on strike.

Could a striking writer talk to studios about projects?

Not under guild rules. The guild says striking writers must not negotiate or discuss current or future writing projects with a company that is a target of the strike, which includes most studios and networks. Striking writers also may not sign or deliver documents related to a writing assignment or sell or option a script.

What about "spec" scripts already submitted?

The guild says that once a strike begins, writers should ask studios to return their "spec literary material."

What about writers who also work as producers and directors?

Writer-directors and writer-producers -- also known as hyphenates -- would be allowed to do "non-writing" during a strike, although there's considerable disagreement over how this is defined.

The guild says "writing services" include cutting a production for time, making changes in technical or stage directions, reassigning lines because of cast changes and making casual, minor adjustments in dialogue or narration just before or during a shoot. But the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios and networks, say all of those are "non-writing services."

What if a Writers Guild member continues to work during the strike?

The guild constitution says that such a member "may be suspended, declared not in good standing, expelled from membership in the Guild, be asked to resign, be censured, fined or otherwise disciplined, or any combination of the foregoing."

But producers note that federal law gives union members the right to continue to work without the threat of fines if they resign full membership in the union and instead elect "financial core" status. In this situation, the writer would pay equivalent dues and fees as a member but would not have any guild voting rights.

What if a nonunion writer crosses the picket line?

The Writers Guild says it "can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership." But such writers would have a legal right to work under financial core status.

Joel and Original Cast of MST3K Riding the Cinematic Titanic

Unfortunately it's in separate projects, but just after Jim Mallon (the man who owns all things MST3K) announced that he would be bringing back Tom Servo, Crow and Gypsy in animated Flash shorts on the web along with Paul Chaplin (a writer from the original MST3K), Joel Hodgson, the series creator, has announced that he will be launching a new venture called Cinematic Titanic. It will feature horrible movies riffed by the original cast of MST3K, including Josh Weinstein (the original Tom Servo), Trace Beaulieu (the original Crow), Frank Conniff (TV's Frank), Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester) and, of course, Joel himself. They've already got the rights to 12 movies, and will be releasing one a month starting in December for DVD purchase or download.

What to Watch? How About a ‘Simpsons’ Episode From 1999?
Claire Atkinson

To get caught up with the ABC show “Grey’s Anatomy,” Joanna Palmer, who had never watched the two-year-old series, bought a DVD set of the entire first season and indulged in a marathon viewing session.

“I had the day off and watched it all day, from 10 a.m. until my husband got home at 5:30,” said Ms. Palmer, 34, a merchandising assistant at Victoria’s Secret who lives in Brooklyn. “It was awesome.” Now, she plans to watch all of the new season, which starts this week.

Ms. Palmer is in good company. Although DVD sales are down this year, television series on disc have fared better than other categories. Sales of complete seasons are a rare bright spot, registering actual growth. Some shows, like “Friends,” “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” have each sold more than $300 million in DVDs.

Those numbers are not staggering, and expectations for the format are limited by the growing number of alternatives, like Internet downloads to streaming video. Even so, the enduring appeal of the DVD and its ability to get time-pressed consumers hooked on shows are giving network executives renewed faith in the format and prompting some experimentation.

“The great thing about having a TV series is that new viewers discover the franchise every day, and they come through season one,” said Sofia Chang, vice president of marketing at HBO Video. “Even though ‘The Sopranos’ is eight years old, you still have new people coming to the franchise.”

HBO is not the only network looking to DVD sales to refresh its shows’ popularity. “Jericho,” a dark serial on CBS about a town cut off from the rest of the world, was canceled last year in its first season and then revived, in part because of fan pressure. To build momentum for “Jericho,” CBS Television Distribution is pointedly releasing the first season on DVD in October.

John Miller, chief marketing officer of NBC Universal Television Group, said that DVDs are not necessarily expected to generate profit for the network, but are considered valuable because of their power to turn casual viewers into loyal ones. [NBC said last week that it would start offering free ad-supported downloads of its popular shows on its Web site.]

To get discs into people’s hands, NBC Universal made a deal with Starbucks in July to sell a DVD with highlights from “Saturday Night Live” as well as an episode of “30 Rock.” Tina Fey, the star of “30 Rock,” is a former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, and the idea was that longtime “SNL” fans might be tempted to sample the newer show for the first time. The discs went on sale in late August, timed to whet demand for the fall season.

In a separate deal, NBC Universal worked with Wal-Mart to create a half-season pack of “Friday Night Lights” for $9.99, with promotions for a new show, “Bionic Woman,” thrown in.

“They’re doing it as a break-even,” Mr. Miller said. In the case of “Friday Night Lights,” NBC is even offering a money-back guarantee.

DVDs have also given life to many series beyond their small-screen run. Take, for example, “Babylon 5,” a science-fiction cult hit that ran from 1994 to 1998. In July, Warner Home Video began distributing “Babylon 5: The Lost Tales” on DVD, with fresh episodes of the defunct show.

J. Michael Straczynski, who created the series, said that going straight to DVD appealed to him more than reviving the show through a network. “The idea that such a venue could lead to considerable creative freedom was tremendously appealing,” he said in an e-mail interview.

Similarly, with “Battlestar Galactica” soon to end its run on the Sci-Fi Channel, Universal Media Studios is filming a separate spinoff alongside the final season. “Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Unrated Extended Edition)” will be out on DVD in December.

But even strong demand will not bring some shows to DVD, because of the high cost of securing music rights. Many shows were made before the DVD format was developed, and transferring the content to the newer format can require making fresh deals with the actors or musicians. The music rights on the “Happy Days” DVD, for instance, were reported to cost as much as $1 million.

For this reason, fans of the series “The Wonder Years,” which ran from 1988 to 1993, will most likely never be able to see the shows on DVD, and why fans of “WKRP in Cincinnati” sometimes express disappointment with the DVD version, which by necessity swapped out many of the original songs (substitutions that sometimes make the dialogue seem illogical).

Nostalgia clearly drives a lot of DVD sales. Among the 300,000 registered users of the Web site www.tvshowsondvd.com, “The Wonder Years” is the most in-demand unreleased show, followed by “Batman,” “Daria” and “Third Watch.” At Amazon.com, “The Muppet Show” is a regular top seller.

“As people enter adulthood, they want to go back and buy shows from their childhood,” said Dan Vancini, a movie editor at Amazon.

TVshowsondvd, which is backed by TV Guide magazine, tracks the release dates for various shows, a schedule that looks like an amalgam of different eras. For example, tomorrow is the scheduled release date for volume two of the first season of “The Streets of San Francisco” (from the early 1970s), lost episodes from “Davey and Goliath” (a religious animated show that ran from 1960 to 1977) and the best of “The Cosby Show” (1984-92), among others.

“At some companies, they have great synergy between the TV division and the DVD division,” said Gord Lacey, the founder of TVshowsondvd. “Sometimes they don’t talk. If you’re the guy doing the budget for a TV show and licensing the DVD rights to the music you want is going to add to your budget, why would you do that if you don’t get any benefit?”

But network executives have grown wise to the problem. “More and more, we are out obtaining DVD rights at the beginning of the licensing process in one all-encompassing rights package,” said Alexandra Patsavas, music supervisor on “Grey’s Anatomy.” “This ensures that the producer’s first choices for bands and songs are included on the DVDs and the audience sees the episodes intact with the original soundtrack.”

Ms. Patsavas, who has also worked on Fox’s “The O.C.” — another show known for its catchy tunes — says that in the late 1990s, bands were not that interested in working with television executives, fearing that they would be perceived as less than cool. But “the music business has changed, and TV licensing is now seen as both an artistic and marketing opportunity for both new and established artists,” she said.

October marks the start of the fourth quarter, the heaviest promotion period on the DVD sales calendar. So far this year, sales of complete seasons of TV shows on DVD are up 6 percent from the comparable period last year, according to Nielsen VideoScan (although growth has slowed from a 17 percent rise in 2006 over 2005). The figures are noteworthy given that total DVD sales are down 7 percent this year, with the overall television segment down only 1 percent.

Not all popular shows perform well on DVD. Highly rated procedural dramas like “C.S.I.” and “Law and Order” are not strong sellers, and reality shows do even worse. “American Idol, Seasons 1-4” ranked No. 14,672 on the Amazon charts on Sept. 10, and costs just $7.

Evan Shapiro, executive vice president and general manager at the Independent Film Channel, said that the poor performance of reality shows on DVD and other markets has helped spur demand for more scripted programming. Unlike at other networks, he said, at IFC, the television broadcast is viewed as a marketing platform for DVDs. For instance, IFC decided to reintroduce the former Fox sitcom “Greg the Bunny” on the basis of its strong DVD sales.

Despite the wide range of television viewing options provided by the likes of iTunes from Apple, executives say they are confident that the DVD format will endure; DVDs are portable and can be played on a variety of devices.

“As soon as I found out that ‘West Wing’ had been canceled, I went out and bought the whole collection,” said Lee Westerfield, a media analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

Steve Feldstein, a senior vice president at 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, says he thinks that sales of complete series on DVD have remained buoyant simply because there are a lot of good shows around.

Pilot episodes that cost upward of $5 million are common, putting TV production values on par with movies.

Mr. Feldstein suggests that viewers were more likely to catch up on a single episode via iTunes or an Internet download, while still buying a collector’s boxed set. “Anyone who is a fan is going to want nice packaging with all the extras,” he said.

MySpace Users Turn Movie Moguls For New Film

A British film project has turned MySpace users into movie moguls, giving them a say in choosing the director, cast, soundtrack and marketing model.

While online interaction between fans and film makers is not new, the backers of "Faintheart" say they take the phenomenon further, and believe the Internet will become increasingly important to Hollywood and the movie world in general.

Film4's Peter Carlton, one of the producers of "Faintheart," said audiences tended to be cut off from movie making, and that the film industry had lessons to learn from rock groups who have harnessed the Internet to develop a fan base and sell music.

"We learned a lot from British music, which has reinvigorated itself partly through the Internet and also simply by playing gigs at local colleges," Carlton told Reuters.

"This is our equivalent of the college circuit -- to find out if we get booed off at the first test run."

Carlton described "Faintheart" as "a fairly standard rom-com with a lovely Viking twist." Set in the world of battle re-enactments, Richard the "weekend warrior" sets out to win back his wife after she leaves him, branding him childish.

More than 800 directors submitted short films over the Internet, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 12. A panel including actress Sienna Miller chose three finalists, and Myspace users voted for the winner, Vito Rocco.

"Anyone who loves movies and interactivity will be fascinated to get involved in this pioneering film," said Rocco, who began shooting the picture last week.

The sponsors, including social networking site MySpace, provided one million pounds ($2 million) to fund it, and it will be released in early 2008.

Casting Call

Once Rocco was selected, budding actors were invited to audition online for roles in the film. About 1,200 people applied, and 10 actors were chosen for parts ranging from walk-ons to smaller speaking roles.

Visitors to MySpace's MyMovie MashUp link will soon be able to choose bands to appear in the movie and on the soundtrack, and will have a say in how "Faintheart" is marketed and distributed, whether online or in cinemas or both.

Although billed as the world's first user-generated feature film, Carlton stressed that it combined innovation with traditional movie making techniques.

The main characters will be played by established actors and the script is unlikely to change radically.

Studios have already benefited from Internet interest. In the case of last year's "Snakes on a Plane," MySpace and YouTube users whipped up a frenzy of anticipation ahead of its release.

Carlton believes Hollywood has little choice but to tap the wired world more often in future.

"We will not see a swing towards one single model, but the Internet gives us new and fresh ways of getting in touch with our audience and finding out what it thinks," he said.

"And new directors will come out of that community."

Viacom 3Q Profit Jumps on Music Sale
Seth Sutel

Viacom Inc., the media conglomerate controlled by Sumner Redstone, reported an 80 percent jump in third-quarter earnings Friday, boosted by the sale of a music publishing business and box office receipts from its movie "Transformers."

Viacom, which owns MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures, earned $641.6 million, or 96 cents per share, in the three months ending in September, up from $356.8 million, or 50 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

The latest results included a $192 million gain from the sale of Famous Music, a music publishing business.

Excluding that and other one-time items including a $3 million restructuring charge in the latest quarter and compensation charges of $62 million in the year-ago period following the departure of Tom Freston as CEO, adjusted operating income rose 14 percent to $818 million, or 65 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 59 cents per share. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items. Viacom's shares rose $1.37 or 3.4 percent to $41.78 in early trading.

Revenues rose 24 percent to $3.27 billion from $2.63 billion a year ago and ahead of analysts' estimates of $2.99 billion.

Viacom used to be combined with CBS Corp., but the two companies split up in the beginning of 2006. Redstone still controls the shareholder votes of both companies.

The breakup of Viacom and CBS was aimed at allowing investors to value Viacom's cable network-heavy portfolio separately from CBS, which has a large broadcast TV business as well as a radio and outdoor advertising arm. Since then, Viacom's shares have slipped 2.8 percent, while CBS's have gained 7.9 percent.

Viacom's filmed entertainment division swung to a profit of $71.7 million in the latest period from a loss of $7.8 million a year ago as revenues jumped 57 percent.

Viacom attributed the turnaround largely to box office revenues from "Transformers," which opened in July and recently was released on DVD, as well as a 39 percent rise in home video revenues due to a greater number of titles in release versus the same period a year earlier.

Earnings from cable networks edged up 2 percent to $796.8 million. A 9 percent rise in revenues to $2 billion, were offset by a 13 percent rise in expenses, largely due to programming and compensation.

Achtung baby

Blu-Ray BD+ Cracked and Ready to Burn

On the sly
Paul Hales

COPY AND BURN FIRM, Slysoft reckons it has cracked the beefed-up copy protection on Blu-ray disks, BD+.

It reckons it has the routine cracked even though Sony reckons its protection will be good for ten years.

SlySoft boss, Giancarlo Bettini says he has wonders "when people will understand that the more restrictions, pressures and protection measures that are applied to limit the functionality of a thing, the fewer sales that will result, not more."

According to German reports, Bettini reckons he'll have commercial Blu-ray disk-copying software out by the end of the year.

Here is the German original.

Kmart Drops Blu-Ray Over Price

As HD-DVD players have dropped below $200, Blu-ray is starting the feel the pressure. In one such move, Kmart has decided to drop Blu-ray players from its stores, mostly because of pricing.

Of course, Kmart will continue to sell the Playstation 3, which includes a Blu-ray player.

Wal-Mart and Circuit City are offering the Toshiba A2 player at below $200, as is Amazon.com. The downside of the player, of course, is it is 1080i only. However, the lower prices seem to be turning the tide, which seemed to be in favor of Blu-ray after events such as Blockbuster choosing to rent Blu-ray only.

And deals like the Sears Black Friday special on the Toshiba A3 ($169) and the current Buy.com Xbox 360 HD-DVD external drive ($164.99 bundle with Heroes Season 1 and five movies) just add downward pressure.

However, even at these lower prices, many are still concerned with ending up with "Betamax" hi-def DVD player. We'll see what the holiday sales bring.

When the Studios Called the Shots, and the Close-Ups
William Grimes


By Jeanine Basinger

Illustrated. 586 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $35.

On the roll call of names that made Hollywood shine in its golden age, Dennis Morgan comes well down the list. Yet Morgan, a vaguely handsome leading man with a pleasant tenor voice, generated solid box office returns from the mid-1930s right through the 1940s. Although overshadowed by the Gables and the Garbos, he was a star of medium magnitude with his own assured place in the entertainment universe.

As Jeanine Basinger amply demonstrates in “The Star Machine,” Hollywood excelled at manufacturing Dennis Morgans. There was nothing accidental about his career or those of a hundred other names that are only answers to trivia questions. Hollywood needed more than great headliners to satisfy the insatiable appetite for the hundreds of motion pictures it made each year.

“There were big-name stars and little-name stars,” Ms. Basinger writes, “A-list stars and B-list stars, male stars, female stars, dog stars, child stars, character actor stars, western stars for low-budget westerns, horror film stars for horror films, and, always waiting in the wings to step in when the established stars got too uppity were youngsters under consideration to become the next big stars.” In other words, Hollywood needed Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, but it also needed “its Priscilla Lanes and its George Brents.”

Ms. Basinger, the author of “Silent Stars” and the chairwoman of the film studies department at Wesleyan University, ingeniously picks apart the gears and levers of the machine, analyzing the careers of a handful of stars whose ups and downs illustrate the studio system at its smooth-functioning best, or reveal its hidden inefficiencies. The same system that could extract a long, profitable career from a middle-level talent like Clifton Webb could also stumble badly, as it did in trying to make a second Garbo out of the now-forgotten Anna Sten.

The machine depended, ultimately, on wayward human beings and on the X factor known as star quality, whose power everyone recognized but whose properties remained a mystery. Hollywood, as Ms. Basinger points out, “cheerfully made a living manufacturing a product it couldn’t define.”

The movie industry did not have a formula, but it did have a process, and in her most absorbing chapters Ms. Basinger breaks down the steps by which human raw material could be shaped into something that audiences would love and pay money to see again and again. Some of this material is familiar, but Ms. Basinger chooses her examples cleverly. Although it is no secret that actors entered into serflike bondage, who knew that Gene Tierney battled long and hard to retain contractual control of her own teeth?
Once a budding actor had been renamed, reshaped and taught how to speak and move in front of a camera, the studio, if it sensed potential star quality, showed enormous resourcefulness in testing the waters. Audiences watching “Three on a Match,” a 1932 film with Joan Blondell, Bette Davis and Anne Dvorak, might have thought they were enjoying a gritty drama about three school friends. In fact, Warner Brothers was using Blondell, an established star, to introduce Davis, a newcomer, and support Dvorak, an emerging star.

With luck, an actor could be assigned a type that with even greater luck, would prove to be equally useful in films of every genre. Walter Pidgeon, a shining example of the studio system, never achieved stardom of the first rank, but typecast as the “dignified but not stuffy handsome older man,” he exhibited what Ms. Basinger calls generic flexibility:

“He could be the romantic lead, the villain, the father, the best friend, the husband, the romantic rival, a historical figure, a sage older counselor — Pidgeon could even sing.”

Not all stars were made. Some were simply packaged. Deanna Durbin, one of Ms. Basinger’s extended case studies, was spotted at a Los Angeles singing school by the casting director for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Fresh-faced and exuberant, she was plucked from obscurity and made more than 20 enormously popular and profitable films between 1936 and 1948, nearly always playing a bright-eyed Little Miss Fix-It who solved adult problems while singing her little heart out.

Ms. Basinger lavishes fond attention on several actors, like Errol Flynn, Lana Turner, Tyrone Power, Irene Dunne and Jean Arthur, included because their careers illustrate the shortcomings of the star machine, or the ways in which a wily actor could game the system. In reality these set pieces are full-throated appreciations, gushy yet pedantic, an odd combination.

As with baseball and jazz, something about film encourages its most ardent devotees to scour the credits in search of ever-diminishing minutiae. There is no joy like analyzing the performance of a minor actor in a second-rate film, although such actors are never minor, only underappreciated, and the films themselves never unwatchable but endlessly fascinating when looked at from the correct, extremely oblique, angle.

Ms. Basinger expends enormous energy trying to prove that Norma Shearer is a great, underappreciated talent (with “lovely ears”) who seems dated only because modern audiences do not know how to watch her films. She argues passionately on behalf of Loretta Young, mentioning only in passing that Young’s more than 90 films include “almost no truly superior ones.”

It’s hard not to get swept up in the lovefest, though. Ms. Basinger has a bouncy, bright style and a shrewd eye for identifying precisely the qualities that made this or that actor click with audiences, and, in machine terms, guaranteed durability. Sweet and a little prim, Jean Arthur conveyed to 1940s audiences “the true feeling of delicious sexual frustration.” The book is filled with happy observations like these, although I’m still not sure what it means to say that “Irene Dunne is Doris Day before Doris Day was Doris Day.”

The star machine worked partly because failure was built into the system. A single bankable star paid for 20 disappointments, who were often recycled in cheaper films and lesser roles, or thrown overboard entirely.

“If the machine somehow malfunctioned in the washing, nipping, tucking and creating process, everyone simply turned toward the next prospect,” Ms. Basinger writes. Enter Shepperd Strudwick. Not a bad actor. Just underrated.

‘Miss Bad Media Karma’ Sings, Too
Kelefa Sanneh

“Eat it! Lick it! Snort it!” Such was the legal commentary offered by Britney Spears when she left her latest court hearing on Friday afternoon, as reported by “Access Hollywood.” (Actually there was one more imperative phrase, but it’s not likely to appear in this newspaper.)

It’s starting to seem as if America’s appetite for titillating news about Ms. Spears can be matched only by her ability to supply it. The unworn unmentionables, the bobbled baby, the hewn hair, the umbrella attack, the loose lip-syncing, the benders and fender-benders: We have seen it all. And, notwithstanding all the rather transparent statements of concern and condemnation, we have watched avidly but rather dispassionately. What motivation could possibly be stronger than pure, unimpeded, indefensible curiosity?

Yet there remains one thing we haven’t really seen Ms. Spears do: We generally haven’t seen her in the recording studio, at least not recently. And in that sense, her new album, “Blackout” (Jive/Zomba), arrives in shops tomorrow as something of a mystery. Her face is on the front, and 12 songs — all of which have surfaced online in recent weeks — are listed on the back. But we don’t know much more than that, and (legal commentary aside) she doesn’t seem to be talking.

The album’s first single is “Gimme More,” a nifty little electro-pop song that was swiftly overshadowed by Ms. Spears’s inept pantomime of it at the MTV Video Music Awards in September. “Gimme More” was produced by Danja, a deft protégé of Timbaland who is perfecting his own melancholy, robotic sound. It did pretty well on radio (it hit No. 14 on Billboard’s Pop 100 Airplay chart) and, propelled by hundreds of thousands of paid downloads, reached No. 3 on the main singles chart, the Hot 100.

The album includes four other Danja productions, and “Gimme More” seems to provide the template for virtually the entire CD: The electronic beats and bass lines are as thick as Ms. Spears’s voice is thin, and as the album title suggests, the general mood is bracingly unapologetic. As if to taunt all the voyeurs crying crocodile tears for her children, she delivers almost nothing but slithery come-ons and defiant invitations to nightclub decadence.

If that sounds depressing, then you should hear “Piece of Me,” produced by the Swedish duo of Bloodshy & Avant, the same team that produced her 2003 song “Toxic.” Introduced by a sludgy bass line, Ms. Spears waxes defensive, in a heavily synthesized voice that’s the main (and sometimes only) instrument: “I’m Miss Bad-Media-Karma, another day another drama/Guess I can’t see the harm in working and being a mama.”

Over and over comes a refrain — “You want a piece of me” — that could be an accusation or an invitation or a threat. And the producers set upon her like ravenous fans, building her up (by dropping out the bass line) and then knocking her around (by shifting her pitch). Together they evoke the horror, the exhilaration and (finally) the boredom of the overexamined life. It’s brilliant.

Some of the other songs are nearly as good. (The rave-inspired flirtation “Break the Ice”; the giddy love song “Heaven on Earth,” a collaboration with the indie-electro duo Freescha.) And even the awful ones — like “Ooh Ooh Baby,” with its brain-battering refrain of “Babe-eh, babe-eh, babe-eh, babe-eh, babe-eh, babe-eh, babe-eh” — are cleverly produced. Ms. Spears wisely avoids ballads, although the album ends, rather abruptly, with a breakup song called, “Why Should I Be Sad,” which should make listeners grateful for the album that Ms. Spears might have made, but didn’t.

Ms. Spears has been a fierce presence for most of her career, whether gazing disconcertingly into the camera lens in David LaChapelle’s baby-girl-chic 1999 Rolling Stone photo spread or slithering around an airplane in the video for “Toxic.” Her breathy voice often hints at urgency, or even violence: “Hit me baby one more time”; “I’m a slave 4 u.” Even when she was being marketed as a clean-cut ex-Mouseketeer, and even when she was touring the country with a microphone that functioned largely as a prop, something about her was intense.

But she cuts a startlingly low profile on “Blackout,” and there are times when it scarcely sounds like a Britney Spears album at all. Even when not buried in electronics, her distinctive singing voice sounds unusually vague, and sometimes it’s hard to be sure it’s hers. It isn’t always. On this album, unlike on previous ones, Ms. Spears isn’t credited with doing any of her own backing vocals. Read the fine print, and you’ll discover an impressive cast of helpers, including T-Pain, Keri Hilson (who sang the recent hit “The Way I Are”) and the Euro-pop star Robyn. In general the parts that sound the most Britney Spears-ish are the whispered introductions and interjections

Earlier albums have arrived complete with effusive, multipage thank-you lists. From “Britney,” her 2001 album: “Mama — thanks for being the best role model in the world. I want to be just like you when I’m older.” (Times have changed.) “Blackout” has no thank-you list at all, which will likely be noted by fans who are already suspicious that this album is really a hastily cobbled-together grab bag. And those same fans will surely notice that someone seems to have run low on photographs of Ms. Spears. The booklet is padded with pictures of empty chairs (two) and stills from the notably slapdash “Gimme More” video (six).

Unlike all the other Britney Spears albums, this one hasn’t been accompanied by the usual avalanche of magazine interviews, talk-show appearances and televised performances. Ms. Spears scarcely lacks for publicity (she remains the paparazzi’s favorite quarry) but she has done almost nothing, in the recording studio or outside it, to convince fans that “Blackout” is really hers, or really her. That doesn’t make it any harder to delight in how good the best songs sound. But that may well make it hard (or impossible) for fans and skeptics to treat this CD as a serious comeback attempt. Ubiquitous, one way or another, for almost a decade, Ms. Spears has finally managed to become a spectral presence — on her own album.

Watergate Reporter Carl Bernstein Raps Celebrity News

A culture coarsened by celebrity news is increasingly to blame for inadequate public affairs journalism, Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein recently told a group of students.

Newspapers are devoting fewer resources to issues of importance such as the Iraq war and potential abuses of the U.S. Constitution and more to the lifestyles of Donald Trump and Paris Hilton, he told students at Brunswick School in Greenwich on Thursday.
"The problems we have in news and journalism are about us not doing our job well enough," Bernstein said. "The ideal of providing the best available version of the truth is being affected by the dominance of a journalistic culture that has less and less to do with reality and context."

Bernstein, 63, said he believes an "idiot culture" is partly to blame for the dysfunction of political life in the United States.

"You can't separate the appetites and demands of the people themselves and what they are given," he said. "The blame simply can't all be put at the feet of those who present news."

Bernstein and Bob Woodward are known for their work at the Washington Post in the 1970s when they broke numerous stories in reporting on the Watergate scandals that eventually drove President Richard Nixon from office.

Bernstein is promoting his recent biography of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., the leading candidate for her party's presidential nomination.

Rule Jostles Runners Who Race to Their Own Tune
Juliet Macur

At the peak of the marathon season, with one of the year’s biggest races set for Sunday in New York, a worry has emerged among some runners, and it has nothing to do with hitting the wall at Mile 20: Will Beyoncé be there to push them to the finish? Will they be able to call upon Bon Jovi for support when there is no one else to turn to?

USA Track & Field, the national governing body for running, this year banned the use of headphones and portable audio players like iPods at its official races. The new rule was created to ensure safety and to prevent runners from having a competitive edge.

But trying to enforce such a rule on a 26.2-mile course filled with thousands of runners may be futile. The New York City Marathon, which strongly discourages the use of audio players, will not attempt to police its field on Sunday for lack of a surefire way to carry out the ban.

Technically, at last weekend’s Marine Corps Marathon here, and even at much smaller events like the Creaky Bones 5-kilometer race in Florida and the Corn Maze 4-miler in Tennessee, runners should not have had the luxury of listening to their favorite songs along the way. Marine Corps Marathon officials threatened to disqualify runners using headphones, but did not follow through.

“To ban them outright is just stupid, and if they want to disqualify me, they can,” Jennifer Lamkins, a teacher from Long Beach Calif., said before running the Marine Corps Marathon. “If they are banning them because we can’t hear directions, does that mean they should ban deaf people, too?”

Elite runners do not listen to music in races because they need to concentrate on their own bodies and hear their competitors, and some die-hard, old-school runners follow suit. Those runners — purists who prefer the sound of the crowd or their own breathing over, say, “Fergalicious” — cheered the headphone ban.

But for competitors who use music as a motivational tool while training and competing, the ban was frustrating, as if the race directors were forcing them to run barefoot.

With technological advances leading to smaller and smaller audio players that are easier to carry and conceal during races, the rift in the sport and the debate over the issue seems to be here to stay.

“They can ban iPods all they want, but how do you think they are going to enforce that when those things have gotten so small?” said Richie Sais, 46, a police officer in Suffolk County on Long Island, before running the Marine Corps Marathon.

“I dare them to find the iPod on me,” he said, adding that he had clipped his iPod Shuffle, which is barely larger than a quarter, under his shirt.

Some events strongly discouraged the use of audio players in the past, but the track and field federation’s new rule mandated an outright ban so that runners would be more aware of their surroundings and be able to clearly hear race announcements or warnings from other runners.

Jill Geer, spokeswoman for USA Track & Field, said the ban was “basically an insurance issue,” because rates rise substantially if headphones are allowed. Each sanctioned race receives liability insurance from USA Track & Field, and it would be up to each race director to enforce the ban. If the ban were ignored, the races would be liable in the event of an accident caused by someone using headphones, Geer said.

While race officials could not cite specific incidents caused by headphone users, they did say that the new rule would make races safer because it improves communication. Still, they fear that banning headphones may alienate some recreational runners.

“Years ago, the picture of people running marathons was these lean, mean Type-A male running machines, but today people running are your neighbors, just regular people,” said Tracy Sundlun, executive vice president for Elite Racing, which organizes marathons. “It’s a different sport now and we have to cater to these new people, not exclude them”

Coming up with a way to enforce a headphone ban — if enforcement is even possible — has been a challenge for race organizers. Some have already taken a hard line, like the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn., in June, which had a field of about 7,000 runners. Race officials collected iPods at the start and then mailed them back to competitors. Still, 30 maverick runners who broke the rules and used headphones were disqualified.

“We proved that it is very possible to enforce,” said Scott Keenan, the Grandma’s Marathon race director. “If other races are allowing it, then shame on them.”

Others are more lenient. The New York City Marathon’s race director, Mary Wittenberg, said it would be impossible to police a race with 38,000 runners moving through five boroughs. Wittenberg, who admitted that she used U2 songs to help get her through tough workouts, did not rule out a ban in the future. If all the major marathons agreed to enforce the rule, New York City would follow, she said.

“Our overwhelming concern is safety, but I think somebody is crazy to wear an iPod at this marathon for other reasons,” she said. “You want every single sense tuned in to the experience of running the race of a lifetime.”

Tucker Andersen, who has run in every New York City Marathon since 1976, scoffed at runners who rely on music to get them into a zone, and said it could create dangerous situations for other competitors. He remembered plenty of incidents in which runners, oblivious to the people around them, cut off others in a mad dash for a cup of water.

Andersen also said wearing headphones robs runners of the complete marathon experience. He remembered running alone across the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx in his first marathon, about to hit the wall at the 20-mile point, when a teenager leaned out of a building’s window and played the theme song from “Rocky” on a boom box.

“If I was wearing an iPod, I never would have heard that,” Andersen said.

But nothing, no magical stories of crowd noise or strict rules that threatened disqualification, deterred some iPod users in the Marine Corps Marathon from bringing their music along on the 26.2-mile journey through scenic Washington and Virginia. They tucked them into their shorts, taped them to the inside of their bras, shoved them into tiny belts. They hid their headphones under headbands and ball caps.

No matter the rule, Jennifer Rock, an Air Force officer from Little Rock, Ark., would have her Sean Paul. She had her mother, Denise, meet her at Mile 15 to hand over her iPod. The race director Rick Nealis said the marines guarding the start line would remind competitors to leave their headphones behind, but there was no enforcement. More than 20,000 runners flooded the starting gate, many with iPods strapped to their arms and unabashedly wearing headphones, including the huge foam ones, circa 1985.

And in sections of the race course where spectators were scarce, including Mile 20, those rulebreakers pressed the play button when the marathon became lonely and cruel.

For John-Louis Kronfeld of Chester, N.Y., that was near the end, when he realized he was breaking barriers and running farther than he ever had.

At the foot of the final stretch of the course, a windy, steep road that leads to the Marine Corps War Memorial, Kronfeld did not think he could take another step. Then he heard the first few notes of a song that saved him.

“Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ started playing,” he said. “In my head, I was singing, ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ and suddenly I got that last nudge through the finish.”

Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD's Coffin
Eliot Van Buskirk

As counterintuitive as it may seem in this age of iPods and digital downloads, vinyl -- the favorite physical format of indie music collectors and audiophiles -- is poised to re-enter the mainstream, or at least become a major tributary.

Talk to almost anyone in the music business' vital indie and DJ scenes and you'll encounter a uniformly optimistic picture of the vinyl market.

"I'm hearing from labels and distributors that vinyl is way up," said Ian Connelly, client relations manager of independent distributor alliance IODA, in an e-mail interview. "And not just the boutique, limited-edition colored vinyl that Jesu/Isis-style fans are hot for right now."

Pressing plants are ramping up production, but where is the demand coming from? Why do so many people still love vinyl, even though its bulky, analog nature is anathema to everything music is supposed to be these days? Records, the vinyl evangelists will tell you, provide more of a connection between fans and artists. And many of today's music fans buy 180-gram vinyl LPs for home listening and MP3s for their portable devices.

"For many of us, and certainly for many of our artists, the vinyl is the true version of the release," said Matador's Patrick Amory. "The size and presence of the artwork, the division into sides, the better sound quality, above all the involvement and work the listener has to put in, all make it the format of choice for people who really care about music."

Because these music fans also listen using portable players and computers, Matador and other labels include coupons in record packaging that can be used to download MP3 versions of the songs. Amory called the coupon program "hugely popular."

Portability is no longer any reason to stick with CDs, and neither is audio quality. Although vinyl purists are ripe for parody, they're right about one thing: Records can sound better than CDs.

Although CDs have a wider dynamic range, mastering houses are often encouraged to compress the audio on CDs to make it as loud as possible: It's the so-called loudness war. Since the audio on vinyl can't be compressed to such extremes, records generally offer a more nuanced sound.

Another reason for vinyl's sonic superiority is that no matter how high a sampling rate is, it can never contain all of the data present in an analog groove, Nyquist's theorem to the contrary.

"The digital world will never get there," said Chris Ashworth, owner of United Record Pressing, the country's largest record pressing plant.

Golden-eared audiophiles have long testified to vinyl's warmer, richer sound. And now demand for vinyl is on the rise. Pressing plants that were already at capacity are staying there, while others are cranking out more records than they did last year in order to keep pace with demand.

Don MacInnis, owner of Record Technology in Camarillo, California, predicts production will be up 25 percent over last year by the end of 2007. And he's not talking about small runs of dance music for DJs, but the whole gamut of music: "new albums, reissues, majors and indies ... jazz, blues, classical, pop and a lot of (classic) rock."

Turntables are hot again as well. Insound, an online music retailer that recently began selling USB turntables alongside vinyl, can't keep them in stock, according to the company's director, Patrick McNamara.

And on Oct. 17, Amazon.com launched a vinyl-only section stocked with a growing collection of titles and several models of record players.

Big labels still aren't buying the vinyl comeback, but it wouldn't be the first time the industry failed to identify a new trend in the music biz.

"Our numbers, at least, don't really point to a resurgence," said Jonathan Lamy, the Recording Industry Association of America's director of communications. Likewise, Nielsen SoundScan, which registered a slight increase in vinyl sales last year, nonetheless showed a 43 percent decrease between 2000 and 2006.

But when it comes to vinyl, these organizations don't really know what they're talking about. The RIAA's numbers are misleading because its member labels are only now beginning to react to the growing demand for vinyl. As for SoundScan, its numbers don't include many of the small indie and dance shops where records are sold. More importantly, neither organization tracks used records sold at stores or on eBay -- arguably the central clearinghouse for vinyl worldwide.

Vinyl's popularity has been underreported before.

"The Consumer Electronics Association said that only 100,000 turntables were sold in 2004. Numark alone sold more than that to pro DJs that year," said Chris Roman, product manager for Numark.

And the vinyl-MP3 tag team might just hasten the long-predicted death of the CD.

San Francisco indie band The Society of Rockets, for example, plans to release its next album strictly on vinyl and as MP3 files.

"Having just gone through the process of mastering our new album for digital and for vinyl, I can say it is completely amazing how different they really sound," said lead singer and guitarist Joshua Babcock in an e-mail interview. "The way the vinyl is so much better and warmer and more interesting to listen to is a wonder."

Napster: Needs A New Business Model
Peter Kafka

Napster's 2Q highlights: Revenues are up 24% y/y, to $31.6 million, and the company has stopped burning cash. The lowlights: It's no longer burning money because it's retreating from its core business: Selling all-you-can-eat music subscriptions. A year ago the company spent $8.5 million on sales and marketing, and this quarter that number had shrunk to $5 million.

The results: six months ago the subscription music service had 830,000 subs, three months ago it had 770,000, and now it has 750,000. The company says that last drop was expected, because kids stop using the service during the summer. But it's not as if those numbers will swell this fall: NAPS projects only a 4% revenue increase for next quarter.

So instead of talking up its core subscription business, Napster is now pinning its hopes on the mobile industry. Music on your cellphone may one day be a real business, but hard to see why Napster is going to be the company that will capitalize on it. In the meantime, Napster has concluded that PC-based music subscriptions aren't a growth business -- the same conclusion that Yahoo! Music, RealNetworks and MTV have already come to.

Official: Imus Returns to Radio
Larry McShane

Don Imus will return to the airwaves Dec. 3 on New York's WABC-AM, only nine months after the cantankerous shock jock's career seemed doomed over his racist, sexist remark about a women's college basketball team.

Citadel Broadcasting Corp. made the announcement Thursday, confirming long-rumored reports that Imus was coming back to morning drive time in the same city where he was banished in April.

"We are ecstatic to bring Don Imus back to morning radio," said 77 WABC President and General Manager Steve Borneman. "Don's unique brand of humor, knowledge of the issues and ability to attract big-name guests is unparalleled. He is rested, fired up and ready to do great radio."

Imus will return with his longtime newsman, Charles McCord, and other members of his morning team, Citadel said in announcing the move. It did not specifically mention Bernard McGuirk, the producer who was fired along with Imus.

Imus will replace the morning team of Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby on the Citadel Broadcasting-owned station.

The acid-tongued broadcasting icon was fired in April after he called the Rutgers University's women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" on the air, sparking a national furor and calls by civil rights leaders and broadcast journalists to resign.

Imus' ouster was supposed to foster a national discussion on racist, offensive language; civil rights leaders pressed music industry officials to cut out racist or misogynist lyrics.

But just three months later, Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the strongest voices calling for the shock jock's firing, said Imus had a right to make a living and could return to radio.

Citadel Broadcasting CEO Farid Suleman also recently defended Imus, telling The New York Times in a recent interview, "He didn't break the law. He's more than paid the price for what he did."

But prospects of Imus' return, anticipated for months, have outraged critics including the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Organization for Women, who said the idea of the icon returning to the airwaves months after he was fired is nearly as insulting as the crude, misogynistic comments that took him off the air.

The radio industry has eagerly awaited his return and the ratings he brought on his WFAN-AM morning show program, which had also been simulcast on the MSNBC cable channel.

Suleman's WABC-AM is already home to several syndicated hosts: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. Imus' national presence would trump the local Arbitron ratings, where his WFAN-AM show consistently drew fewer listeners than Sliwa and Kuby.

TV Dirty 'Dog' Shock
David K. Li

A&E muzzled TV bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman last night, suspending production of his show after a tape surfaced of him using the n- word.

Chapman spewed the hateful slur in a taped phone conversation posted online by The National Enquirer.

The cable network, owned by Hearst, NBC and ABC, acted swiftly to pull the leash on "Dog the Bounty Hunter," which was set to enter its fifth season in January.

"We take this matter very seriously," said A&E senior Vice President Michael Feeney. "Pending an investigation, we have suspended production on the series.''

In the tape recording, Chap man angrily tells his son Tucker that the young man shouldn't be dating his African-American girlfriend - teacher Monique Shinnery.

More specifically, Chapman was upset that Shinnery's presence would prevent his crew from using racial slurs.

"I don't care if she's a Mexican, a whore, whatever. It's not because she's black, it's because we use the word n- - - - - sometimes here," Chapman said.

"I'm not going to take a chance ever in life of losing everything I've worked for, for 30 years, because some f- - -ing n- - - - - heard us saying n- - - - -."

Chapman rationalized that he means no harm when he uses the slur.

"It's that we use the word n- - - -. We don't mean, 'You f- - -ing scum n- - - - - without a soul,' " Chapman said.

"We don't mean that s- - -, but America would think we mean that."

Chapman is a Honolulu-based adventurer best known for his 2003 apprehension of serial rapist Andrew Luster, the Max Factor heir who skipped to Mexico.

The Dog apologized last night, and said he was ripping the girlfriend's character and not her race.

"I am deeply disappointed in myself for speaking out of anger to my son and using such a hateful term in a private conversation," Chapman said in his written apology.

"I was disappointed in his choice of a friend, not due to her race but her character. However, I should have never used that term."

An African-American pal of Chapman's said he's tearful and devastated, and doesn't want to be compared to potty-mouthed shock jock Don Imus.

"In the time I've known him, I've never heard him use that word. When I heard the tape, I was shocked because that's not the person I know," said the Rev. Tim Storey, Chapman's pastor and self-described "life coach."

"He has always shown that he is a person of character and cares about all people. This is truly out of character. He is definitely not a racist. He said 'This now puts me in the category of Don Imus, and I'm not that guy.' "
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NBC Chief Says Apple 'Destroyed' Music Pricing
Katie Marsal

NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker on Sunday urged colleagues to take a stand against Apple's iTunes, charging that the digital download service was undermining the ability of traditional media companies to set profitable rates for their content online.

"We know that Apple has destroyed the music business -- in terms of pricing -- and if we don’t take control, they’ll do the same thing on the video side," Zucker said at a breakfast hosted by Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications.

His comments Sunday were the most aggressive yet since NBC informed Apple last month that it had decided not to renew its contract to sell digital downloads of television shows on iTunes after this year.

NBC originally claimed to be seeking more control over the pricing of songs and videos that it was selling on iTunes, in addition to better piracy controls and more flexibility to bundle video content in an effort to increase revenues.

For its part in the bitter feud, Apple responded by saying NBC was asking for a twofold increase in the wholesale price of its TV show content, which would have resulted in the retail price to iTunes customers increasing to $4.99 per episode from $1.99.

Answering questions at the breakfast Sunday, Zucker offered substantially more color on the iTunes matter, explaining that it was “a relatively easy decision” for NBC to walk away from the Apple download service because it had only earned about $15 million from the service last year in spite of accounting for about 40 per cent of the videos sold on the store.

He said NBC routinely propositioned Apple to breach its standard pricing model and experiment with higher pricing for one hit show such as “Heroes” by raising the price from the iTunes standard $1.99 to $2.99 on a trial basis.

“We wanted to take one show, it didn’t matter which one it was, and experiment and sell it for $2.99,” he said. “We made that offer for months and they said no.”

The NBC chief also revealed that in addition to more pricing flexibility, his firm was also seeking a cut of Apple hardware sales -- such as the iPod and iPhone -- which were capable of viewing content downloaded from the iTunes Store.

"Apple sold millions of dollars worth of hardware off the back of our content and made a lot of money," he said. "They did not want to share in what they were making off the hardware or allow us to adjust pricing."

Zucker's comments also arrive just as NBC and NewsCorp. are launching their joint online video venture, Hulu.com, which aims to compete with iTunes by offering streaming TV and other commercial video content to viewers under an ad-supported model.

He said that 50 million streams of TV shows accessed on NBC.com during the month of October are proof that there is a demand for traditional TV series on the web.

“It’s extraordinary,” he said. “It’s like a small cable channel in our universe that is becoming very successful.”

Robert Fripp Lays in to Music Industry Rip-Off Merchants
Paul Hales

Vista composer exposes EMI's lucrative shenanigans

GUITAR WHIZZ and composer of Vista's little blipping noises, Robert Fripp is fed up with the hypocrisy of the music industry over copyright.

Fripp writes that he and his King Crimson band feel ripped off by record label EMI.

Apparently, EMI may have flogged some King Crimson CDs when it shouldn't have and cryptically Fripp refers to returns of unsold CDs. "A concern with returns is always that they are not dumped back onto the market by mistake (by mistake, dear reader)," he writes.

But it is the issue of downloads that is causing most headaches.

"After the licence (with EMI) expired," writes Fripp, "King Crimson tracks repeatedly appeared on various download websites licensed from EMI. If this had happened during the licence period, it would have been disturbing – even though shit happens and we should have gotten over it! - because EMI never had download rights from us."

This, mainly, is because when the licence period began, there was no such thing as downloads. Fripp says the EMI licence was subsequently not renewed because he and the band were not willing to approve download rights, "because the royalty terms offered sucked."

"These are current industry standard royalty terms," Fripp adds.

The download income EMI offered was neither sufficient nor satisfactory says Fripp. But what galls the most, he says, "is the cavalier approach to copyright ownership of someone other than EMI."

"It’s a little too rich to punish punters for illegal downloads of EMI copyright material when EMI are themselves guilty of copyright violation. The response, many months ago, of the EMI lawyer (the one who also said "shit happens! get over it") effectively told us "I’ve done my best! we’ve told them to take it down!"

"This isn’t quite good enough when making publicly available the copyright material of others. How bad do EMI management systems have to be that the company has no power of control over its licensing to download companies?"

As Fripp notes it's a pain in Aris for artistes to have to keep tabs on the record companies like this. It's "a major distraction from the creative life, and almost wholly a negative experience," he bleats.

The bad news, he writes, is that it's not in the record companies' interests to sort it out. In this case: "Efficiency is not seen as being in the direct interest of the record company - because it profits from its carelessness."

EMI Puts Full Video Catalog On Music Choice

EMI Music has inked a deal with multi-platform network Music Choice, which allows the broadcaster to stream EMI's entire music video library on television and online in the U.S. This agreement provides access to EMI's roster of both established and emerging artists, from Lily Allen and The Decemberists to David Bowie and Coldplay. The music videos are available for viewing by millions of fans who have access to Music Choice through its free On Demand network and its free online music service for broadband subscribers. In addition, Music Choice will feature EMI's artists in original programs such as Artist of the Month, Fresh Crops, Rock U and Tha Corner.

"Music Choice is a powerful way for us to reach our fans - through TV and online - and we are delighted to include them as one of the growing platforms that will expose our artists' works to consumers," said Lauren Berkowitz, SVP of Digital for EMI Music North America.

"Music Choice is thrilled to now have access to EMI's full roster of well-known and up-and-coming artists, adding to the depth of content available on our television network and online music site," said President and CEO David Del Beccaro. "EMI's artists will be exposed to a nationwide audience that has helped us build the most popular On Demand music network in the country by placing over a billion orders for our free music-related content."

Terra Firma On Shaky Ground With EMI
Peter Lauria and Brian Garrity

Terra Firma is already trying to trim its equity stake in EMI amid a major strategic review of the music company's business that could result in big changes, including a possible sale of its physical distribution business, The Post has learned.

EMI insiders and financial sources confirmed that Terra Firma has met with dozens of private-equity firms, hedge funds and other institutions in a bid to recoup some of the $1.5 billion in equity it poured into EMI as part of its $4.7 billion acquisition.

Terra Firma CEO Guy Hands already has gone back at least twice to the limited partners who participated in the original financing, asking for additional equity, according to one source who has met with the firm.

Offering partners an opportunity to invest in a deal on their own isn't unusual. But sources said that taking such a step just three months after closing the EMI deal and going outside of its co-investor base suggests that Hands is already disillusioned with his purchase.

"If they thought the deal they made was good, they wouldn't be diluting their stake by trying to bring other investors in," said one person close to EMI. "They're trying to find others to buy in so they can offload some of the risk."

One source close to Terra Firma conceded the firm's offer for EMI was predicated on various financial assumptions based on limited due diligence.

In addition to diluting its equity position, sources said Terra Firma is also looking at a number of cash-saving initiatives, with company insiders confirming that selling off its physical distribution operation and farming out packing and shipping functions hasn't been ruled out.

Selling EMI's distribution operations - a strategy that other record companies have mulled since 2000 - would generate quick cost savings because of the cuts in staff, overhead and real estate. It would also fit in with EMI's pruning of its real estate and distribution holdings in recent years.

Other cost-saving options under review include overall job cuts and spending curbs, sources said.

Hands, who has a history of selling bonds backed by the cash flow of various assets, could use this strategy as a way to quickly raise cash as well.

While Terra Firma has yet to make its first debt payment as part of the EMI purchase, sources said the cost-saving measures under review are aimed at prettying up the balance sheet for when Terra Firma has to show the company's numbers to its lender banks.

A spokesman for Terra Firma declined to comment.

The B-52's Return With First New Album In 16 Years

"The World's Greatest Party Band," The B-52's, will make their return on February 26 with Funplex, the band's first studio album in 16 years. The follow-up to 1992's Good Stuff will be released via Astralwerks and was produced by Steve Osbourne (New Order, KT Tunstall) in their home town of Athens, GA.

Guitarist Keith Strickland explains, "It's loud, sexy rock and roll for your pleasure zones, with the beat pumped up to hot pink." Singer Kate Pierson recently told Rolling Stone, "We’re more conscious of song structure, instead of fitting everything into a collage. This album, the songs build and build and by the end, it’s totally different, this course is hammering along and you’re dancing."

"We are thrilled to be bringing The B-52's music to a new generation of intergalactic fans. Cindy [Wilson], Fred [Schnieder], Kate, and Keith have made an album that is incredibly fresh, dynamic and perhaps most importantly, quintessentially The B-52's ... instantly recognizable, instantly fun," Astralwerks label manager Glenn Mendlinger commented.

Funplex track list:

1. "Pump"
2. "Hot Corner"
3. "Ultraviolet"
4. "Juliet Of The Spirits"
5. "Funplex"
6. "Eyes Wide Open"
7. "Love In The Year 3000"
8. "Deviant Ingredient"
9. "Too Much To Think About"
10. "Dancing Now"
11. "Keep This Party Going"


Ripples in the Music Industry, Part 1: Breaking Away
Walaika Haskins

Piracy is not the major music labels' main problem, according to analyst Mike Goodman. "The problem is that they have an inefficient business model. We're undergoing a business correction, and there is not anything they'll be able to do about this market correction. Revenues for the music industry are going to decline." Meanwhile, musical artists are using the Internet to strike out on their own.

October seemed as though it would be a banner month for the recording industry after a Minnesota jury ruled in favor of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the first peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing lawsuit to go to trial. The jurors demanded Jammie Thomas, a single mother who the RIAA claimed had shared copyrighted audio files, pay US$222,000 in damages. The award appeared to vindicate in the industry's years-long battle to put an end to illegal downloads by any means necessary.

The RIAA has filed lawsuits against nearly 26,000 individuals it says have illegally shared music files. The bulk of those sued have opted to settle out of court and as a result have paid an average of US$2,000 in fines.

The industry representative was so buoyed by its success that on Oct. 12, the RIAA filed suit against Usenet host Usenet.com, claiming that the newsgroups violate federal copyright laws and contain millions of copyrighted sound recordings.

A predecessor to listservs and other Internet forums, Usenet -- short for User Network -- is a global, decentralized, distributed Internet discussion network comprised of newsgroups -- a compendium of messages from users on a specific topic with the most recent posts stored on the Usenet host's server . Newsgroups are widely used in academic settings and are largely unmoderated. An RIAA win here could provide the legal foundation necessary for the group to bring lawsuits against scores of universities, Internet Service Providers and other newsgroup hosts.

Also, on Oct. 18, the RIAA sent out its ninth wave of pre-litigation letters informing 411 students at universities across the country, including the University of California in Berkeley, Vanderbilt University, the University of Southern California, Tufts University and Drexel University, of its intent to sue them. According to the group, it has identified these students as significant violators of their copyrights. The letters allow the students to, the RIAA said, resolve the industry's claims at a "discounted rate before a formal lawsuit is filed."

Distorted Vision?

The RIAA and record labels have concentrated much effort on stopping P2P file-sharing and breaking iTunes' stranglehold on digital downloads. However, what happens when an artist attempts to buck the system by using the Internet instead of a label? With digital downloads, musicians could take the distribution and marketing -- arguably the main reasons record labels exist at all -- into their own hands and leave music companies holding an empty bag.

"It is yet another example of [the recording industry] missing the point," Mike Goodman, a Yankee Group analyst, told the E-Commerce Times. "They are so myopic on piracy, and now their list of culprits [for declining CD sales] has shifted to pirates and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) , that they continue to miss the real problem. And they are the real problem."

Recording labels have seen their revenues decline significantly from the buying frenzy of the early 1990s, when consumers replaced their cassette tapes and vinyl records with CDs and sent profits to historical highs. According to the RIAA, file-sharing has cost record labels $4.2 billion in profits each year worldwide.

However, even if the industry was able to root out every vestige of piracy tomorrow, it would still lose $1 billion next year, Goodman continued.

A 2004 study by two researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of North Carolina found that tracks trafficked heavily online by file-sharing networks showed no appreciable drop in sales. They followed sales of 680 albums during a 17-week period in 2002. The researchers reported that for every 150 downloads of a track from those albums, sales rose by one CD. They concluded that file-sharing, instead of depressing sales, actually increased sales of popular albums by more than 600,000 copies.

"The problem is not piracy. The problem is that they have an inefficient business model. We're undergoing a business correction, and there is not anything they'll be able to do about this market correction. Revenues for the music industry are going to decline. And when all is said in done in about five or ten years from now, you'll probably see about a 30 percent decline in revenue for the recording industry," Goodman predicted.

On the plus side, it will no longer have an inefficient business model, he added.

Musically Bound No More

Artists have long chafed against the bonds imposed on them by their recording deals. Prince fought a very public battle with Warner Bros. for most of the 1990s, even changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol. Once released from his contract, The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Prince resumed using his given name and vowed to go independent. He started his own label, NPG Records, and despite a distribution deal with EMI/Capitol Records has released the bulk of his recordings over the past decade on the Web.

In July, he gave away copies of his latest album, "Planet Earth," as a promotion in the UK's Mail on Sunday newspaper. Industry pundits speculate that the British freebie was valued at some US$500,000. Other big-name performers including Peter Gabriel, Duran Duran and Dolly Parton have also given away millions of CDs in promotions overseas.

"A lot of different bands have done a lot of different things," Goodman noted, pointing to other bands such as Phish, which exhorted concert goers to make bootleg tapes of their live performances.

Mick Hucknall, frontman of Simply Red, started a record label named after the band. On the label's Simply Red Web site, fans can download the group's recordings and videos going as far back as 2003 or pick up a mug, t-shirt and tour merchandise at the site's online store.

Recording labels as they are today will not exist in five to ten years, Goodman predicted. "They don't have a purpose. In a digital world where recording artists can create their own music -- and I would argue that they could probably do it more efficiently -- and where artists don't need a record label to distribute their music, the record label doesn't serve a purpose in that world."

While there will continue to be branded recording companies such as Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG and EMI, what those companies do will be fundamentally different, Goodman said.

Some musicians such as Ani DiFranco have found success as independent artists. The folk rock songstress started her own label, Righteous Babe Records, and distributes her recordings through her Web site. Though she styles herself as an artist and not an entrepreneur, for whom the music and not the money is paramount, DiFranco reportedly has made $4.25 for each CD sold. Under contracts with major labels, superstars like Michael Jackson and Prince reportedly have earned as little as $2 per CD sold.

Power Shift

One huge example of the seismic shift taking place in the music industry came with the announcement Oct. 16 that Madonna had chosen not to renew her longstanding 25-year relationship with Warner Bros. in favor of a recording and touring deal with Live Nation, a concert promoter, at a reported value of $120 million.

Under the 10-year deal, Madonna will produce three albums for which she will receive a $17 million advance for each CD in addition to the $18 million signing bonus she already earned. Live Nation gains rights to any music-related products -- CDs, tours and merchandise, DVDs, TV shows, films and Web sites. The music promoter will also have to pony up $50 million in cash and stock to promote every one of Madonna's tours.

"It's a different kind of deal, [one] you'd never see from a record label," said Goodman, who calls the tie-up a "hybrid" deal. "There is still a recording component to it, but there are also still a lot of professional services -- merchandising, promotion for the tours, etc. That deal is somewhat reminiscent of a deal that is bridging the past -- sort of a typical recording deal -- with the future which is more of a professional services kind of deal."

Former Beatle Paul McCartney signed a recording contract with Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) ' Hear Music label, which sold his new CD in its retail coffee locations, while another rock legend, the Eagles, will sell their forthcoming CD, "Long Road Out of Eden," exclusively at Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) stores.

"[The record labels'] fundamental problem is that they're becoming irrelevant in the marketplace and they are doing nothing to rectify that situation," Goodman pointed out.

Digital Freedom

This new paradigm for business in the music industry began to show itself in the latest generation of rock greats when top-selling alt-rock band Radiohead refused to re-up on its contract with EMI after it expired in 2004. At the time, Thom Yorke, lead vocalist, told Time magazine that while he enjoyed the folks over at EMI, the time had come for the band to question why it needed a recording label. He added that it would give the group a certain amount of pleasure to give the finger to a business model that was headed the way of the dinosaurs.

On Oct. 10, the band launched its latest album, "In Rainbows," as a self-released digital download for which fans could set their own price. The move indicated record companies have more to worry about than illegal downloads. The revolutionary distribution and pricing scheme has perhaps given the recording industry a glimpse of a future -- one in which artists have a direct line to fans, thus excising the need for a middle man, more commonly known as recording companies.

The success of the download strategy will not be known for some time. Radiohead has refused to release any numbers on the download. A representative from their management company, Courtyard Management, told reporters the group will disclose sales numbers after Christmas.

However not content to wait for official figures, Gigwise, a UK music site, reported the band sold 1.2 million downloads of "In Rainbows" during the 10-day period after it was released, for an average of a little more than $8 per download. If the site's figures are accurate, the band brought in just under $9 million. The Register estimated the amount paid by consumers at a more conservative $5.

Falling Like Dominoes

Just a few days after Radiohead's historic album download hit the Internet, Nine Inch Nails, Oasis and Jamiroquai announced they would make their latest efforts available in online-only downloads. Following Radiohead's example, Nine Inch Nails (NIN) said it would release its upcoming album, "Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D" ("Year Zero Remixed") online and allow fans to pay what they thought it was worth.

"I've waited a long time to be able to make the following announcement: As of now Nine Inch Nails is a totally free agent, free of any contract with any label. I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently different," the band's singer and lead musician Trent Reznor wrote in a post on the NIN Web site. "It gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate."

In a later post on the NIN, site Reznor wrote that the album will also be release through "the traditional retail outlets" in three formats: digital, vinyl and CD/DVD-ROM. The digital downloads will be available on iTunes, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) and possible other sites and will include 14 tracks. Then there is the vinyl package of three discs with a combined 17 tracks. The third format, a physical CD/DVD-ROM, will "cost a bit more than 'regular'" but contains the exact same tracks as the digital download.

Reznor followed that news with another announcement on Oct. 25 that a CD collaboration with Saul Williams, "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust," will be available for free at Niggytardust.com on Nov. 1.

"There are obviously similarities in how Radiohead just released their new record and the way we've chosen to," he wrote. "After thinking about this way too much, I feel we've improved upon their idea in a few ways that benefit you, the consumer.

"One thing that is very different in our situation is that Saul's not the household name (yet!) that Radiohead is, and that means we need your support on this more than ever."

Oasis' lastest single, "Lord Don't Slow Me Down," went up on the bands Web site Oct. 21. The download cost $2 for the single, or fans can get it bundled with two live recordings, "The Meaning of Soul" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" for $3.

Reality Check?

All things are not rosy, however, for artists who decide to go it alone without the protections of a major recording label, James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Artists going solo won't be as successful as they think," he stated. "One of the jobs of the labels is to insulate the artists from the fact that no matter how passionate their fans are, for most artists their diehard fan base is actually very small. By jumping ship, these artists will face the realities of their own power."

Radiohead came face to face with one such reality -- full disclosure -- even before "In Rainbows" made it to the Internet. On Oct. 9 -- one day before its release -- fans who had pre-ordered the download reportedly received an e-mail indicating that "In Rainbows" would be a 48.4 MB ZIP file with 10 160 kpbs, DRM-free MP3s. The outcry from fans was almost immediate from Radiohead devotees who were stunned that the band would not release tracks at a higher quality level. CD-quality bitrates are higher -- from 224 to 320 kbps.

The low compression rate makes the tracks more suitable for playback on smaller devices like computers, iPods and other digital media players. Those who want a track to play on a high-end stereo system will have to wait until the double CD is released in early 2008.

However, "the labels have not provided artists with much of an alternative for their ambitions, so they might be driving great talent out the door," McQuivey pointed out.

"The net benefit of this tragic drama is for consumers. Artists are not rational business people, therefore they will not be constrained by the same habits and patterns that have limited the labels," he explained. "So you see Radiohead experimenting with what I would call the public television model, where people can choose to pay whatever they want.

"Great experiment, but it won't drive dramatic revenues for the music," McQuivey continued. "But do they care? Perhaps the music is better used as a loss leader to drive people to buy concert tickets, t-shirts, art and other memorabilia."

Radiohead apparently still believes record labels have at least a limited purpose in the industry. The band has reportedly decided to sign a deal with a record company to bring the two-CD "discbox" version of the album to store shelves in December or January. Two likely candidates are ATO Records and Side One Records.

Music Takedown Strikes the Wrong Chord
Michael Geist

In February 2006, a part-time Canadian music student established a modest, non-commercial website that used collaborative "wiki" tools, such as those used by Wikipedia, to create an online library of public domain musical scores. Within a matter of months, the site – called the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) – featured more than 1,000 musical scores for which the copyright had expired in Canada.

Nineteen months later – without any funding, sponsorship or promotion – the site had become the largest public domain music score library on the Internet, generating a million hits per day, featuring more than 15,000 scores by in excess of 1,000 composers, and adding 2,000 new scores each month.

Ten days ago, the IMSLP disappeared from the Internet. Universal Edition, an Austrian music publisher, retained a Toronto law firm to demand that the site block European users from accessing certain works and from adding new scores for which the copyright had not expired in Europe. The company noted that while the music scores entered the public domain in Canada 50 years after a composer's death, Europe's copyright term is 20 years longer.

On Oct. 19, the law firm's stated deadline, the student took the world's best public domain music scores site offline. While the site may resurface – at least one volunteer group has offered to host it – the case places the spotlight on the compliance challenges for Canadian websites facing competing legal requirements.

There is little doubt that the site was compliant with Canadian law. Not only is there no obligation to block non-Canadian visitors, but the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that sites such as IMSLP are entitled to presume that they are being used in a lawful manner.

The site would therefore not be subject to claims that it authorized infringement.

Further, while there have been some suggestions that the site also hosted works that were not in the Canadian public domain, Universal Edition never bothered to provide the IMSLP with a complete list of allegedly infringing works.

Although IMSLP is on safe ground under Canadian law, the European perspective on the issue is more complicated. There is no question that some of the site's music scores would infringe European copyright law if sold or distributed in Europe. However, the IMSLP had no real or substantial connection – the defining standard for jurisdiction – with Europe.

Indeed, if Universal Edition were to file a lawsuit in Austria, it is entirely possible that the Austrian court would dismiss it on the grounds that it cannot assert jurisdiction over the Canadian-based site (and even if it did assert jurisdiction, it is unlikely that a Canadian court would uphold the judgment).

This case is enormously important from a public domain perspective. If Universal Edition is correct, then the public domain becomes an offline concept, since posting works online would immediately result in the longest copyright term applying on a global basis.

Moreover, there are even broader implications for online businesses. According to Universal Edition, businesses must comply both with their local laws and with the requirements of any other jurisdiction where their site is accessible – in other words, the laws of virtually every country on Earth. It is safe to say that e-commerce would grind to a halt under that standard since few organizations can realistically comply with hundreds of foreign laws.

Thousands of music aficionados are rooting for the IMSLP in this dispute. They ought to be joined by anyone with an interest in a robust public domain and a viable e-commerce marketplace.

Stop me before I share again

New System Will Help Computer Users Avoid Illegal File-Sharing

The University of Michigan will launch a new educational service to help students avoid unintentionally infringing copyright law.

Be Aware You're Uploading (BAYU) is a new automated system that detects when computers on residence hall networks upload files using peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing technology.

"The University is launching this educational service because many people who use peer-to-peer file-sharing technology do so in ways that may result in copyright infringement or other risks," said Jack Bernard, assistant general counsel in the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel. The service begins Oct. 30.

BAYU is part of U-M's long-standing educational campaign to help students use computing and network resources effectively and lawfully. Peer-to-peer file-sharing, itself, is a lawful activity and is used increasingly for important instructional activities and research. But, it is what and how users file-share that may be unlawful, Bernard said. Many users who intend to use the technology lawfully are infringing unwittingly.

Last year, the University received hundreds of notices from copyright holders who alleged that users were uploading copyrighted content using P2P technology. Many users reported they had not intended to upload, thought they had turned off the uploading feature on their computer or only had uploaded files that were lawful to upload.

The new service will help users avoid unknowingly uploading copyrighted material; help users who are consciously uploading to do so responsibly; and help individuals who use peer-to-peer file-sharing be mindful of the risks associated with the technology.

When BAYU notices P2P uploading, it will send an e-mail with a link to educational information and University resources to the person associated with that computer. BAYU also will help users avoid accidentally exposing themselves to computer viruses and violations of their privacy through P2P uploading.

"We hope that BAYU will help alert students to the possibility that they are uploading unintentionally so they can avoid violating the law," Bernard said. "BAYU does not look at the content being uploaded or content on a computer's hard drive. It simply notifies individuals that a computer associated with them is engaged in uploading. The decision about whether or not to continue uploading rests with the individual."

Many people use peer-to-peer file-sharing technology without understanding how it works, Bernard said. Some P2P applications come configured to upload, so if users do not reconfigure the application to prevent uploading, they may end up uploading accidentally. Even if students have configured their computer software not to upload, the uploading feature may be reengaged when the software is restarted, updated, or through some other mechanism.

Students can mitigate their risks by monitoring their use of P2P technology, understanding how the technology works, and learning about the laws and policies that govern its use, said Bernard. As long as P2P technology is on a computer there is some risk.

The Recording Industry Association of America is cracking down nationally on the illegal swapping of songs. It is seeking settlements with people at 19 universities, including U-M, which has recently received notice of 20 such settlements.

The University is working on ways to expand the benefits of the program to the broader campus community.

In Students’ Eyes, Look-Alike Lawyers Don’t Make the Grade
Adam Liptak

A bunch of law students at Stanford have started assigning letter grades to their prospective employers, which pretty much tells you who holds the power in the market for new associates. It’s not easy to persuade new lawyers from the top schools to accept starting salaries of only $160,000.

The students are handing out “diversity report cards” to the big law firms, ranking them by how many female, minority and gay lawyers they have.

“Many of the firms have atrocious, appalling records on diversity,” said Michele Landis Dauber, a law professor at Stanford and the adviser for the project, called Building a Better Legal Profession. The rankings are at www.betterlegalprofession.org.

In New York, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton got the top grade, an A-minus. At Cleary, the project says, 48.8 percent of the associates are women, 8.7 percent are black, 8.3 percent are Hispanic and 4.5 percent are openly gay.

Herrick, Feinstein, by contrast, got an F. Its numbers: 37.7 percent women, 4.9 percent black, 1.6 percent Hispanics, and no openly gay people.

In Washington, no firm got an A. But seven scored in the D range, including Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Kelley Drye Collier Shannon; Baker Botts; and Mayer Brown.

The numbers were provided to a central clearinghouse by the firms themselves. “Our process is simple,” the student group said in explaining its methodology. “Cut, paste and rank.”

Firms in the top fifth received A’s, in the second fifth B’s, and so on. Overall grades were arrived at by averaging grades for partners and associates in five categories: women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and gay people.

The firms with low rankings did not dispute the basic numbers, with one exception. Herrick Feinstein said it reported that it had no openly gay lawyers “because, at the time of the filing, we did not ask for that information.” There are, the firm said in a statement, openly gay lawyers working there, “including one on the diversity committee.”

The students have ambitious plans, including asking elite schools to restrict recruiting by firms at the bottom of their rankings. They also plan to send the rankings to the general counsels of the Fortune 500 companies with the suggestion that they be used in selecting lawyers.

“Firms that want the best students will be forced to respond to the market pressures that we’re creating,” said Andrew Bruck, a law student at Stanford and a leader of the project.

Roger Clegg, the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a research group that supports colorblind policies, said the whole thing was pernicious.

“Diversity is all too frequently a code word,” he said, “for preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex, or lower standards, or being opposed to assimilation.”

Vikram Amar, a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, added that law firms might well be violating employment discrimination laws in the process of trying to improve their rankings.

“As bad as their numbers are,” Professor Amar said of the firms, “the relevant applicant pool of law students with top grades is more white and Asian still.”

Whatever their consequences, the numbers the students have collected offer a fascinating snapshot of the profession.

In New York, a third of the big firms had no black partners, and an overlapping third no Hispanic ones. Half the firms in Boston had no black partners, and three-quarters no Hispanic ones.

“This is 2007,” Professor Dauber said. “If you can’t find a single black or Hispanic partner, that’s not an accident.”

The students also found relatively few female partners in New York, ranging from 7 percent at Fulbright & Jaworski to 23 percent at Morrison & Foerster. Those numbers are “a bit of a canary in the coal mine,” said Deborah L. Rhode, another Stanford law professor. “The absence of women as partners often says something about how firms deal with work-family issues.”

I asked the firms with particularly poor rankings for comments, and most of them responded, generally with quite similar statements. The issues are serious and difficult ones, they said, but they are working hard to make progress.

Some questioned the grading system. Paul C. Rosenthal, a partner at Kelley Drye, called it “totally ridiculous,” for instance, because the firm’s Washington office received an A for the number of black associates and yet a D overall.

Others pointed to offices at their firms with better numbers, to particular partners of color, to expanded recruiting efforts and to “affinity groups” and “diversity coordinators” and a “diversity protocol.” None questioned the essential premise of the report, which is that numbers matter.

The report cards seem to be having an impact. Mr. Bruck said a second-year student at Stanford had recently turned down an offer from one firm “as soon as he saw that it got an F on our diversity report card.” Professor Dauber said the student, who is white and male, “is the poster boy for our effort.”

But the student did not get into Stanford by being stupid enough to pick a fight with a prominent law firm at the start of his career. He would not discuss the matter.

New Haven Conn. Hit with 911 Calls from Around the Country

A computer glitch is being blamed for a flood of 911 calls from around the country to New Haven's emergency center.

Officials say some 519 calls came within a 44-minute span Monday from as far away as Florida, Chicago, Texas and Puerto Rico.

As far as authorities can determine, the problem was related to a Colorado-based company that serves Internet-based phone companies.

For whatever reason, hundreds of personal calls made by Internet phone customers ended up routed to New Haven's 911 center.

State officials that oversee 911 answering points say AT&T fixed the problem.

FBI Puts Antiwar Protesters on Criminal Database; Canada Uses It To Ban Protesters From Entry
Rob Kall

Two well-respected US peace activists, CODEPINK and Global Exchange cofounder Medea Benjamin and retired Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, were denied entry into Canada On October third. The two women were headed to Toronto to discuss peace and security issues at the invitation of the Toronto Stop the War Coalition. At the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Bridge they were detained, questioned and denied entry.

"In my case, the border guard pulled up a file showing that I had been arrested at the US Mission to the UN where, on International Women's Day, a group of us had tried to deliver a peace petition signed by 152,000 women around the world," says Benjamin. "For this, the Canadians labeled me a criminal and refused to allow me in the country."

"The FBI's placing of peace activists on an international criminal database is blatant political intimidation of US citizens opposed to Bush administration policies," says Colonel Wright, who was also Deputy US Ambassador in four countries. "The Canadian government should certainly not accept this FBI database as the criteria for entering the country." Both Wright and Benjamin plan to request their files from the FBI through the Freedom of Information Act and demand that arrests for peaceful, non-violent actions be expunged from international records. "It's outrageous that Canada is turning away peacemakers protesting a war that does not have the support of either US or Canadian citizens," says Benjamin.

"In the past, Canada has always welcomed peace activists with open arms. This new policy, obviously a creature of the Bush administration, is shocking and we in the US and Canada must insist that it be overturned. Four members of the Canadian Parliament--Peggy Nash, Libby Davies, Paul Dewar and Peter Julian-- expressed outrage that the peace activists were barred from Canada and vow to change this policy.

Ann Wright told OpEdNews that this was the second time the two Code Pink activists had been turned away from the border, the first event ocurring on August 19th.

Wright explained, "We decided to go to Canadian border to push the envelope to see if the Canadian Gov would not let us into Canada again until we had been "criminally rehabilitated."

To be criminally rehabilitated, they would have to do a huge amount of paperwork and state that they were no longer going to commit the "crimes" they were convicted of.

Wright told OpEdNews "We were told (by the canadian border agents) if we tried to enter Canada again, we would be officially deported from the country, which is "big trouble. 'We've warned you not to come back until we are criminally rehabilitated.'

Wright asserted, "We will never be criminally rehabilitated since we intend to continue to engage in non-violent peaceful protest of Bush administration policies, particular the war on Iraq and we intend to peacefully and nonviolently protest all of these until they end. They can lead to arrests for civil disobedience, like refusing to move from the fence in front of the whitehouse or standing up and speaking at congressional hearings."

Wright explained that the Canadians, by their own law, do not allow people in who have been convicted of various kinds of offenses.

If, when you are asked by a Canadian immigration officer if you have been arrested, they check the FBI database and that's how they found we were listed.

Wright added, "The fact that the FBI has put us on this list. The National Crime Information Center Computerized Index is a form of political intimidation. The list is supposed to be for felony and serious misdemeanor offenses.

"We don't qualify-- it's for sex offenders, foreign fugitives, gang violence and terrorist organizations, people who are on parole, a list of eight categories all together.

"It is very disturbing. We've asked our congressional representatives to investigate this."

According to Wright, there was almost no coverage of this in the US, except for an AP release. In Canada, Toronto's Globe and Mail and several other newspapers and three Canadian TV stations covered it.

U.S. Navy Said to Chase Pirates Off Somalia
Mike Nizza

As Somalia’s rulers have struggled with an insurgency and political instability that culminated in the resignation of the prime minister on Monday, piracy has flourished off its shores. Experts say that there have been “many more” than the 26 attacks formally reported to the International Piracy Center this year, and new hijackings are reported with unfortunate frequency.

But the latest hijacking came with news that the United States Navy has now entered the fray. A distress call from a Japanese-owned chemical tanker, Golden Mori, found its way to the U.S.S. Porter, an American destroyer, which intercepted and then sank the two skiffs that the pirates used to reach the ship, according to CNN.

Now, the pirates have no obvious exit route, and another American destroyer, the Arleigh Burke is on their tail in Somali waters, which are usually something of a pirate refuge. This time, the American navy received permission to enter from the embattled transitional government.

These days there iis a mind-boggling amount of pirate activity on the high seas, if a Reuters report about the second pirate attack this week is any guide (that one concerned a Korean vessel):

Four other boats — a Comoros-registered cargo ship, two Tanzanian fishing vessels, and a ship from Taiwan — area also being held by armed groups.

The International Piracy Center, which reported the end of a downward trend in pirate attacks earlier this month, recommends that ships stay at least 200 nautical miles away from the Somali coast, saying that the nasty seaborne criminals there are armed with rocket-propelled grenades and aren’t afraid to use them.

It’s not clear why the United States decided to engage these particular pirates, but it probably has nothing to do with the tanker’s dangerous cargo: benzene, a solvent linked to cancer. The American ship opened fire on the Golden Maru before it knew what the cargo was, according to CNN.

Other possible reasons include Japan’s especially close alliance with the United States, and perhaps a conclusion that matters have simply gotten out of hand off Somalia’s coast, and that it was time for the world’s most powerful navy to take up again the mission that it was created in the 1790s to perform.

“I trust some other assets are on their way,” a retired Navy reserve captain blogged about the operations off Somalia. “Time someone busted these pirates’ chops.”

Robot Boats Hunt High-Tech Pirates on the High-Speed Seas

As maritime crime heats up, will the U.S. Navy follow Israel and Singapore’s lead to stock up on new unmanned surface vessels? And could they stop Al Qaeda?
Erik Sofge

Robots versus pirates—it’s not as stupid, or unlikely, as it sounds. Piracy has exploded in the waters near Somalia, where this past week United States warships have fired on two pirate skiffs, and are currently in pursuit of a hijacked Japanese-owned vessel. At least four other ships in the region remain under pirate control, and the problem appears to be going global: The International Maritime Bureau is tracking a 14-percent increase in worldwide pirate attacks this year.

And although modern-day pirates enjoy collecting their fare share of booty—they have a soft spot for communications gear—they’re just as likely to ransom an entire ship. In one particularly sobering case, hijackers killed one crew member of a Taiwan-owned vessel each month until their demands were met.

For years now, law enforcement agencies across the high seas have proposed robotic boats, or unmanned surface vessels (USVs), as a way to help deal with 21st-Century techno Black Beards. The Navy has tested at least two small, armed USV demonstrators designed to patrol harbors and defend vessels. And both the Navy and the Coast Guard have expressed interest in the Protector, a 30-ft.-long USV built by BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Israeli defense firm RAFAEL.

The Protector, which comes mounted with a 7.62mm machine gun, wasn’t originally intended for anti-piracy operations. But according to BAE Systems spokesperson Stephanie Moncada, the robot could easily fill that role. “Down the line, it could potentially be modified for commercial use as well,” she says. Instead of being deployed by a warship to intercept and possibly fire on an incoming vessel, a non-lethal variant of the Protector could be used to simply investigate a potential threat.

A favorite tactic of modern-day pirates is to put out a distress call, then ambush any ships that respond. The unmanned Protector could be remote-operated from around 10 miles away, with enough on-board sensors, speakers and microphones to make contact with a vessel before it’s too late. “Even without the machine gun, it could alert the crew, give them some time to escape,” Moncada says.

The 55-mpg Interceptor could become the long-range patrol boat of the future, while the jetski-size Sentry (inset) could help a terrorist plot such as Al Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole in December 2000. (Photographs Courtesy of MRVI and Qinetiq—inset)

This past summer, Florida-based Marine Robotic Vessels International (MRVI) unveiled a USV that emphasizes reconnaissance over firepower. The 21-ft.-long Interceptor can travel at up to 55 mph, and is designed to be piloted both remotely and autonomously.

For a patrol boat, autonomous control would be a huge advantage, allowing it to traverse huge stretches of open sea, instead of having to remain within radio range of a given vessel. While the Interceptor could be fitted with a water cannon or other non-lethal offensive system, its primary mission is to serve as a sentry.

According to MRVI President Dan Murphy, the Interceptor is available now. But the USV market is just getting started: Two months ago, British defense firm Qinetiq debuted its own robotic vessel, the jetski-size Sentry. Among its potential duties is intruder investigation, which could include scouting out unidentified boats, along the lines of the raft that detonated alongside the USS Cole in Yemen, as well as offering a first look at a possible pirate-controlled vessel. The Sentry, however, can only operate for up to six hours at a time, severely limiting its ability to operate at sea.

Although the Protector is currently deployed by the Israeli and Singaporean Navies, the U.S. Navy has yet to field a full-production USV, much less a pirate-hunting one. But if piracy continues to escalate around the world, it may only a matter of time before the private sector gets fed up and buys a few unmanned boats to act as scouts. After all, one of the best things a robot can do is get blown to pieces ... so you don’t have to.

In India, Poverty Inspires Technology Workers to Altruism
Anand Giridharadas

Manohar Lakshmipathi does not own a computer. In fact, in India workmen like Mr. Manohar, a house painter, are usually forbidden to touch clients’ computers.

So you can imagine Mr. Manohar’s wonder as he sat in a swiveling chair in front of a computer, dictating his date of birth, phone number and work history to a secretary. Afterward, a man took his photo. Then, with a click of a mouse, Mr. Manohar’s page popped onto the World Wide Web, the newest profile on an Indian Web site called Babajob.com.

Babajob seeks to bring the social-networking revolution popularized by Facebook and MySpace to people who do not even have computers — the world’s poor. And the start-up is just one example of an unanticipated byproduct of the outsourcing boom: many of the hundreds of multinationals and hundreds of thousands of technology workers who are working here are turning their talents to fighting the grinding poverty that surrounds them.

“In Redmond, you don’t see 7-year-olds begging on the street,” said Sean Blagsvedt, Babajob’s founder, referring to Microsoft’s headquarters in Washington State, where he once worked. “In India, you can’t escape the feeling that you’re really lucky. So you ask, What are you going to do about all the stuff around you? How are you going to use all these skills?”

Perhaps for less altruistic reasons, but often with positive results for the poor, corporations have made India a laboratory for extending modern technological conveniences to those long deprived. Nokia, for instance, develops many of its ultralow-cost cellphones here. Citibank first experimented here with a special A.T.M. that recognizes thumbprints — to help slum dwellers who struggle with PINs. And Microsoft has made India one of the major centers of its global research group studying technologies for the poor, like software that reads to illiterate computer users. Babajob is a quintessential example of how the back-office operations in India have spawned poverty-inspired innovation.

The best-known networking sites in the industry connect computer-savvy elites to one another. Babajob, by contrast, connects India’s elites to the poor at their doorsteps, people who need jobs but lack the connections to find them. Job seekers advertise skills, employers advertise jobs and matches are made through social networks.

For example, if Rajeev and Sanjay are friends, and Sanjay needs a chauffeur, he can view Rajeev’s page, travel to the page of Rajeev’s chauffeur and see which of the chauffeur’s friends are looking for similar work.

Mr. Blagsvedt, now 31, joined Microsoft in Redmond in 1999. Three years ago he was sent to India to help build the local office of Microsoft Research, the company’s in-house policy research arm. The new team worked on many of the same complex problems as their peers in Redmond, but the employees here led very different lives outside the office than their counterparts in Redmond. They had servants and laborers. They read constant newspaper tales of undernourishment and illiteracy.

The company’s Indian employees were not seeing poverty for the first time, but they were now equipped with first-rate computing skills, and many felt newly empowered to help their society.

At the same time, Microsoft was plagued by widespread software piracy, which limited its revenue in India. Among other things, the company looked at low-income consumers as a vast and unexploited commercial opportunity, so it encouraged its engineers’ philanthropic urges.

Poverty became a major focus in Mr. Blagsvedt’s research office. Anthropologists and sociologists were hired to explain things like the effect of the caste system on rural computer usage. In the course of that work, Mr. Blagsvedt stumbled upon an insight by a Duke University economist, Anirudh Krishna.

Mr. Krishna found that many poor Indians in dead-end jobs remain in poverty not because there are no better jobs, but because they lack the connections to find them. Any Bangalorean could confirm the observation: the city teems with laborers desperate for work, and yet wealthy software tycoons complain endlessly about a shortage of maids and cooks.

Mr. Blagsvedt’s epiphany? “We need village LinkedIn!” he recalled saying, alluding to the professional networking site.

He quit Microsoft and, with his stepfather, Ira Weise, and a former Microsoft colleague built a social-networking site to connect Bangalore’s yuppies with its laborers. (The site, which Mr. Blagsvedt started this summer and runs out of his home, focuses on Bangalore now, but he plans to spread it to other Indian cities and maybe globally.)

Building a site meant to reach laborers earning $2 to $3 a day presented special challenges. The workers would be unfamiliar with computers. The wealthy potential employers would be reluctant to let random applicants tend their gardens or their newborns. To deal with the connectivity problem, Babajob pays anyone, from charities to Internet cafe owners, who finds job seekers and registers them online. (Babajob earns its keep from employers’ advertisements, diverting a portion of that to those who register job seekers.) And instead of creating an anonymous job bazaar, Babajob replicates online the process by which Indians hire in real life: through chains of personal connections.

In India, a businessman looking for a chauffeur might ask his friend, who might ask his chauffeur. Such connections provide a kind of quality control. The friend’s chauffeur, for instance, will not recommend a hoodlum, for fear of losing his own job.

To re-create this dynamic online, Babajob pays people to be “connectors” between employer and employee. In the example above, the businessman’s friend and his chauffeur would each earn the equivalent of $2.50 if they connected the businessman with someone he liked.

The model is gaining attention, and praise. A Bangalore venture capitalist, when told of Babajob, immediately asked to be put in touch with Mr. Blagsvedt. And Steve Pogorzelski, president of the international division of Monster.com, the American jobs site, said, “Wow” when told of the company. “It is an important innovation because it opens up the marketplace to people of socioeconomic levels who may not have the widest array of jobs available to them.”

Mr. Krishna, the Duke economist, called it a “very significant innovation,” but he cautioned that the very poor might not belong to the social networks that would bring them to Babajob, even on the periphery.

In its first few months, the company has drummed up job seekers on its own, sending workers into the streets with fliers promising employment.

To find potential employers, in addition to counting on word of mouth among those desperate for maids and laborers, Babajob is also relying on Babalife, the company’s parallel social networking site for the yuppie elite. People listed on Babalife will automatically be on Babajob, too.

So far, more than 2,000 job seekers have registered. The listings are a portrait of India’s floating underclass, millions and millions seeking a few dollars a day to work as chauffeurs, nannies, gardeners, guards and receptionists.

A woman named Selvi Venkatesh was a typical job seeker. “I am really in need of a job as our residential building collapsed last month in Ejipura,” she said, referring to a building collapse that killed two people, including an infant, in late July, according to The Times of India.

In Mr. Blagsvedt’s apartment one morning, Mr. Manohar, the painter, professed hope.

He earns $100 a month. Jobs come irregularly, so he often spends up to three months of the year idle. Between jobs, he borrows from loan sharks to feed his wife and children. The usurers levy 10 percent monthly interest, enough to make a $100 loan a $314 debt in one year.

Mr. Manohar does not want his children to know his worries, or his life. He wants them to work in a nice office, so he spends nearly half his income on private schools for them. That is why he was at Babajob in a swiveling chair, staring at a computer and dreaming of more work.

Here's How a Slick Laptop Thief was Foiled in Tampa

Smart, shrewd,determined. A serial thief was portrayed as all these. Here's how his alleged crime spree unraveled after a stop in Tampa.
Scott Barancik

In March, a clean-cut stranger wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt strolled into the Tampa headquarters of Outback Steakhouse, mingled with company staff until they left for the day and walked out with 11 laptop computers crammed into his shoulder bag.

When a security guard stopped him in the parking lot, the gifted liar convinced him he was out for a jog. Later, at his $1,800-a-month apartment along Miami Beach, the burglar erased the laptops' hard drives and began selling them via services like eBay, where he had earned a 99.4 percent customer-satisfaction rating and tens of thousands of dollars in profit.

"It's pretty rare that you come across a smart thief," Tampa Police Detective Larry Brass said. "Typically it's just, 'Kick in a window, grab what you can and go.' "

Outback isn't his only alleged victim. Dubbed the "Khaki Bandit" in Milwaukee, pictured on "wanted" leaflets in central Colorado, shown on TV news reports robbing the Miami headquarters of Burger King Corp. and FedEx Corp., the laptop thief has been investigated in more than two dozen heists across five states, including the recent theft of 10 laptops from Tampa's Sykes Enterprises Inc.

But Outback parent OSI Restaurant Partners may have been his undoing. Thanks in part to the company's use of a clever antitheft device, Brass made an arrest in April. Evidence collected at the Miami Beach condo helped link some of the other unsolved burglaries to the same man: Eric Almly, a 33-year-old career criminal from Duluth, Minn., now awaiting trial in a Miami jail. Almly and his lawyers declined to comment.

Though his plain features defy Hollywood's idea of a con artist - think Leonardo DiCaprio's rakish character in Catch Me If You Can - Almly has the right resume. A determined thief since his mid teens, he has made a near science of stealing and selling laptops over the past five years. He's even developed some acting skills, if you consider perpetrating a faceless office-worker a form of theater.

"This is a very intelligent young man," an Almly defense attorney said in 1993, moments after the 18-year-old had been sentenced to serve one year on a work farm. "If he can put his intelligence to positive uses, then the sky's the limit."

Practice, practice, practice

Almly, born in 1974 to 22-year-old Mary Almly, wasn't always such a smooth operator.

In his youth, he broke into buildings with a hammer and screwdriver, sometimes in broad daylight. He swore belligerently at a police officer who detained him. He wore clothes a witness could easily remember; in one early case, a convenience-store surveillance video captured him wearing a University of Kansas sweatshirt that turned up later in a search of his home.

After a Duluth jury acquitted him of a home-burglary charge in 1992, Almly apparently didn't lay low. A week later he was back in jail, charged with three break-ins and suspected of eight more, according to a front-page article in the Duluth News Tribune. (Prosecutor records on the outcome of those charges are no longer available.)

Almly could be childishly impulsive. After a 1995 home burglary in which he found a Compaq laptop computer - quite possibly the first laptop he owned - he picked up a pay phone and called the victim to gloat. When he called again minutes later to apologize, the victim hung up and dialed *69. An arrest was made.

A three-year prison sentence for four separate crimes stopped Almly temporarily, but it didn't reform him. Instead, he emerged a more sophisticated and patient criminal. The new Almly sauntered into office buildings during business hours, right behind an employee carrying a magnetic access card. He trimmed his sandy-blond hair short, traded his jeans and Nike sneakers for business-casual threads, and began cloaking his volatile personality with a chipper, nonthreatening veneer.

Shrewdly, he began focusing on laptops. Lightweight and slim, easy to conceal, cheap to mail and a breeze to sell, they are, ounce for ounce, among the most valuable items in any corporate office. Almly sold many of the units to shady brokers in overseas locales such as Latvia; a manifest kept at the U.S. Post Office in Carlsbad, Calif., showed he had sent 35 packages to Taiwan in 2004 under the alias Jeffrey Scott Siegle and the corporate name NBE Ventures. Almly sold many of the remaining computers on eBay via the online name LaptopDlr55.

"Excellent product, fast shipping, fast feedback," one satisfied eBay buyer commented, a day before Almly's April arrest.

Two faces

Like most adults, Eric Almly is two people.

In his private life, he is quirky, emotional, demanding and sometimes mean. At work, he is professional, civilized and unflappable, his body temperature hovering somewhere between Frappucino and absolute zero. Neither half is ever fully in charge.

Witnesses and police say the high-school dropout is eerily good at projecting calm, even in stressful situations. At Outback, one employee who observed him loitering became suspicious. "She was about to confront him, but he turned as if he was speaking to someone in a cubicle, so her alarm went down," said Brass, the Tampa detective. "That's the thing about these guys, they're actors."

In Phoenix, legal assistant Miriam Foulk said she bumped into Almly one evening in 2002 while preparing to leave her law firm. If he had shown fear, she might have thought he was up to no good. Instead of sprinting away or reacting violently, though, he "just smiled, didn't say anything and kept going" deeper into the office. Three laptops were missing the next morning.

Mary Kim Caldito had a similar encounter last year at her Greenwood Village, Colo., law firm. She was working late one Friday night when a man she thinks was Almly started to enter her office but, seeing her, backed away. "I said, 'Can I help you?' He said, 'No, I'm just looking for Steve.' Steve was our I.T. guy's name at the time, so I didn't think anything of it," Caldito recalled. This time, Almly retraced his steps and left the office with the three laptops he had pinched.

Almly has never been caught in the act. Until Tampa, most of his arrests had come about as much from his mistakes as from shrewd police work. At the Carlsbad, Calif., post office where Almly mailed laptops to Taiwan, for example, Almly was widely disliked.

"They said he was a real jerk," Carlsbad Police Sgt. Mickey Williams said. "He actually threatened to fight one of the clerks over something." So when local police distributed leaflets with Almly's photo, the postal workers immediately recognized him, and they were more than happy to call 911 the next time he came in.

To catch a (laptop) thief

Under normal circumstances, the chances of catching Outback's burglar would be slim. He left no usable fingerprints. There was no surveillance video of him. Because eBay does not require sellers to list a computer's serial number, the laptops would disappear without a trace.

Meanwhile, Outback officials were justifiably worried. What if the laptops contained proprietary information about the company's future plans? What if a disgruntled ex-employee were to give a laptop to a competitor, or to extort money from the company? What if key files were not backed up?

Almly, of course, was not interested in the laptops' contents, and Outback had an ace up its sleeve. Nine of its 11 stolen laptops had been equipped with security software that transmits a stolen computer's physical location the moment a thief accesses the Internet with it. With that information, a nationwide crime spree began to unravel.

Brass obtained a search warrant for Almly's Miami Beach condo. There, he found some of the Outback laptops, and several others he checked against an FBI database of stolen property. One turned out to have been stolen in Milwaukee, another in Naples.

With Almly's name and photo in hand, Brass issued an alert to police departments across the country. One, Miami-Dade, matched the photo to surveillance video from the burglaries at Burger King, FedEx and two other companies and re-arrested Almly in his Miami jail cell.

Brass subpoenaed Almly's eBay transaction records, which allowed him to track down more stolen laptops. The canny thief never knew what hit him.

"He just figured that a corporation like Outback would kind of write it off, absorb the loss and move on from there," Brass said.

One last lie

Evelyn Iacovaccio, Almly's girlfriend in South Florida, doesn't want an article written about him. All she knows about his past is what he's told her and what little she's gotten from Googling him. She wants to help him move beyond the past.

They talk often. She does things he can't, like pick up his stuff from the Miami Beach condo and monitor his e-mail. "He's rethinking his life right now," she says. "He just wants to put everything behind him, and look into the future."

A Google search on "Eric Almly" doesn't pull up a 1993 Duluth News Tribune article about an Almly sentencing hearing. According to the article, the judge told Almly to "stop blaming other people for your deeds." The prosecutor said, "It is our belief that he will reoffend." Almly said, "I guarantee I have set educational and moral goals."

His probation officer said he had heard Almly make the same pledge twice before. "Before you know it, he's out of jail and reoffending again. It's frustrating."

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan and staff writer Abbie VanSickle contributed to this report. Scott Barancik can be reached at barancik@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.

Key events in the life of Eric Almly

1974: Born in Duluth, Minn.

1992: Because of a lengthy juvenile record, Almly is tried as an adult on a charge related to a residential burglary in Duluth; jury acquits. Is arrested a week later after 11 homes are broken into.

1993: Sentenced to one year on Minnesota work farm. "Stop blaming other people for your deeds," judge thunders.

1995: Allegedly steals Compaq laptop computer from occupied home in Duluth. Calls victim from pay phone to taunt - and, in a second call, to apologize.

1996: A day after posting bail, allegedly tries to burglarize a residence, church, computer store and other businesses. Temporarily eludes Duluth police by scaling retaining wall and dropping 30 feet to snow-covered ground.

1997: Placed on work release while serving three-year prison sentence in Minnesota. Absconds; is recaptured.

2002: Indicted in Maricopa County, Ariz., but is no-show at subsequent hearing; bench warrant issued. Case eventually dismissed for lack of speedy prosecution.

2003: Allegedly steals laptops from six businesses in Phoenix and Scottsdale; grand jury indicts Almly, a.k.a. Matthew William Cournoyer, on 16 counts.

2005: Gets two-year sentence for stealing laptops from Carlsbad, Calif., businesses. Postal workers who had helped "egotistical jerk" - a.k.a. Jeffrey Scott Siegle - mail laptops to Taiwan happily testify.

2006: Hit-and-run accident leads to high-speed chase by San Diego police; stolen laptops found in car. Skips pretrial hearing; bench warrant issued.

2007: Arrested at Miami Beach condo in burglary of Outback Steakhouse parent OSI Restaurant Partners in Tampa. Laptops on premises traced to thefts in Naples and Milwaukee. While in Miami jail awaiting extradition to Tampa, is charged with four local burglaries.

Protect your laptops, Corporate America

The theft of a corporate laptop can be agonizing.

It's not just the replacement cost. Imagine losing a laptop that contained inside information on a pending merger, details of a failed workplace romance, confidential customer data or a PowerPoint presentation you never backed up.

Eric Almly's victims have been relatively fortunate. Instead of exploiting the data on their computers, he typically erases it in preparation for resale. Still, the statistics on laptop theft are troubling:

- In 2004, the most recent year for which there were data, an estimated 2-million laptops were stolen in the United States. Of those, 97 percent were never recovered.

- A 2006 survey of information security personnel by the Ponemon Institute found that 81 percent worked at companies that lost one or more laptops containing sensitive information the prior year.

- More than half of identity-theft related data breaches are caused by the loss or theft of laptops or other data-storage mediums, according to Symantec and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

So what can businesses do to minimize the potential harm from a stolen laptop?

The most important step, of course, is to prevent theft. Companies should review their office- and laptop-security procedures with private or police security experts.

The next best thing is to stop the thief from misusing a stolen computer's contents - and to catch the thief.

Larry Brass, the Tampa Police detective who arrested Eric Almly this spring, says he's not permitted to endorse a particular product. But he says if Outback's laptops were not outfitted with software called Computrace LoJack for Laptops, made by Absolute Software, there is "no question" Almly would be walking free today.

Here is how it works: after a computer is stolen, the victim notifies Absolute's recovery team. When the thief accesses the Internet via that computer, the Computrace software on his computer silently broadcasts information that allows the team to determine his physical location.

With a street address in hand, police can make an arrest. The corporate version of the software gives subscribers the ability to remotely delete sensitive information from a computer.

"Do you know how many Dell laptops are for sale on eBay right now? And they're not required to list serial numbers," Brass says. "The reason that case has been solved is because of that software."

How Almly stole so many laptops

Eric Almly has declined to discuss his criminal history, but a lot can be inferred about his modus operandi from police reports, detectives and witnesses. Here are some of Almly's preferred methods:

Choose targets with care. He went to neighborhoods, cities or states where he was not recognized. He sought large corporate offices to blend in with their large staffs and to find lots of laptops. When possible, he scheduled multiple burglaries for a single building that housing more than one company.

Know the victims. He observed his targets in advance and paid attention to how employees dressed, whether they needed magnetic passes to enter and move about the building, and what time most of them left for the day.

Time the arrival. He entered a business on the heels of an employee who could hold open a security door. He often arrived at about 4 p.m., a busy time of day that let him blend with the staff and exploit a time period when receptionists and assistants left for the day, but beefed-up nighttime security measures had not kicked in. He acted like he belonged.

Make the move. When the office emptied, he went looking for laptops room by room. He kept an eye out for magnetic access cards, too. He had an alibi in case he was confronted. When done, he put the laptops in his shoulder bags - he would carry one into the building with a second bag inside it - and go.

Move the product. He drove or mailed laptops back to his temporary home. He prepared them for sale by erasing the prior owner's data and installing or updating critical software.

How the story was written

Research for this article fell into two broad categories: interviews police officers, prosecutors and witnesses, and printed materials (police reports, court records, newspaper articles and Internet message boards). Information about Eric Almly's upbringing and personal life was scant. Almly declined multiple opportunities to talk. So did his two South Florida lawyers, defense attorney Teresa Williams and former Miami-Dade narcotics prosecutor David Macey. Family members who refused to comment included Almly's mother, Mary Almly; his stepfather, Paul Tynjala; his stepsister, Casey Korte; and a maternal aunt, Glenda Viche. The Week in Review is edited and published by Jack Spratts. Information about Almly's father was not available. Several outsiders -Almly's Miami Beach landlord, the attorney for one of his corporate victims - spoke freely but admitted knowing relatively little about him. His girlfriend, Evelyn Iacovaccio, allowed a brief interview but said she would need Almly's permission before talking at length. She did not return subsequent calls or e-mails.

"$100 Laptop" Hits $200
Jim Finkle

A computer developed for poor children around the world, dubbed "the $100 laptop," has reached a milestone: Its price tag is now $200.

The One Laptop per Child Foundation, founded by MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte, has started offering the lime-green-and-white machines in lots of 10,000 for $200 apiece on its Web site (http://laptopfoundation.org/participate/givemany.shtml).

Two weeks ago, a foundation executive confirmed recent estimates that the computer would cost $188, which was already higher than the $150 price tag in February and $176 in April.

The laptops are scheduled to go into production next month at a factory in China, far behind their original schedule and in quantities that are a fraction of Negroponte's earlier projections.

It is unclear when the machines will be ready for customers, as the Web site said version 1.0 of the software that runs the machine will not be ready until December 7.

Foundation spokesman George Snell declined comment on the pricing or release schedule.

When Negroponte said he could produce the laptops for $100, industry analysts said it had the potential to shake up the PC industry, ushering in an era of low-cost computing.

He hoped to keep the price down by achieving unprecedented economies of scale for a start-up manufacturer, and in April, he told Reuters he expected to have orders for 2.5 million laptops by May, with production targeted to begin in September.

But that has not panned out. So far the foundation has disclosed orders to three countries -- Uruguay, Peru and Mongolia. It has not said how many machines they have ordered.

Wayan Vota, an expert on using technology to promote economic development who publishes olpcnews.com, a blog that monitors the group's activities, estimates orders at no more than 200,000 laptops.

"One-hundred dollars was never a realistic price. By starting with an unrealistic price, he reduced his credibility selling the laptop," Vota said.

Negroponte, a charismatic technologist who counts News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim among his friends, has attracted a lot of attention for the foundation.

He has met with leaders around the globe and promoted the introduction of computers into classrooms in the most impoverished regions of the world. As he has done that, big technology companies have boosted spending on similar efforts.

The laptop features a keyboard that switches languages, a video camera, wireless connectivity and Linux software.

Microsoft Corp is trying to tailor Windows XP to work on the machine and recently said it is a few months away from knowing for sure whether it can accomplish that task.

The display switches from color to black-and-white for viewing in direct sunlight -- a breakthrough that the foundation is patenting and may license next year for commercial use.

The laptop needs just 2 watts of power compared with a typical laptop's 30 to 40 watts and does away with hard drives. It uses flash memory and four USB ports to add memory and other devices.

Earlier this year the foundation teamed up with Intel Corp, which is developing a rival machine. The two may work together on a second-generation laptop. This first machine runs on a microprocessor developed by Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Uruguay Buys First '$100 Laptops'

The first official order for the so-called "$100 laptop" has been placed by the government of Uruguay.

The South American country has bought 100,000 of the machines for schoolchildren aged six to 12.

A further 300,000 may be purchased to provide a machine for every child in the country by 2009.

The order will be a boost for the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organisation behind the project which has admitted difficulties getting concrete orders.

"I have to some degree underestimated the difference between shaking the hand of a head of state and having a cheque written," Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the organisation, recently told the New York Times.

However, he said he was "delighted" with the first deal.

"We commend Uruguay for being the first country to take concrete actions to provide laptops to all its children and teachers and look forward to other countries following this example," he said.

Rumour factory

The XO laptop, as the machine is known, has been developed to be used primarily by children in the developing world.

It is durable, waterproof and can be powered by solar, foot-pump or pull-string powered chargers. It includes a sunlight readable display so that it can be used outside and has no moving parts.

OLPC aims to sell the laptop for $100 or less. However, over the last year, the machine's price has steadily increased and now costs $188 (£93).

Governments were initially offered the green and white machines in lots of 250,000. However, this has since changed and there are now a variety of ways that the laptops are sold or distributed.

For example, from 12 November, members of the public can buy a machine for themselves as well as one for a child in a developing country.

The Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1) programme will initially distribute laptops to Cambodia, Afghanistan, Rwanda and Haiti.

Other schemes allow donors to purchase lots of 100 or more of the machines for a country of their choice. Prices start at $299 (£145) per machine.

Connected country

However, the main focus for OLPC has been selling the machines direct to governments.

In July, hardware suppliers were told to ramp-up production of all of the components needed to build the low-cost machines.

Many believed that the decision meant that the organisation had met or surpassed the three million orders it need to make production viable. However, the latest news suggests this was not the case.

Previous reports had also suggested deals with the governments of Libya, to provide a laptop for every child, as well as Peru and a sponsorship programme with Italy to provide 50,000 machines to Ethiopia.

A spokesperson for OLPC said none of these were confirmed deals.

Instead, Uruguay is the first country to sign up for the scheme.

The order for 100,000 machines was placed by the state-run Laboratorio Tecnológico del Uruguay (Latu) which runs a large scale education and communications project known as Ceibal.

The scheme will also provide connectivity to all of the schools involved.

Before placing the order, Latu had also evaluated the rival Intel Classmate PC.

Initially the XO laptops will be distributed in eight to nine of the country's 19 regions. A further 300,000 machines will provide machines for all of the country's children.

"We will also cover the rest of the country later in 2008 and Montevideo in 2009," said Miguel Brechner, president of the organisation.

Nigerian Education Selects Intel-Powered Classmate PC with Mandriva Linux
Press Release

Mandriva today announced that the Nigerian government has selected Intel-powered classmate PCs running on Mandriva Linux for educational use in nationwide pilot in Nigeria. Mandriva is working with Intel Corporation and Technology Support Center Ltd. to provide 17,000 Intel-powered classmate PC. The aim of this project is to improve the quality of technology delivered to students, and to help teachers and parents.

The Intel-powered classmate PC is a small, rugged, mobile educational solution specially designed for primary students in emerging markets. Shipped in May this year, this fully functional PC is currently being piloted in more than 25 countries around the world. Nigeria was one of the first countries to run pilots of Intel-powered classmate PCs in their schools.

Nigerian government’s decision to choose Mandriva Linux to run on classmate PCs reaffirmed Mandriva Linux as one of the most popular Linux distributions in the world. Mandriva's emerging market strategy is based around a network of local partners and OEM agreements with hardware providers. Mandriva has been working with Intel on classmate PCs since the very beginning, making Mandriva Linux one of the first operating systems to run on the machine. The classmate PCs provided to Nigeria will run a customized version of Mandriva Linux 2007 built on Mandriva Flash technology. This edition has been tailored to classmate PCs hardware with a unique launcher application which makes it easier to access the most commonly needed applications.

"We are delighted to participate in this project along with our partners, and to help bring Mandriva Linux and open source applications to Nigeria. This operation validates our approach of cooperating with Intel on the classmate PC and of leveraging our local presence in a country such as Nigeria," said David Barth, CTO and Vice President of the Consumer Business Unit for Mandriva.

The Intel-powered classmate PC will be used in local Nigerian schools by teachers, parents and students. Students will use them to learn about IT technology and to assist them with class research. Teachers will use them to improve their computing skills and to help them track students and projects.

"Based on the needs of the community, the Intel-powered classmate PC will assist a communities that have been previously underserved. The classmate PC's features for teachers and parents will also help them focus on education," said Dele Ajisomo, President of Mandriva West Africa.

Intel-powered classmate PCs use a low power Intel processor for good performance and battery life. These mobile PCs feature a 2 GB of internal flash storage, WiFi mobile technology, as well as anti-theft applications, classroom management and a content filter. These mobile PCs are designed to deliver the right performance to support essential learning applications and experiences.

“The TSC is proud to open the doors of Technology Enabled Learning and to be part of the team enhancing the quality of education delivery in Nigeria. The Technology Support Center and Mandriva working together provide high quality open source solutions to facilitate technology adoption, knowledge based economic empowerment, technology diffusion in some of the most remote and underserved areas of Africa”, said Nyimbi Odero, CEO Technology Support Center.

Internet Pioneer Cerf Stepping Down After 7 Years Heading Internet Oversight Group

In the 1970s, Vint Cerf played a leading role in developing the Internet's technical foundation. For the past seven years, he's faced the more daunting task of leading a key agency that oversees his creation.

After fending off an international rebellion and planting the seeds for streamlining operations, Cerf is stepping down this week as chairman of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers.

"My sentence is up," Cerf said with his characteristic sense of humor, which he and others credit for helping him steer the organization through several high-profile battles from which it emerged more stable and stronger.

Cerf, 64, who's also a senior executive at Internet search leader Google Inc., joined ICANN in 1999, a year after its formation to oversee domain names and other Internet addressing policies. Cerf was elected chairman in 2000 and leaves the unpaid position after Friday's board meeting in Los Angeles because of term limits.

When he joined the board, many questioned whether ICANN would survive. Now - though some people still complain that ICANN is arbitrary, secretive and slow - the focus is more on improving it than replacing it.

Under Cerf, the organization withstood power struggles and ballooned in size. It also has shown signs of movement on key issues: After years of debate, for instance, it is now beginning to create mechanisms for more easily adding Internet addresses, including domain names in languages besides


"In some respects it has gained credibility," Cerf said. "It is now part of the Internet universe as opposed to a thing that was open to some serious debate."

That has been particularly so since ICANN, teaming with the U.S. diplomats, resisted efforts by China, Brazil and other developing countries to replace the group with a more U.N.-like organization over which world governments would have greater control.

Among other things, ICANN critics wanted quicker action on addresses in other languages, saying the current restrictions are akin to requiring all English speakers to type in Chinese. Many foreign governments also resented the U.S. government's veto power over the Marina del Rey, Calif.-based nonprofit agency.

Calls to strip ICANN - and the United States - of its oversight of domain names, which are key for computers to find Web sites and route e-mails, grew as world leaders gathered in Geneva for the 2003 U.N. World Summit on the Information Society. The European Union even joined by the time the summit convened again in 2005, in Tunis, Tunisia.

But ICANN ultimately emerged intact.

Credit goes to many people besides Cerf, yet many say he had the gravitas to meet with heads of states and senior ministers - and tell them, "no."

"He has a certain star quality," said Paul Twomey, ICANN's chief executive since 2003. "He can open a door. He can talk to anybody. He can say, 'Me and my colleagues actually invented the Internet and here's how it works.' There was a lot of ignorance, and he was able to say, 'It just doesn't work the way you think it works."'

Cerf tested the first Internet hookups in 1969 when he was a graduate student at UCLA. As a professor at Stanford University in the 1970s, Cerf led a team that invented the protocols, known as TCP/IP, that now serve as the Internet's basic communications tools.

Known since as one of the Internet's founding fathers, Cerf continued working on Internet technology at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and later developed MCI Mail, the Internet's first commercial e-mail service. Google lured him in 2005 to be its "chief Internet evangelist" and gave him an office a few doors from CEO Eric Schmidt.

In 1997, then-President Clinton presented Cerf and TCP/IP co-inventor Robert Kahn the National Medal of Technology, and in 2005 President Bush gave the pair the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As ICANN chairman, Cerf has played a hands-on role, attending many committee meetings and workshops in his trademark three-piece suit, often asking questions and contributing his know-how.

Jeffrey Eckhaus, a business development director at domain registration company Register.com Inc., found him "very knowledgeable about every single topic that would go on. He would really know all the ins and outs."

Besides his sense of humor and his technical knowledge, Cerf brought business and administrative acumen, many ICANN participants say. He has a slew of anecdotes ready and has displayed a willingness to listen to concerns and "engage with people from heads of states down to university students," Twomey said.

Now that Cerf has guided ICANN from nearly its inception through a tumultuous adolescence and into early adulthood, many believe it's time for an ICANN driven more by procedures than personality.

"It doesn't demean Cerf's towering legacy to say people are ready for a change," said Milton Mueller, a Syracuse University professor and frequent ICANN critic.

The short list of potential successors includes telecommunications expert Roberto Gaetano and lawyer Peter Dengate Thrush. Both have been active with ICANN, but neither has Cerf's name recognition or long-standing ties to the Internet.

"The bad news is we're not going to find another Vint," said Steve Crocker, a high school classmate of Cerf's and fellow Internet pioneer. "It's equally a form of good news. We're now going to go through a period where ordinary mortals are managing things."

Even with Cerf's clout, ICANN has had its share of battles. For one, a decision to reverse preliminary support for a proposed ".xxx" domain name for porn sites was criticized as arbitrary and politically influenced.

During Cerf's tenure, ICANN's staff and budget have grown, permitting faster response. Its roughly 100 staff members are paid out of a $41.6 million budget for fiscal 2008, compared with about a dozen employed during fiscal 2001, when ICANN budgeted $3.78 million for operating expenses.

The board and its constituency committees have reorganized numerous times in an effort to better reflect the Internet community, and minutes to private board meetings have been posted more quickly to improve transparency.

Nonetheless, many critics still complain that ICANN has neither opened the decision-making process enough nor acted as quickly as it should on issues like adding domain names - after several years, it is just now streamlining the approval process.

Few of those complaints, however, are directed at Cerf.

"It would have been a lot more without Vint," said David Farber, former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission. "I don't have warm, fuzzy feelings about ICANN, but Vint is not a person you want to get into battles with. He's a nice guy. He's smart. He's reasonable to talk to."

Cerf plans to disengage entirely from ICANN for at least a year, freeing him to write books and devote more time to his Google duties.

"This is a very important test ICANN both must pass and will pass, that it can withstand a change of its senior management," Cerf said. "I have no hesitation at all turning this over to a new team."

To Break Privacy Deadlock, Some Seek to Scrap Whois Databases on Domain Name Registrations

Tech industry lawyer Mark Bohannon frequently taps a group of searchable databases called Whois to figure out who may be behind a Web site that distributes pirated software or tricks visitors into revealing passwords.

Like a "411" for the Internet, Whois contains information such as names and phone numbers on the owners of millions of ".com" and other Internet addresses. Bohannon and his staff at the Software and Information Industry Association rely on the free databases daily in their efforts to combat theft and fraud.

Law-enforcement officials, trademark lawyers and journalists, as well as spammers, also use it regularly.

"The Whois database is in fact the best, most well-recognized tool that we have to be able to track down who in fact you are doing business with," said Bohannon, the trade group's general counsel, adding that alternatives such as issuing subpoenas to service providers take more time and cost money.

Nonetheless, some privacy advocates are proposing scrapping the system entirely because they can't agree with the people who use the system on how to give domain name owners more options when they register - such as designating third-party agents. Privacy advocates say individuals shouldn't have to reveal personal information simply to have a Web site.

The so-called "sunset" proposal is expected to come up Wednesday before a committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, a key Internet oversight agency.

It will have a tough time winning approval - and could create chaos. But the fact that abandoning Whois is on the table underscores frustrations among privacy advocates that ICANN appears on the verge of launching new studies and deferring a decision yet again after some six years of debate.

Ross Rader, a member of ICANN's generic names council and the sunset proposal's chief sponsor, said many negotiators are stalling because they prefer the status quo, which gives them the access to Whois that they desire.

An executive with domain registration company Tucows Inc., Rader said he is just trying to break the deadlock and doesn't necessarily want the databases to disappear.

"What removing the status quo will do is force all of the actors to come together without the benefit of a status quo to fall back on and say, 'We are now all screwed. What will we do?"' Rader said. "It will lead to better good-faith negotiations."

Think of it as saving the system by breaking it first.

Marilyn Cade, a former AT&T executive who has been active on Whois advocacy, called the sunset proposal "an emotional overreaction that somehow got crystalized into an option. Everyone who has done the long hours of hard work to examine policy options thinks that they have a monopoly on what is best, but the facts are not yet there."

Cade is part of the camp that prefers further studies on the extent of any Whois abuse and the degree to which individuals are actually registering names for personal use - which could justify more privacy - rather than for businesses, nonprofit endeavors or domain name speculation.

Those findings, she said, would help ICANN tailor new policies that address actual problems, even if it means delay. And the study option seems likelier than the sunset proposal to prevail Wednesday.

When the current addressing system started in the 1980s, government and university researchers who dominated the Internet knew one another and didn't mind sharing personal details to resolve technical problems.

Since then, the use of Whois has changed greatly.

Law-enforcement officials and Internet service providers use it to fight fraud and hacking. Lawyers depend on it to chase trademark and copyright violators. Journalists rely on it to reach Web site owners. And spammers mine it to send junk mailings for Web site hosting and other services.

Internet users, meanwhile, have come to expect more privacy and even anonymity. The requirements for domain name owners to provide such details also contradict some European privacy laws that are stricter than those in the United States.

There's agreement that more could be done to improve the accuracy of Whois, as scammers and even legitimate individuals who want to remain anonymous can easily enter fake data.

The disagreements are over "who gets to see it (and) how can we protect people's privacy while at the same time making accurate information available to those who need it," said Vint Cerf, ICANN's chairman.

ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization Council appeared to break a logjam in March when it formed a working group to consider letting domain name owners designate third-party agents in Whois listings. Currently, owners must provide their full names, organizations, postal and e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

But when the working group started developing an implementation plan, the opposing sides quickly disagreed on the basics, including the level of detail required.

"There were a number of parties that just would not compromise and could not accept that there are legitimate uses of Whois," said Margie Milam, a working group member and general counsel of the brand-protection firm MarkMonitor.

Approval of the sunset proposal, as drafted, would mean abolishing the current Whois requirements by late 2008. After that, individual registration companies would be able to decide whether to continue offering data on their customers, leading to gaps in the registration records.

The threat of losing Whois would force serious negotiations before it happens, said Milton Mueller, a Syracuse University professor on the Whois working group. "The sense of shock that would settle around certain people would be rapid and immediate."

Online Marketers Joining Internet Privacy Efforts
Louise Story

Most consumers are familiar with do-not-call lists, which are meant to keep telemarketers from phoning them. Soon people will be able to sign up for do-not-track lists, which will help shield their Web surfing habits from the prying eyes of marketers.

Such lists will not reduce the number of ads that people see online, but they will prevent advertisers from using their online meanderings to deliver specific ad pitches to them.

Today the AOL division of Time Warner will announce a service of this type, which will be up and running by the end of the year. Other programs are likely to be articulated soon, as online advertisers prepare for a two-day forum on privacy to be held by the Federal Trade Commission.

AOL says it is setting up a new Web site that will link consumers directly to opt-out lists run by the largest advertising networks. The site’s technology will ensure that people’s preferences are not erased later.

There is a silver lining for marketers, however: the AOL site will try to persuade people that they should choose to share some personal data in order to get pitches for products they might like. Most Web sites, including AOL, already collect data about users to send them specific ads — but AOL is choosing to become more open about the practice and will run advertisements about it in coming months.

Consumers who have already seen some benefits from online tracking systems — in the form of movie recommendations from Netflix, perhaps, or product recommendations from Amazon — might warm to AOL’s argument.

“Instead of having interruptive ads, instead of jarring things that will grab your attention, things are hopefully tailored to be suitable to your experience,” said Jules Polonetsky, the chief privacy officer for AOL. “We think tailoring advertising content in a way that is useful is a good proposition.”

Whether consumer privacy groups and other advertising companies agree with AOL’s philosophy will become clearer tomorrow and Friday at the event put together by the F.T.C., the agency that monitors advertising for deceptive and unfair practices. The gathering will feature privacy officials from Google, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft, as well as experts in the field of behavioral targeting, which is the delivery of ads to people based on their online habits.

Advertising companies fashion their behavioral targeting models differently, but generally the practice involves linking demographic information and Web site visits. Under the practice, people who read articles about babies would receives ads for baby gear even when they move on to read articles about stocks, for example. Much of the information is gathered anonymously, without links to people’s names.

Consumer advocacy groups have in the past asked the F.T.C. to set up some kind of do-not-track list for the Internet, but the commission has been hesitant to issue regulations that might slow innovation on the Web, said Eileen Harrington, deputy director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“We all love the Internet, and the last thing we want to do is suggest that the government would step in here in a way that would take that away from consumers,” Ms. Harrington said. “We haven’t reached conclusions on any of these questions. The big news here for us is — and maybe it seems obvious when you say it fast — is that advertising has changed dramatically.”

Since 2004, companies have more than doubled the amount they spend on ads on the Internet, shifting that money away from more traditional outlets like television, radio and print publications. Companies will spend $20 billion this year on Internet ads, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group of Web publishers, estimates.

The growth has been fueled in part by technologies that enable advertisers to use data about consumers on the Internet in ways that were not possible in older media. Traditionally, viewers and readers have been shown the same ads in the same places at the same times, no matter their age, gender or interests. Advertising was designed for a mass audience, leading to decades of water-cooler humor about that funny commercial last night, shown to everyone who tuned in.

But to many consumer brand companies, making different ads for different people is a better way to reach prospective buyers — and the Internet captures enough data for them to do so.

AOL executives say they are happy to give people a way to keep their Internet habits private, even though that would undercut AOL’s own behavioral targeting efforts. In July AOL acquired a behavioral ad network company, Tacoda, that has been promoting opt-out options to users for a year.

“We all have to build toward a future where we are delivering ads people want and not just ads we want people to see,” said Dave Morgan, the founder of Tacoda who now works at AOL. “The only way to do that is to listen to consumers.”

F.T.C. to Review Online Ads and Privacy
Louise Story

Whitney Chianese was exchanging e-mail messages with her mother a few weeks ago, discussing the recent death of her grandmother, when advertisements for health care products began popping up on her computer screen.

Ms. Chianese, who lives in Rye, N.Y., was taken aback, and realized she had been naïve in thinking her e-mail chat was as private as if they were sitting the couch of her mother’s home in Atlanta.

“It was like Big Brother,” said Ms. Chianese, 28. “It became too much. Is there a middle road? One needs to be found.”

Many people agree. The Federal Trade Commission will hold meetings today and tomorrow about online privacy. The questions they will entertain include how much control people need or want over the vast trove of information that corporate America routinely collects about people as they click from site to site on the Internet.

In advance of the F.T.C. meetings, a coalition of consumer groups called yesterday for a do-not-track list that would permit people to opt out of so-called behavioral tracking programs, which use data about a consumer’s Web travels to deliver relevant ads. Separately, the AOL division of Time Warner announced that it would enhance its system that lets people remove themselves from tracking databases. Opting out does not reduce the number of ads; instead people would receive generic ones.

Most Web tracking is done anonymously, and marketing firms are typically aware only of the sites someone has visited, not their name or address. But as Web tracking technology grows more sophisticated, experts on digital privacy say it is inevitable that marketers will know not only which sites somebody has visited, but also who is doing the Web surfing.

The developments raise new questions for consumers. Do people care if advertisers follow their digital footsteps as much they care, say, about telemarketers calling them during dinner? Will public anxiety mount as customized marketing makes its way to cellphone and television screens?

With the advertising industry increasingly placing its hopes — and money — in the behavioral field, privacy advocates argue that the government needs to establish guidelines for digital privacy now. “It’s a digital data vacuum cleaner on steroids, that’s what the online ad industry has created,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “They’re tracking where your mouse is on the page, what you put in your shopping cart, what you don’t buy. A very sophisticated commercial surveillance system has been put in place.”

Internet advertising is just the latest flashpoint in the privacy debate. It has been eight years since the F.T.C. has held a public workshop on the use of consumer data in online ads, and a lot of the hypothetical situations described then are now a widespread reality.

Many executives in the advertising industry do not see anything wrong with online targeting. They argue that the practice benefits consumers, who see more relevant ads. And they contend that for consumers, relinquishing some innocuous personal data is a small trade-off for free access to the rich content of the Internet, much of which is ad-supported.

“Why should the direct mail firms be able to target like that, and we’re not? All because it’s electronic?” said David J. Moore, chief executive of 24/7 Real Media, which is owned by the advertising conglomerate the WPP Group. “Ultimately, if you want the content to remain free on the Web, you need to at least give us the information to monetize it.”

But there is growing concern, even among online companies, about what information is being used to deliver ads to people.

“The market is getting edgier and edgier, and what is accepted in the marketplace gets dodgier and dodgier,” said Martin E. Abrams, the executive director of the Center for Information Policy Leadership at the law firm Hunton & Williams, a research organization financed by companies like Google, Microsoft and Best Buy. “We have really moved to a world where we say consumers need to police the market, and, increasingly, it is a harder world to police.”

Some observers say that many people do not really mind the targeting. Recent privacy surveys have found that younger people do not care as much about privacy as their parents do, but privacy groups say that is because people do not understand how much information is gathered.

“If people were shown all the stuff that’s been collected, I think they would be more appalled,” said Richard M. Smith, an Internet consultant who will speak on the F.T.C.’s opening panel.

Ian Ayres, a professor at Yale Law School who has written a book about data mining, said, “If a computer is scanning my X-ray at an airport, I feel differently than if a human undresses me.”

Mr. Ayres cautioned that online data could be taken too far; companies could use it to discriminate against customers or charge wealthier ones higher prices. And because the Web is less transparent than a shopping mall, those actions might go undetected.

Behavioral targeting is not the only kind used online. Some companies scan e-mail messages and search queries to figure out which ads might be relevant to people. Google scans e-mail messages like Ms. Chianese’s message about her deceased grandmother — but only uses the most current ones in its tracking.

Facebook, the social networking site, is expected to announce an advertising policy soon that will deliver ads based on user information like college, friends, marital status and hobbies. The ad network 24/7 Real Media has been experimenting with linking offline ad databases to people’s computer addresses, though the company says it is not actually provided the names or addresses of people. Acxiom, a direct mail database company, said recently that it had begun selling such data to online companies.

Consumer groups seeking a do-not-track rule have a long wish list. They want disclosure notices saying that online ads resulted from behavioral tracking. They also want consumers to be able to view and edit the profiles the ad networks are building. Eileen Harrington, deputy director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said yesterday that “providing a consumer with advertising that matches their interests is something that provides a lot of value to consumers.” But, she added, “there are questions about whether it may also come with costs that consumers don’t want to pay.”

AT&T Invents Programming Language for Mass Surveillance
Ryan Singel

From the company that brought you the C programming language comes Hancock, a C variant developed by AT&T researchers to mine gigabytes of the company's telephone and internet records for surveillance purposes.

An AT&T research paper published in 2001 and unearthed today by Andrew Appel at Freedom to Tinker shows how the phone company uses Hancock-coded software to crunch through tens of millions of long distance phone records a night to draw up what AT&T calls "communities of interest" -- i.e., calling circles that show who is talking to whom.

The system was built in the late 1990s to develop marketing leads, and as a security tool to see if new customers called the same numbers as previously cut-off fraudsters -- something the paper refers to as "guilt by association."

But it's of interest to THREAT LEVEL because of recent revelations that the FBI has been requesting "communities of interest" records from phone companies under the USA PATRIOT Act without a warrant. Where the bureau got the idea that phone companies collect such data has, until now, been a mystery.

According to a letter from Verizon to a congressional committee earlier this month, the FBI has been asking Verizon for "community of interest" records on some of its customers out to two generations -- i.e., not just the people that communicated with an FBI target, but also those who talked to people who talked to an FBI target. Verizon, though, doesn't create those records and couldn't comply. Now it appears that AT&T invented the concept and the technology. It even owns a patent on some of its data mining methods, issued to two of Hancock's creators in 2002.

Programs written in Hancock work by analyzing data as it flows into a data warehouse. That differentiates the language from traditional data-mining applications which tend to look for patterns in static databases. A 2004 paper published in ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems shows how Hancock code can sift calling card records, long distance calls, IP addresses and internet traffic dumps, and even track the physical movements of mobile phone customers as their signal moves from cell site to cell site.

With Hancock, "analysts could store sufficiently precise information to enable new applications previously thought to be infeasible," the program authors wrote. AT&T uses Hancock code to sift 9 GB of telephone traffic data a night, according to the paper.

The good news for budding data miners is that Hancock's source code and binaries (now up to version 2.0) are available free to noncommercial users from an AT&T Research website.

The instruction manual (.pdf) is also free, and old-timers will appreciate its spare Kernighan & Ritchie style. The manual even includes a few sample programs in the style of K&R's Hello World, but coded specifically to handle data collected by AT&T's phone and internet switches. This one reads in a dump of internet headers, computes what IP addresses were visited, makes a record and prints them out, in less than 40 lines of code.

#include "ipRec.hh"
#include "ihash.h"

hash_table *ofInterest;

int inSet (ipPacket_t * p)
  if (hash_get (ofInterest, p->source.hash_value) == 1)
    return 1;
  if (hash_get (ofInterest, p->dest.hash_value) == 1)
    return 1;
  return 0;
void sig_main (ipAddr_s addrs < l:>,
  /* code to set up hash table */ 
  ofInterest = hash_empty ();
    (over addrs) {
    event (ipAddr_t * addr) {
      if (hash_insert (ofInterest, addr->hash_value, 1) < 0)
  /* code to select packets */
    (over packets
     filteredby inSet)
    event (ipPacket_t * p)
      printPacketInfo (p);
Another sample program included in the manual shows how a Hancock program could create historical maps of a person's travels by recording nightly what cell phone towers a person's phone had used or pinged throughout a day.

AT&T is currently defending itself in federal court from allegations that it installed, on behalf of the NSA, secret internet spying rooms in its domestic internet switching facilities. AT&T and Verizon are also accused of giving the NSA access to billions of Americans' phone records, in order to data-mine them to spot suspected terrorists, and presumably to identify targets for warrantless wiretapping.

Cellphones Team Up to Become Smart CCTV Swarm

Software that turns groups of ordinary camera cellphones into a "smart" surveillance network has been developed by Swiss researchers. The team says it will release the software for programmers and users to experiment with.

The software employs Bluetooth, a short-range wireless technology included in many modern phones, to automatically share information and let the phones collectively analyse events that they record. This provides a platform for a group of phones to act as smart network capable of, for example, spotting intruders or identifying wildlife.

Other researchers are developing similar intelligent camera networks. These work like an ordinary CCTV surveillance system, but use software instead of a human analyst to interpret what is happening on screen, comparing the footage captured by each camera for a more complete picture.

Philipp Bolliger, Moritz Köhler and Kay Römer at the Institute for Pervasive Computing in Zurich, Switzerland, wanted to make such camera networks more accessible. So they developed software called Facet that transforms a few cellphones into a smart camera network.

To test the software, the researchers attached four Nokia 6630 phones running Facet to the ceiling of a corridor in their department. The phones were angled so that the camera of each could see a different part of the corridor and so that they could all see peopling walking past.
Complex tasks

Whenever a phone detects an object entering or exiting its field of view, it sends a message via Bluetooth to alert the phones on either side. These phones, in turn, pass the message on to other nearby handsets so that eventually the entire network receives the message.

One handset on the network also reports this information to a computer over a normal GPRS cellphone connection.

Each phone determines the distance to its nearest neighbour. The phones currently use the average speed people walk to guess the distances between themselves, based on how long people take to move from one phone's view to another's.

In testing, the system determined the distances between each phone with about 95% accuracy. They were placed 4 metres apart, making it accurate to about 20 centimetres. In future, recording the speed at which objects pass by would make more accurate judgments possible.

Knowing the shape of the cellphone network provides the foundation for the system to perform more complex tasks, says Bolliger. Facet could, for example, report via text message when someone walks down a corridor in a particular direction, or sound an alarm if a dangerous animal approaches a campsite, he suggests.
Zooming in

The researchers plan to release Facet as an open-source project, allowing anyone to use or modify its code, and to experiment with networked camera phones running the software. "Because of the way we implemented it, the whole thing will run in Java on virtually any phone you want," Bolliger says. "It will be very nice to see what people come up with."

Before they release the software, however, the Zurich team hopes to improve it. "The next step is better image analysis – for example, to look at the shape or identity of objects," Bolliger explains. Facet can currently only spot things around 1 metre in size. "Our goal would be around 10 or 15 cm," he adds.

"I like the idea of easily connecting many phones," says Eiman Kanjo, a researcher at Cambridge University in the UK, who is working on using cellphones to record urban pollution.

"But I don't think they have found the best application yet," she says. "I think this would be best used in other places, when it becomes open source other people might brain storm and find the killer app."

Germany Seeks Expansion of Computer Spying

A proposal to secretly scan suspects' hard drives causes unease in a nation with a history of official surveillance.
By Kim Murphy

The first evidence was the bombs themselves, packed into a pair of suitcases and left on two passenger trains in northwest Germany.

Because of a technical flaw, they never exploded, but not for lack of planning. The laptop of one of the suspects in last year's bungled bombings contained plans, sketches and maps -- a virtual road map to an attack that could have killed dozens.

What if law enforcement agents had been able to secretly scan the contents of the computer before the attempted attack was carried out?

To the unease of many in a country with a history of government spying through the era of the Gestapo and communist rule in East Germany, law enforcement authorities are using the suitcase bomb case to argue for measures that would significantly expand their ability to spy on the once-private realm of My Documents.

Expanded surveillance laws since the Sept. 11 attacks already have enabled many Western governments to monitor telephone and e-mail traffic, the conversation in Islamic militants' chat rooms and the websites visited by terrorism suspects.

Now, along with several other European countries, Germany is seeking authority to plant secret Trojan viruses into the computers of suspects that could scan files, photos, diagrams and voice recordings, record every keystroke typed and possibly even turn on webcams and microphones in an attempt to gain knowledge of attacks before they happen.

"What this case showed us is that they are using laptops, they are using computers, and it would have been very, very helpful to track them down with online searches," said Gerhard Schindler, director of the German Interior Ministry's counter-terrorism bureau.

The proposal significantly raises the stakes in the balance between privacy and security here in Germany, where the idea of a watchful government calls up images of agents sitting in basements at old typewriters listening to secret microphones.

Here in Berlin, T-shirts with a photograph of Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and the logo "Stasi 2.0," a reference to the former German Democratic Republic's infamous secret police, have suddenly become popular. Many fear a return to the 1970s, and the often-severe anti-terrorism measures wielded by then-West Germany to fight the devastating tactics of the leftist Red Army Faction.

And in today's high-tech world, the proposed measure causes a chill to those who see hard drives as the new window to the soul.

"Back in the '80s when people were fighting the census, it was because they feared the state could find out that they were not honest toward the tax authorities or something like that," said Sven Lueders, head of the Humanist Union of Berlin, which helped organize a recent protest against the so-called Bundestrojaner, or federal Trojans. "Now what people fear is that the state can actually look into your computer. Because almost everybody has something on his computer that he doesn't want somebody else to see."

"If you spy on my telephone calls, you can never have as big a picture of me as if you can read my hard drive," said Constanze Kurz, an activist with the Berlin-based hacker organization the Chaos Computer Club, which has pledged to find and publicize the first government Trojan.

"My communications, my private photos, my private films, all of my research. And if you install that Trojan on the computer, you can look not only at this data on the hard drive, but you can see what I'm typing, you can collect my thoughts as I'm typing them in," she said. "If you give me your computer for one hour, I will know everything about you."

Already, Romania, Cyprus, Latvia and Spain have laws that allow "online searches," according to a report from Germany's Interior Ministry, which conducted an informal survey in Europe. Switzerland and Slovenia appear to also allow such searches, and Sweden is in the process of adopting similar legislation, the report said.

In the U.S., where battles are being fought over warrantless surveillance of telephone and Internet communications, the FBI is known to have implanted software designed to identify target computers. But it is unknown, and the FBI won't say, whether the government has tried to surreptitiously search the contents of hard drives.

"I'm not aware of that technique being used in the United States," said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. "But it's also not clear, given the current view of the president on his powers to conduct electronic surveillance, that it hasn't been used."

Europe has been scrambling in recent months to adopt new counter-terrorism measures as recent arrests in Britain, Germany and Denmark have shed light on the increased number of militants raised in Europe.

On Nov. 6, the European Union's justice commissioner, Franco Frattini, will propose a new set of counter-terrorism measures that is expected to include proposals to block Internet sites offering bomb-making recipes and to make online recruiting of terrorists a criminal offense.

"The picture of the terrorist of today doesn't have an AK-47 under his arm, but he has a laptop on his lap," Schindler said in an interview at his well-guarded Interior Ministry office.

The mood in Germany since the latest wave of arrests in September has been tense, with senior officials warning that they cannot hope to stop all the plots believed to be underway.

"A terrorist attack with nuclear weapons is certain. The question is no longer whether such an attack could be carried out by terrorists, but when," Schaeuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper in September.

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung has warned that he would be prepared to order the shooting down of a commercial airliner hijacked by terrorists under emergency laws, despite a court ruling that held such a measure illegal.

Police say that although the current authority to enter a suspect's home and seize computers and storage drives for inspection is helpful, there are times when the ability to probe without the suspect's knowledge, by way of an e-bug implanted when he unknowingly opened an e-mail attachment, might yield crucial information.

"I can imagine lots of cases where it's sensible not to do a physical search first," said Konrad Freiberg, chairman of Germany's police union, who is an advocate of the proposed new authority.

"For example, if a suspect is under telephone wiretapping and we know from his phone calls that he's planning an attack. At the moment, we would have to go to his apartment and search his apartment. But then he would know that we are there. And maybe in this case, it would be more sensible to let it go for a couple of days, look at what he's doing, see what he's planning, and do that secretly, in hiding," he said.

Federal intelligence agencies already had been conducting these kinds of online searches but were forced to halt the practice in February, when the Federal Court of Justice ruled it was illegal. The interior minister said such searches would not resume before the passage of legislation, and possibly an amendment of Germany's Basic Law, to allow them.

The government is awaiting a decision from the federal Constitutional Court, which is hearing a legal challenge to the procedure brought in a provincial case, and, depending on the outcome, could present proposed legislation by the end of the year.

Critics of the proposed policy complain that it could circumvent the normal, adversarial legal procedures for searches precisely because of its secrecy.

"It is already possible with the decision of a judge to physically search computers, but it has to be approved by a court. And since it is necessary to have it approved by a court, it is also possible to object," said Hans-Christian Stroeble, a member of parliament from the Green Party. "But if you want to do it secretly, it runs completely out of the control of legal procedure.

"What we fear is that without any hint of a criminal background, police can secretly go into computers, maybe even the computers of political opponents, and spy them out, gaining access to personal data like photos, diaries, love letters, things like that," Stroeble said.

Law enforcement authorities emphasize that they are seeking an official legislative sanction to ensure that proper protections are in place.

"We need to put this into a clear framework of rules, which means it has to be clearly defined who is going to allow online searches," Schindler said. "It's not going to be a police officer who decides that; it of course will be a judge who decides."

Computer aficionados say it's doubtful that any criminal worth his salt would be foolish enough to open an e-mail attachment with a Trojan virus embedded in it. Government officials responded that they might embed the programs in communications from the tax authorities -- a proposal that raised more controversy, with critics saying it would cause the public to mistrust all government communications.

German authorities are also trying to regulate the distribution of militant material on the Internet. In a groundbreaking case in the city of Celle, an Iraqi Kurdish immigrant identified only as Ibrahim R. is on trial for forwarding videos made by Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders, available elsewhere on the Internet, into Islamic militant chat rooms.

Prosecutors, who have charged him with supporting terrorism, say his postings amount to conducting a "virtual jihad."

But Klaus Ruether, his defense lawyer, said anyone might forward such videos; Ibrahim R.'s crime is that he seemed to agree with the points of view expressed, the lawyer said.

"If a person can be punished only because of what they suppose he has in his mind," Ruether said, "then we have crossed an important line."

Fugitive Has Support of Longtime Friends
Travis Loller

Few in this small Tennessee town can believe the woman they knew as Linda McElroy was capable of murder. Her neighbors and friends learned this week that she was really fugitive Linda Darby - who was convicted of killing her husband but escaped 35 years ago from a life sentence at an Indiana prison.

Some have known her for decades and are genuinely convinced she's not a cold-blooded killer. She claims she is innocent and wants her husband's true killer found and punished.

Bill Hatfield, 54, said he's known Darby for 20 years and ``she wouldn't hurt a flea.'' He said he hopes to start a letter-writing campaign urging Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to review the case and consider a pardon.

``She's cleaned our house for 15 years and has a key to the house. I'd let her in tomorrow,'' said Hatfield, who works for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

``She's never done anything but help people,'' he said. ``She used to care for my elderly parents, staying at night from 7 to 7, and she had the full run of the house. She cared for my mother just like she was her own mother.''

Darby was convicted of fatally shooting her second husband, Charles Darby. Police said she left his body in a bedroom at their home in Hammond, Ind., and set the house on fire to cover up the crime.

According to news reports at the time, the couple had been subjected to vandalism and threats before the murder. Police later attributed the incidents to Linda Darby, claiming the couple had been under financial pressure that was causing a breakup of their marriage, something she denied.

At trial her 9-year-old daughter by a previous marriage, Terri Dixon, testified that on the night of the murder her mother had left a motel room where she was staying with her five children on a return trip from visiting relatives. Police also said they found a shotgun at the motel that was consistent with the murder weapon.

Her defense attorney at the trial put no witnesses on the stand, and instead attacked what he called ``tainted evidence'' and ``rehearsed witnesses.'' That strategy did not work and it took a jury less than two hours to find Darby guilty of first-degree murder.

Two years later, in 1972, she climbed over a barbed-wire fence at the Indiana Women's Prison and fled.

Darby told The Giles Free Press in an interview this week that when she escaped prison her first thought was to be with her children again, but she soon realized that authorities would find her if she went to them.

Instead, she knocked on a stranger's door in Indianapolis, telling the woman who answered that her cuts and scratches were from a fight with her boyfriend.

In Indianapolis she met Willie McElroy, the man who would become her third husband. Later, the couple moved to his hometown of Pulaski, where they raised their two children and watched eight grandchildren grow up.

She and her husband ran a junk and antiques shop for a number of years, friends said. More recently, Darby worked cleaning houses and sitting with elderly people.

Giles County Sheriff Kyle Helton has said Darby, 64, led a flawless life during her 30-plus years in Pulaski.

Elaine Jones, a 55-year-old retired nurse who said she has known Darby for about 30 years, said she thought Darby incapable of murder.

``We need to do something to show support,'' she said. ``I know she didn't do it, and somebody don't have that in them - this is a person I've known since the late '70s - without getting in trouble or showing some signs of instability.''

Officials at the Giles County Sheriff's Department said Friday that Darby had been removed from their custody by Indiana authorities, but they did not know where she was being taken. A spokesman for the Indiana State Police and a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Corrections were unable to say late Friday where Darby was being held. It was not immediately clear if she had a lawyer.

Willard Plank, chief investigator with the Indiana Department of Correction, said a computer database created by the Department of Homeland Security helped detectives find Darby. As Linda Jo McElroy, she used a similar date of birth and social security number to her real ones. But there also were other clues that he said he could not talk about.

Once Indiana investigators became suspicious that McElroy was Darby, they sent a photograph and fingerprints to Pulaski police who positively identified her.

Darby told Nashville television station WSMV-TV she was innocent and fled prison because she did not want to serve time for another person's crime.

``I'm not a murderer,'' she said. ``I just don't know how they ever convicted me. I really don't. But I didn't do it.''

Masked Thieves Storm Into Chicago Colocation (Again!)

Think your data's secure. What about your data center?
Dan Goodin

The recent armed robbery of a Chicago-based co-location facility has customers hopping mad after learning it was at least the fourth forced intrusion in two years. They want to know how C I Host, an operator that vaunts the security of its data centers, could allow the same one to be penetrated so many times.

"I can't believe a datacenter has been broken into that many times," said Nick Krapf, president of Bloodservers.com, a startup game hosting provider, who said $15,000 worth of Dell servers were stolen in the October 2 heist. "What do you got to do to secure your facility for it not to happen? We're pulling all our equipment from all their other facilities."

In recent years, many IT administrators have found religion about installing security patches and deploying other measures such as intrusion prevention systems to keep criminals from accessing their systems and the data stored on them. The series of break-ins at C I Host is a reminder that safeguards must also extend to more mundane protections, including dead-bolt locks and steel cages.

CI Host likes to vaunt the security of its Chicago-based colocation facility, noting that safeguards include multiple layers of 24x7 security cameras, proximity card readers, biometric access controls and key pads, double-locking mantraps at data center entrance and 360-degree perimeter and roof surveillance. And yet, the same location has been the target of at least four burglaries or robberies since August 2005, according to police reports and former customers, some of whom say they lost sensitive data and hundreds of thousands of dollars in hardware.

Representatives from C I Host didn't respond to emails requesting comment for this story.

In the most recent incident, "at least two masked intruders entered the suite after cutting into the reinforced walls with a power saw," according to a letter C I Host officials sent customers. "During the robbery, C I Host's night manager was repeatedly tazered and struck with a blunt instrument. After violently attacking the manager, the intruders stole equipment belonging to C I Host and its customers." At least 20 data servers were stolen, said Patrick Camden, deputy director of news affairs for the Chicago Police Department.

The Chicago location has been hit by similar breaches in the past, according to police reports. One report detailing an occurrence on September 23, 2005, recounts a "hole cut through the wall coming out onto the hallway of third floor." During a September 20, 2006 incident, an intruder "placed a silver + blk handgun to [victim's] head and stated 'lay down on the floor.'" The victim, a C I Host employee, was then blindfolded, bound with black tape and struck on the head with a weapon, according to the report.

To add insult to injury, C I Host representatives haven't been particularly quick to alert customers of the robberies. It took them several days to admit the most recent breach, according to several customers who say they lost equipment. According to James F. Ruffer III, support people told him his server was down because the company had a problem with one of its routers. Krapf, the Bloodservers.com president, said he was told the same thing, as did several people recounting their experience on this forum.
"From a business owner perspective, my reputation is worth more to me than money," said Ruffer. "The longer they waited the more money each particular person was losing. They should have been upfront and right on the ball."

The War on the Unexpected
Bruce Schneier

We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats.

This isn't the way counterterrorism is supposed to work, but it's happening everywhere. It's a result of our relentless campaign to convince ordinary citizens that they're the front line of terrorism defense. "If you see something, say something" is how the ads read in the New York City subways. "If you suspect something, report it" urges another ad campaign in Manchester, UK. The Michigan State Police have a seven-minute video. Administration officials from then-attorney general John Ashcroft to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to President Bush have asked us all to report any suspicious activity.

The problem is that ordinary citizens don't know what a real terrorist threat looks like. They can't tell the difference between a bomb and a tape dispenser, electronic name badge, CD player, bat detector, or a trash sculpture; or the difference between terrorist plotters and imams, musicians, or architects. All they know is that something makes them uneasy, usually based on fear, media hype, or just something being different.

Even worse: after someone reports a "terrorist threat," the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment.

Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to -- a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant -- now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it's a false alarm, it's not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he's wrong, it'll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he'll be praised for "doing his job" and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we're done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.

This story has been repeated endlessly, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Someone -- these are all real -- notices a funny smell, or some white powder, or two people passing an envelope, or a dark-skinned man leaving boxes at the curb, or a cell phone in an airplane seat; the police cordon off the area, make arrests, and/or evacuate airplanes; and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling, or a cell phone in an airplane seat.

Of course, by then it's too late for the authorities to admit that they made a mistake and overreacted, that a sane voice of reason at some level should have prevailed. What follows is the parade of police and elected officials praising each other for doing a great job, and prosecuting the poor victim -- the person who was different in the first place -- for having the temerity to try to trick them.

For some reason, governments are encouraging this kind of behavior. It's not just the publicity campaigns asking people to come forward and snitch on their neighbors; they're asking certain professions to pay particular attention: truckers to watch the highways, students to watch campuses, and scuba instructors to watch their students. The U.S. wanted meter readers and telephone repairmen to snoop around houses. There's even a new law protecting people who turn in their travel mates based on some undefined "objectively reasonable suspicion," whatever that is.

If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.

We need to do two things. The first is to stop urging people to report their fears. People have always come forward to tell the police when they see something genuinely suspicious, and should continue to do so. But encouraging people to raise an alarm every time they're spooked only squanders our security resources and makes no one safer.

We don't want people to never report anything. A store clerk's tip led to the unraveling of a plot to attack Fort Dix last May, and in March an alert Southern California woman foiled a kidnapping by calling the police about a suspicious man carting around a person-sized crate. But these incidents only reinforce the need to realistically asses, not automatically escalate, citizen tips. In criminal matters, law enforcement is experienced in separating legitimate tips from unsubstantiated fears, and allocating resources accordingly; we should expect no less from them when it comes to terrorism.

Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong. And everyone needs to stop castigating, and prosecuting, the victims just because they embarrassed the police by their innocence.

Causing a city-wide panic over blinking signs, a guy with a pellet gun, or stray backpacks, is not evidence of doing a good job: it's evidence of squandering police resources. Even worse, it causes its own form of terror, and encourages people to be even more alarmist in the future. We need to spend our resources on things that actually make us safer, not on chasing down and trumpeting every paranoid threat anyone can come up with.

Endangered Species - The Chemistry Set
Posted by Angry Political Optimist

What do Islamofacism, methamphetamine production, tort lawyers, and homemade fireworks have in common? The answer is that they are all part of the seemingly inevitable process of destroying the childhood Chemistry Set. A.C. Gilbert, in 1918 was titled the “Man who Saved Christmas” with his innovative ideas of packaging a few glass tubes and some common chemicals into starter kits that enabled a generation to learn the joy of experimentation, and the basis for the scientific method of thought.

Some of Gilbert’s original sets included such items as sodium cyanide, radioactive samples (complete with a Geiger counter), and glass blowing kits. I will freely admit that one of the first things I did with my chemistry set was to attempt to make an explosive. I remember mixing up chemicals that evolved free chlorine gas and having to evacuate the house. I remember mixing potassium nitrate and sugar to make rocket engines and quickly evolving to higher specific impulse fuels. I remember the joy of finally obtaining some nitric acid which allowed me to nitrate basically everything in the house (cotton for gun cotton, glycerine and alcohol for nitroglycerine). So yes, I have to admit that there is a risk involved. But this is how people learn. Sometimes knowledge comes with pain — one-shot induction.

Today however, the Chemistry Set is toast. Current instantiations are embarrassing. There are no chemicals except those which react at low energy to produce color changes. No glass tubes or beakers, certainly no Bunsen burners or alcohol burners (remember the clear blue flames when the alcohol spilled out over the table). Today’s sets cover perfume mixing and creation of luminol (the ‘CSI effect’ I suppose).

In some States, you need a FBI criminal background check to purchase chemicals. Some metals, like lithium, red phosphorus, sodium and potassium, are almost impossible to purchase in elemental form. This is thanks to their use in manufacturing methamphetamine. Sulphur and potassium nitrate, both useful chemicals, are being classified as class C fireworks (here is a good precursor link). Mail order suppliers of science products are raided. Many over-the-counter compounds now require what is essentially a (poor) background check. Even fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) is under intense scrutiny. Where does this trend end? Ten years from now, will the list include table salt, seawater and natural gas — precursors to many industrical chemicals?

Then there is the liability issue. Of course some people buy into the lets be safe at any cost and assert that much chemistry can be done without explosions and stinky fumes. If a ladder manufacturer is under a constant barrage of liability suits, imagine the torrent of litigation directed to those giving a child a set of potentially dangerous chemicals. Its a CHILD, for God’s sake. [Oh, I’m sorry, for a minute there I was waxing Democrat.]

Yet there is still a little hope. Although Thames and Kosmos can’t ship their sets with the full range of chemicals needed to perform their listed experiments, at least they provide a list of sources from which to acquire them (assuming the appropriate permits, licenses, fees, FEES, background checks, and did I mention fees.) What is at stake here is no less than the future of America’s competitiveness and the innovation the make the United States the magnet for international entrepreneurs and scientists. Without the chemistry set, will we have scientists and innovators, or just a country of rock stars, political commentators and movie idols.

[Author’s Note: This article is primarily a result of my frustration in trying to acquire a few hundred grams of potassium carbonate for an electrolyte solution.]

10-Year-Old With Matches Started a California Wildfire
Michael Parrish

A 10-year-old boy admitted that he accidentally started one of the largest of last week’s Southern California wildfires while playing with matches, enforcement officials say.

The blaze, the Buckweed fire, started in the early afternoon of Oct. 21, in Agua Dulce, a rural community in the northern part of Los Angeles County. Fanned by high winds and hot, dry weather, it spread quickly, driving 15,000 people from their homes, destroying 21 houses and 22 other buildings, injuring three people and blackening more than 38,000 acres.

Investigators immediately began tracing the cause of the fire, and on Oct. 22 arson investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department talked with the suspect, whose name has not been released, a department spokesman, Steve Whitmore, said Wednesday. “It became known to them that they needed to speak with this young boy,” Mr. Whitmore said. “He acknowledged that he was playing with matches and accidentally, his words, set the fire.”

Mr. Whitmore would not discuss the case further before evidence was presented to the county district attorney’s office.

The youth was left in the custody of his parents, awaiting word on whether he would be prosecuted. If so, the case would be heard in the county’s juvenile justice system, said Sandi Gibbons, the public information officer for the district attorney’s office.

“We have had cases involving minors this young before” Ms. Gibbons said, recalling the case of a 10-year-old boy who was prosecuted for killing a bicycle-shop owner.

It was not clear Wednesday whether the boy’s parents could be held financially responsible for damage caused by the blaze, which has been fully contained.

Several adult arson suspects have been arrested in the seven counties affected by last week’s fires. “A 10-year-old boy is in a whole other psychic realm,” said Dr. Jeff Victoroff, associate professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry, at the University of Southern California. “At least one study suggests that if you take a population of boys between kindergarten and fourth grade, 60 percent of them have committed unsupervised fireplay, which is to say that fireplay is a common and absolutely normal part of human development.”

Innovators Take Patent Bill Battle to Senate

Executives and lobbyists from some of America's richest and most influential companies are walking the halls of Congress, buttonholing senators to argue for strong patents to preserve U.S. innovation.

But they disagree on how to accomplish that goal.

High-tech firms such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Cisco Systems say they need patent legislation that reduces their vulnerability to a growing number of infringement suits.

Meanwhile, seed and herbicide giant Monsanto, pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly, and smaller tech firms say the bill weakens patents and threatens American competitiveness.

After the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of a patent overhaul bill on September 7, the battle has moved to the Senate, where the measure could come up within weeks.

Both patent camps say they can win.

"If you brought this bill before the Senate tomorrow, I think it would pass," said Steve Elmendorf, lobbyist for the pro-tech Coalition for Patent Fairness.

A coalition opposing the bill disagrees, saying there are 33 undecided senators--enough to put the bill's future in doubt.

Since the House passed its version, the two sides have reached agreement on some areas in the bill, but one big sticking point remains: damages.

Under current law, damages can be calculated as the entire market value of the product, and that number can be tripled, if the patent infringement is found to be willful.

Those opposed to changes in the damages provision say the costs of infringement should be high to protect their patents.

But big high-tech companies argue that this calculation is inappropriate for cell phones, televisions, or other gadgets that contain a dozen or more patented features. Under the patent reform bill, damages would be based on the contribution that the infringed patent makes to the product.

"That is the big thing that is holding up patent reform in Congress right now," said Hans Sauer, associate general counsel for the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "Everything else is subject to resolution."

The driving force behind the legislation has been complaints by tech companies of a sharp increase in patent infringement lawsuits over the past several years.

Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler said the maker of communications equipment faced three lawsuits per year a decade ago, while today, the company has 30. Each can cost millions of dollars to fight.

"There is a small cottage industry using the secondary market for patents in a way they were never meant to be used, in my opinion," said Bruce Sewell, general counsel at Intel.

And companies are suing each other at a rapid rate. There are more than a dozen lawsuits between wireless-phone maker Nokia and chipmaker Qualcomm on three continents.

Sometimes patent lawsuits stem from licensing disputes rather than infringement concerns. In other cases, companies have knowingly infringed, or companies are shown in court to have brought an unfounded lawsuit, said Scott Kieff, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

"You see bad behavior in both directions," said Kieff.

While the legislation is the current battleground, recent Supreme Court decisions and new rules from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could have profound effects.

In KSR v. Teleflex, the U.S. high court essentially said patent applicants had to work harder to prove that their innovation was truly new, not just an obvious extension of what was already known.

In eBay v. MercExchange, the Supreme Court took away the threat of an automatic injunction, should a patent be found to have been infringed.

"I was hopeful we would see a slowdown (in lawsuits) after the Supreme Court (ruling), but we've seen an increase," said Tim Crean, chief intellectual-property officer for SAP, the world's biggest business software maker.

The Patent Office has new rules that go into effect November 1, and it has proposed another that restricts the amount of supporting information applicants can file that might have a bearing on whether the innovation should be patented.

The rule is an effort to speed the patent process, but critics say a court could later invalidate a patent for failure to present a relevant piece of "prior art."

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has filed a suit against the government's planned changes.

Anat Hakim, a patent attorney with Foley & Lardner, said the combined effects of the Supreme Court rulings, Patent Office changes, and legislation could have unforeseen consequences, as have some previous patent overhaul efforts.

"The incentives that were created were not the ones that were intended," she said.

Court Blocks Patent Office From Instituting Controversial Rules

The USPTO says the rules are intended to speed reviews, but critics say they would limit patent protection.
Paul McDougall

A federal judge on Wednesday enjoined the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office from instituting new rules, scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, that critics say would limit the level of patent protection available to inventors.

Ruling on a motion filed by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which is suing the Patent Office over the issue, Judge James Cacheris of the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia blocked, for now at least, the patent office from implementing the regulations Thursday as planned.

"This is a sign that the challenge to these rules is legitimate," said Mark Murphy, a Chicago-based patent attorney whose firm, Cook Alex, is not involved in the litigation.

The new rules are intended to speed patent reviews by the chronically understaffed USPTO. Among other things, they limit so-called "continuing applications" through which inventors can modify existing patent applications.

Murphy said the new rules would "severely limit the level of patent coverage you can get for an invention" if they are allowed to take effect.

GlaxoSmithKline originally filed its suit against the USPTO on Oct. 9.

The drug manufacturer contends that it, and other companies that invest heavily in research and development, needs the freedom to broaden their patent claims when new applications for their inventions are discovered.

A spokesperson for the patent office said the USPTO is committed to implementing the new rules despite Wednesday's setback.

"The USPTO continues to believe that the rules are an important component of modernizing the patent system. They are part of a package of initiatives designed to improve the quality and efficiency of the patent process," said the spokesperson.

Wi-LAN Files Suit Against 22 Firms

Wi-LAN Inc <WIN.TO> said on Thursday it has initiated litigation against 22 technology companies in two actions claiming patent infringement.

Wi-LAN, which licenses patents for telecom products, said the suits against chip suppliers, equipment vendors and electronics retailers have commenced in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division.

The filings claim that the companies infringe Wi-LAN patents -- related to Wi-Fi and power consumption in DSL products -- by making or selling such products as wireless routers, modems and personal notebook computers.

The legal action is against Acer <2353.TW>, Apple <AAPL.O>, Atheros Communications <ATHR.O>, Belkin International, Best Buy <BBY.N>, Broadcom <BRCM.O>, Buffalo Technology, Circuit City Stores <CC.N>, Dell <DELL.O>, D-Link <2332.TW>, Gateway Inc <GATE.DE>, Hewlett-Packard <HPQ.N>, Infineon Technologies <IFXGn.DE>, Intel <INTC.O>, Lenovo Group <0992.HK>, Marvell Semiconductor <MRVL.O>, NetGear <NTGR.O>, Sony <6758.T>, Texas Instruments <TXN.N>, Toshiba <6502.T>, Westell Technologies <WSTL.O>, and 2Wire Inc.

Ottawa-based company Wi-LAN in July said it struck a preliminary deal with Fujitsu <6702.T> to license its entire portfolio. Financial terms were not released.

"While we prefer to resolve patent infringement through business discussions, we have consistently maintained that litigation was always a possibility when negotiations do not result in a license within a reasonable time," Chief Executive Jim Skippen said in a statement.

Wi-LAN said it has a portfolio of more than 280 issued or pending patents.

Eye-Fi Adds Wi-Fi to Almost Any Digital Camera

The gadget: The Eye-Fi. It's an SD memory card that adds Wi-Fi to any camera. Plus the free Eye-Fi service supports automatic uploads to 20 different web photo sites (like Flickr) as well as a computer on your home network.

The verdict: It works flawlessly.

The performance: Like we said, the Eye-Fi works flawlessly. Setup takes roughly five minutes (you program the card through your computer and bundled card reader). From there, you simply snap pics in the range of your router, and chances are, by the time you go back to your computer, the pictures will be viewable. If your router dies, you turn off your camera, or even if you take out the card and put it back in, the photos will upload when you get things sorted out again. It's actually a normal 2GB memory card underneath all of the other functionality and can work as such.

The catch: We figured it must drain more battery—but apparently in-camera SD power standards dictate that this extra consumed power needs to be minimal, to the level of not being noticeable to the end user. Unfortunately, the product doesn't support hotspots.

The price: $100

The verdict Part II: Sure, the Eye-Fi is basically a cradle replacement. But snapping photos and automatically uploading them in real time to share is truly fantastic, especially when the images can be better than one's camera phone. And the entire product experience is built with simplicity. If you can get over the price and are sick of cords, we strongly recommend the purchase. Available now.

World's Smallest Radio Fits in the Palm of the Hand . . . of an Ant

Single carbon nanotube is fully functional radio, receiving music over standard radio bandwidth

Harnessing the electrical and mechanical properties of the carbon nanotube, a team of researchers has crafted a working radio from a single fiber of that material.

Fixed between two electrodes, the vibrating tube successfully performed the four critical roles of a radio--antenna, tunable filter, amplifier and demodulator--to tune in a radio signal generated in the room and play it back through an attached speaker.

Functional across a bandwidth widely used for commercial radio, the tiny device could have applications far beyond novelty, from radio-controlled devices that could flow in the human bloodstream to highly efficient, miniscule, cell phone devices.

Developed at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems, a research team led by Alex Zettl of the University of California at Berkeley announced the findings online on Oct. 31, 2007 (http://pubs.acs.org/journals/nalefd/index.html). The findings are scheduled to be printed in Nano Letters in November.

"This breakthrough is a perfect example of how the unique behavior of matter in the nanoworld enables startling new technologies," says Bruce Kramer, a senior advisor for engineering at NSF and the officer overseeing the center's work. "The key functions of a radio, the quintessential device that heralded the electronic age, have now been radically miniaturized using the mechanical vibration of a single carbon nanotube."

The source content for the first laboratory test of the radio was "Layla," by Derek and the Dominos, followed soon after by "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys.

One of the primary goals for the center is to develop minuscule sensors that can communicate wirelessly, says Zettl. "A key issue is how to integrate individual molecular-scale components together into a system that maintains the nanometer scale. The nanoradio achieves this by having one molecular structure, the nanotube, simultaneously perform all critical functions," he adds.

The new device works in a manner more similar to the vacuum tubes from the 1930s than the transistors found in modern radios. In the new radio, a single carbon fiber a few hundred nanometers (billionths of a meter) long, and only a few molecules thick, stands glued to a negatively charged base of tungsten that acts as a cathode. Roughly one millionth of a meter directly across from the base lies a positively charged piece of copper that acts as an anode.

Power in the form of streaming electrons travels from an attached battery through the cathode, into the nanotube, and across a vacuum to the anode via a field-emission tunneling process.

"The field emission process could be likened to a runner jumping across a ditch; you only make it across if you have enough speed, i.e. energy, to begin with," says Zettl. "So electrons jump the physical gap from cathode to anode when you supply enough energy to the device from the battery."

The stream of electrons along the nanotube changes when a radio wave encoded with information--simply a wave of photons that travels in a controlled manner--washes across the tube and causes it to resonate. This mechanical action is what amplifies and demodulates, or decodes, the radio signal.

Returning to Zettl's runner analogy, the vibrating nanotube is akin to a ditch with a constantly changing width. Just as the runner's chances of making the leap depend on how far the gap is, the chances of electrons making the leap depend on the distance of the nanotube tip from the anode.

"This coupling of the mechanical waving motion of the nanotube to the success rate of electrons jumping the gap is key to the functioning of the radio," says Zettl. "What emerges from the anode is then the information signal, which can be transferred to additional amplifiers and a speaker to reveal the originally encoded music or any other data."

By permanently lengthening or shortening the nanotube, a modification resulting from sending a short-lived larger-than-normal electrical current through the device, the researchers were able to control the frequency of the radio signal that the device could receive.

The researchers believe it would be easy to produce such nanotube radios for receiving signals in the 40-400 megahertz range, a range within which most FM radio broadcasts fall.

The researchers fine tune the nanoradio to a frequency, akin to a channel, by using the electrostatic field between the cathode and anode to tighten or loosen the nanotube, a process the researchers relate to the tightening or loosening of a string on a guitar. According to Zettl, the sensitivity of the nanotube radio can be enhanced by attaching an external antenna or by using an array of nanotubes that maintain the extremely small size.

While the concept of a miniaturized receiver for picking up broadcast music signals has appeal, the technology has the potential to assist in a range of interesting uses.

Adds Bruce Kramer, "The application of a fully functioning radio receiver less than 50 millionths of an inch in length and one millionth of an inch in diameter potentially allows the radio control of almost anything, from a single receiver in a living cell to a vast array embedded in an airplane wing."

The lead author on the study was graduate student Kenny Jensen from Zettl's research group and he was joined on the paper by postdoctoral researcher Jeff Weldon and graduate student Henry Garcia, also members of the Zettl group at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In addition to support from NSF, the work also received funding from the Department of Energy. The research was supported through NSF award number EEC-0425914.

Social Media Bomb Sent from USAToday
Barry Hurd

Working diligently through the week, contributing reporter Greg Farrell from USAToday probably never realized that his actions would send an impact around the world. In a hurried rush of editorial confusion, Greg succumbed to the pressure of sending along a message that should have been double-checked.

This however, is not your typical bomb. It is the one of the first social media bombs to explode. A social media crisis that spread around the world through major media syndicators, news outlets that didn’t check facts or investigate and disclose all of the information.

How the catastrophe at USAToday began: Friday, October 12th, 2007.

Greg Farrell had finally finished an investigative piece covering the topic of corporate whistle-blowing. The feature focus of the article was Lynn Brewer, a business woman and speaker who had earned a reputation as having been one of the whistle-blowers who emerged from the implosion of Enron. Greg’s article attempted to spotlight a series of points in Lynn’s history that would set the stage for defacing her reputation as an ethical professional with integrity in support of his article’s title: The Enron whistle-blower who wasn’t.

According to the online world the bomb started ticking when the news story went live on the front page of USAToday (Friday, Oct 12, 2007). Within hours of the release, bloggers at several media sites covered the story as hard-hitting investigative journalism and applauding the work as being a top-notch review of the real story.

Unfortunately they were led astray. According to hardcopy evidence displayed in a personal conversation with Lynn Brewer, along with information gathered through my own personal investigation, every assertion in the article simply demonstrates how a journalist at USAToday (Greg Farrell) used his soapbox for devastating results. The very hard-hitting journalism and seemingly top-notch article were all created by a man who really needed to look in the mirror and expose his own personal agendas. Over a dozen sources ranging from BloggingStocks to WizBang were sucked into a fraudulent support of the article, likely under the presumption that an author at USAToday would double-check facts before releasing such an article.

Presuming that such investigation happened would be normally be correct, for a reputable, major media outlet. In this instance however, that investigation went down a painful path of personal and professional motives. Greg was actually provided with actual copies of pay stubs, Lynn’s letter of resignation, travel receipts, parking tickets, and even invited to listen to the audio of Ken Lay’s secretary confirming personal appointments with Lynn Brewer. For reasons that were not very apparent in the article which I will detail, the factual information was specifically left out or even flatly wrong.

As a consultant for online reputation management and how social media and technology is changing the way news is released, I have covered the use of media tools and news syndication services again and again. I have detailed ethical uses of media to cover news stories and I have also added my own research of the “facts” covered by other stories to really compare the situation… and analyze how social media has the ability to both create and ruin professional reputation. In this case social media was directly fueled by a fire started with a traditional media article and that caused a significant impact to a business woman’s online reputation.

Thousands injured…

After Greg Farrell released his story, tens of thousands of readers saw the article both in the print and online versions of USAToday. It then went through a week long cascade of being reposted by several online news blogs and syndication services, eventually dying down after a full week of exposure. During this time, readers of the article relayed information to Lynn Brewer and her professional contacts, causing potential damage to both her reputation and the company she has worked diligently over the past 6 years to build.

Since USAToday is such a well-known media outlet, dozens of individuals who relied on Greg Farrell’s article wrote various pieces supporting the viewpoint and the tone in his article. The social media mob felt justified in throwing stones at a professional who has spent six years encouraging companies to “become something better”.

When the facts become revealed: How does a professional feel when they have been “duped” by a unsubstantiated news story?

Here is a short list of bloggers and news sources who supported the article (without due investigation) and put themselves in a professional bind by exposing their readership to the article:

CONDÉ NAST PORTFOLIO, which is a sister site in the same network of sites such as Wired.com and VanityFair.com

The Bing Blog, a child of CNN’s Fortune.com - which is owned and operated by Time Warner Company.

BloggingStocks.com, a member of Weblogs, Inc, a AOL owned subsidiary and one of the largest blogging networks.

Wizbang’s Jim Addison covers political and financial topics with a nationwide audience.

The Wired GC is published by John Wallbillich, a former general counsel in the Midwest and founder of Lexvista Partners.

FierceSarbox provides CFO’s, CIO’s, CTO’s and senior compliance managers with the Sarbox guide to more efficient compliance.

In less than a full week, the story continued full-circle from traditional media, to social media, back to traditional media.

On Friday, October 26 Inside Edition’s Paul Boyd continued coverage of this story on a slant towards high-conflict journalism. Having personally watched part of the interview process and met Paul, I was left inquisitively wondering how sixty minutes of video interviewing is carefully trimmed down to make up half of a five minute segment.

In the world of social media, such editing and manipulation of the facts isn’t controlled by the journalist, the news station, or the station’s advertisers. I would be intrigued to find out what type of journalistic viewpoints can be brought to my own article: approaching 2000 words in length, I’m sure there is a good 3 to 5 minute clip somewhere in here that can add fuel to the fire.

A few of the many details left out of Greg Farrell’s USAToday article:

Lynn Brewer is author of “Confessions of an Enron Executive: A Whistleblowers story” and Founder of The Integrity Institute, a company focused on providing the tools and consulting needed to promote corporate sustainability and identify future Enrons.

Greg Farrell is author of “Corporate Crooks”, a competitive book that tries to identify points of corporate sustainability and of predicting future Enrons.

Greg Farrell has an article identifying himself as a contributing author at Integrity International; another competitive business to Lynn Brewer’s Integrity Institute. (I would love to know if there is a payroll slip there…)

The four individuals who are quoted in Greg’s article supporting his negative piece are all mentioned in Lynn’s book, with not so favorable mentions on their character or what they did at Enron. I would love to bullet point how strange it is to see that all the individuals quoted in Greg’s article have both personal and professional axes to grind with Lynn.

Here are some examples of flat-out wrong (and somewhat ironic) points made by Greg in the review of Lynn’s paperwork:
According to Greg’s article, Lynn was sent to London to do a corporate training and never showed up… but she has a parking ticket from that visit for the right time frame, and just several blocks away from the building she did the training in. Apparently her car made the trip to the training location but she was somehow out in the countryside enjoying a personal vacation.

I also personally listened to Lynn’s voicemail that clearly identifies Ken Lay’s secretary confirming Lynn’s travel plans and Lynn’s meetings with Ken Lay just before his death.

Other interesting impacts arising from Social Media:

As of the time of this article: 109 comments were made on it at USAToday, within a week of posting his editorial attack on Lynn Brewer, other “second tier” social media sites were influenced.

Lynn Brewer’s own name entry at Wikipedia was changed within two days of the article being distributed, and even Amazon.com’s book review of “Confessions of an Enron Executive: A Whistleblower’s Story” had personal attacks against Lynn Brewer based on Greg Farrell’s article: “As verified by USA Today in an article on October 12, 2007, she was neither an executive at Enron nor was she in any position to have witnessed the wholesale malfeasance she described.”.

Lynn was kind enough to grant access to her server logs to detail the impact of traffic from the USAToday story, which identifies how a news story can virally increase a site’s traffic by syndicating content through the social media communities.

In summary of the article written by Greg Farrell, from my perspective the article:

Seems entirely biased without full-disclosure.

Is more focused on being a personal attack rather than real journalism.

Leads the reader down a path of half-presented information, denying readers basic facts and the ability to decide for themselves.

Was the catalyst that triggered pack mentality across the social media blogosphere.

The USAToday story defines clear issues at the newspaper, and in across the current media distribution channels:

We cannot assume that stories are in fact true.

We cannot assume that journalists present non-biased articles.

We cannot assume that the basic facts given are accurate.

Lastly, we cannot assume that syndicated information on other news sites is true, non-biased, accurate, or even remotely on-target.

As media figureheads and as evangelists of ethical and moral journalism, we must not shed our responsibility to question everything and confirm what we are told. Each and every one of us has the duty to examine the issues deeper than the media paparazzi trying to get onto the cover of the next grocery store magazine or sell advertising to a pop-culture audience. We cannot rid ourselves of this responsibility to the public by syndicating stories without disclosing and investigating all of the facts.

Knowing that major drama based media companies will always produce ethically challenged stories driven by advertising campaigns, I’m placing a challenge to all social media journalists: to raise the bar of true journalism by presenting as many facts as we can and working together to reveal what major news outlets hide.

This is a critical subject, requiring on-going debate and meriting all of our efforts to produce journalism that raises the bar for future of our media.

My own disclaimer: this is the personal review and commentary of Barry Hurd. My sister works as a consultant with the Integrity Institute which is founded by Lynn Brewer. Lynn Brewer is a personal friend. Lynn Brewer is also a client of my company: SocialMediaSystems.com. Having detailed knowledge of the social media space and online reputation, along with a detailed knowledge of Lynn’s work, my own investigation both in the real world and online, and personal reviews of evidence (hard copy records, audio tracks, etc… on a CD in my possession if anyone wants to read/listen), I detailed the ripple of impact that occurred from the nationwide syndication of one reporter’s bad journalism.

'Camelot' Star Robert Goulet Dies at 73
Duane Byrge

Robert Goulet, a Tony- and Grammy-winning actor and singer best known for his towering, romantic portrayal of Sir Lancelot in "Camelot" both onstage and in the movies, died Tuesday. He was 73.

Goulet died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles while awaiting a lung transplant after being diagnosed with a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis in September. He had a cancerous prostate removed in 1993.

He had remained in good spirits even as he waited for the transplant, said Vera Goulet, his wife of 25 years.

"Just watch my vocal cords," she said he told doctors before they inserted a breathing tube.

The Massachusetts-born Goulet, who spent much of his youth in Canada, gained stardom in 1960 with "Camelot," the Lerner and Loewe musical that starred Richard Burton as King Arthur and Julie Andrews as his Queen Guenevere.

Goulet received a Tony Award as best actor on a musical for his performance in "Happy Time" in 1968.

He made his U.S. TV debut in 1961 on "The Ed Sullivan Show." During the '60s he was a popular guest star on the top variety shows and specials of the era including "Judy and Her Guests, Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet," "The Jack Benny Program," "The Joey Bishop Show," "The Mike Douglas Show," "The Dean Martin Show" and "The Andy Williams Show."

In the late '60s, he starred in such big musicals as "Brigadoon," "Carousel" and "Kiss Me Kate." All three appeared on ABC, with "Brigadoon" receiving five Emmys, including best special of the 1966-67 season.

He also guest starred on almost every major variety TV show, including "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," "Follies" and "The Flip Wilson Show."

Indicative of his self-deprecating and good-natured sense of humor, Goulet appeared on "Police Squad!" as himself and later co-starred in "Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear" (1991). He also appeared in "Weird" Al Yankovic's video for "You Don't Love Me Anymore," the comic movies "Beetlejuice" and "Scrooged" and on the such comedy shows as "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" and "The Flip Wilson Show." More recently, he voiced himself on "The Simpsons."

"You have to have humor and be able to laugh at yourself," Goulet said in a biography on his Web site.

Goulet also had a successful recording career. He won the best new artist Grammy Award in 1962 and made the top 20 in 1964 with the single "My Love Forgive Me." The album of the same name hit the top 5 the following year. He had more than a dozen charting albums during the '60s.

"When I'm using a microphone or doing recordings I try to concentrate on the emotional content of the song and to forget about the voice itself," he told the New York Times in 1962.

"Sometimes I think that if you sing with a big voice, the people in the audience don't listen to the words, as they should," he told the paper. "They just listen to the sound."

Goulet sang at the White House for three presidents and delivered a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. He also played at supper clubs; his four-week engagement at the Persian Room was one of the most successful in the history of the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.

Robert Gerard Goulet was born Nov. 26, 1933, in Lawrence, Mass. After his father's death when he was 11, Goulet and his mother moved to Edmonton, Alberta, where he developed an interest in performance. He did a stint as a DJ on CKUA and sang in local shows. When he was awarded a singing scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music, Goulet moved to Toronto.

While training, he won small parts on TV and made his stage debut in 1951 as Edmonton in Handel's "Messiah." He subsequently landed the male lead in a CBC production of "Little Women." He also starred on the Canadian stage in the satire "Spring Thaw."

Goulet's star brightened with TV: He appeared on Canada's top TV variety program, "Showtime," where he co-starred for three years.

With increased TV exposure in Canada, Goulet moved to weightier stage productions, including "Thunder Rock," "Visit to a Small Planet" and "The Bells Are Ringing." During this period, he auditioned for Lerner and Loewe for Sir Lancelot in New York, impressing the duo when they had given up on finding a suitable performer. Playing opposite Richard Burton and Julie Andrews, Goulet became a stage star.

He voiced the 1962 animated feature film "Gay Purr-ee" along with Judy Garland and also brought his jocular style to such game shows as "What's My Line?" and "Password."

Although Goulet headlined frequently on the Las Vegas Strip, one period stood out, evidenced by a photograph that hung on his office wall. It was the mid-'70s, and he had just finished a two-week run at the Desert Inn when he was asked to fill in at the Frontier, across the street.

Overnight, the marquees of two of the Strip's hottest resorts read the same: "Robert Goulet."

In his last performance Sept. 20 in Syracuse, N.Y., the crooner was backed by a 15-piece orchestra as he performed the one-man show "A Man and his Music."

He married Louise Longmore in 1956. The couple had one daughter, Nikki, before divorcing in 1963. That year, Goulet married Carol Lawrence. The couple had two sons, Christopher and Michael, before divorcing in 1981. Goulet married Vera Novak in 1982.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Young Voters Plug in to Politics
Andy Sullivan

It's not the neon lights or hip-hop beats that make this an unusual whistle stop in the November 2008 presidential contest. It's the youthful faces of those in the crowd.

At a high-tech forum sponsored by MTV and MySpace, some 200 Coe College students peppered Barack Obama with questions about Iraq, gay marriage and immigration, rewarding him with ear-shattering whoops when his answers meet their approval.

They've passed interviews and lined up hours ahead of time for seats at the event.

But when the 46-year-old junior senator from Illinois asks how many plan to take part in Iowa's caucus in January, fewer than one-third raise their hands.

"You can be part of the solution," Obama tells them. "If just the student body at Coe participated, you'd be a huge bloc."

If the history of Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential contest is any indication, they won't be. The average age of the Iowa caucus-goer is nearly 55, according to Iowa State political science professor Steffen Schmidt. This year's caucus takes place on January 3, when many students will be out of state for the holidays, and voting absentee is not an option.

The Iowa caucuses -- widely watched as an indication of who might win a party's presidential nomination -- are gatherings of voters across the state that are one step in the process of picking delegates to a party's national nominating convention.

"If I was home I would definitely participate," said Jennifer Winter, 21, who will be in Costa Rica with the school choir. "Things are going to turn out the way they turn out."

For nearly 30 years, the story of young Americans and politics has been one of mutual neglect: Young people didn't turn out on Election Day, so politicians didn't court them.

Some 52 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in the 1972 presidential election, compared with 68 percent of all eligible voters, a 15-percentage-point gap. By 2000, that gap had yawned to 27 points as youth participation had dropped to 36 percent.

But that may be changing. In 2004, participation among young voters increased to 47 percent. It edged up again in the 2006 congressional election as well.

Field organizers say heavy turnout on college campuses in Virginia and Montana helped Democratic Senate candidates narrowly defeat Republican incumbents in those states in 2006, tipping control of Congress to Democrats.

Wars a Factor

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made young people more aware of current events, and high schools have pushed them to become more active in their communities, said Kathleen Barr, director of research and education at Rock the Vote, a non-partisan group focused on mobilizing young voters. Easier voter registration and outreach have helped as well, she said.

Polls show the newest voters favor Democrats over Republicans by a 22 percent margin and are much more liberal-leaning than their elders on social issues like immigration, race and homosexuality.

"The (Republican Party) to some extent frightened them off by being too harsh," Schmidt said.

There are plenty of them as well -- 50 million citizens under 30 will comprise a quarter of all eligible voters next year.

That hasn't escaped the attention of the Democratic presidential candidates. Front-runner Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan to make college more affordable. Obama's campaign has a dozen staffers working on youth outreach and claims student chapters at more than a third of Iowa's high schools.

Most polls show Obama trailing Clinton by a narrow margin in Iowa, where he must finish strongly to overcome the former first lady's 20-point lead in national polls.

A University of Iowa poll released on Monday found Obama holds an overwhelming lead over Clinton among Iowa voters under 45 -- 41 percent to 19 percent. But fewer than half of Obama's supporters said they are likely to caucus, the poll found.

"We feel pretty confident that a young person we identify as a supporter, who we talk to several times, who comes out to volunteer for us, will come out to caucus," said Obama national youth coordinator Hans Riemer. "It's about building relationships."

Thus the race could hinge on voters like Leah Reuber, 19, who came away from the MTV event determined to show up at a caucus to vote for Obama in her home town of Bellevue.

"Having someone younger in the office of the president would be a really great change," Reuber said. "They might be more in touch with how things really are in the real world, as opposed to the same rich, white males."

"Simpsons" Video Game Spoofs Industry
Scott Hillis

In the latest antics of "The Simpsons", Bart chases a giant ape through a video game factory, Lisa destroys a logging camp and Marge storms city hall with an angry mob.

But don't look for those episodes on TV.

They are levels in "The Simpsons Game" that hit stores on Tuesday amid praise from critics for its faithful recreation of the hit TV show's look, feel and humor.

"That was one of the big design challenges on this game, to make each of the levels feel like episodes. We wanted to make the game feel like a fully playable season of the show," said Hans Tencate, lead producer on the game at Electronic Arts Inc.

Several writers from the TV show injected the game with the irreverent wit "The Simpsons" is known for, coming up with some 8,000 lines of dialogue -- enough for a full season.

"Few games embrace their license's soul so well -- 'The Simpsons Game' nails the show's trademark humor, in-jokes, and social satire, plus it features impressive cartoony graphics and the real-deal voice actors. This is total fan service, meaning Simpsons fans -- and apologists -- will be pleased," gaming news site 1up.com said in its review.

The new game is the latest addition to the already large catalogue of more than 20 "Simpsons" titles, which range from 1991's arcade machine to 2003's "The Simpsons: Hit & Run".

But this appears to adhere most faithfully to the show.

Developers came up with a way that let them create Homer, Bart and other characters in 3D yet retain a look that is remarkably like the cartoony visual style of the show.

"It's actually much harder to do than you would think partly because 'The Simpsons' is hand-drawn. We came up with proprietary technology ... that gives the game a little more of what the TV show would look like," Tencate said.

The game hopes to build on two other milestones this year: the 400th episode of the TV show and the long-awaited movie adaptation that has pulled in more than $500 million at the box office worldwide.

In the game, the Simpsons discover they are living inside a video game and have powers matching their personalities. Bart, for example, can turn into the superhero "Bartman" while Lisa can activate the "Hand of Buddha" to move large objects.

Just as the show used a pop culture medium to skewer pop culture, the game is peppered with parodies of an industry still struggling to shed geeky stereotypes and win mainstream acceptance.

"There are not many video games to my recollection that do full-blown multilayered parodies of the video game industry. We make fun of everything from 'Pong' to 'Tomb Raider'," Tencate said.

While the humor has won praise from critics, some reviewers said they were disappointed with some of the actual gameplay, the lack of online features and for limiting cooperative play to two people.

The game had an average rating of 69 on Metacritic.com, which creates a weighted average of reviews from gaming Web sites and publications.

Hackers Unlock Censored Content in 'Manhunt 2'
Peter Svensson

Hackers have unlocked violent content that was censored by the publisher of the game "Manhunt 2" to give it a marketable rating, the company confirmed Thursday.

The game, initially given an "Adults Only" rating by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, went on sale in the U.S. on Wednesday with a "Mature" rating, after being modified. Most stores refuse to carry "Adults Only" games; Mature means a game is intended for player 17 or older.

Game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and the studio that designed the game, Rockstar Games, have long been at the center of the debate over video game violence and children.

Two years ago, a hacker uncovered a hidden sex scene in their game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."

In "Manhunt 2," the player takes the role of a man who escapes from an insane asylum and goes on a killing spree.

Take-Two edited parts of the game, including blurring some of the most gruesome killing scenes, to get the less restrictive rating.

Hackers defeated that blurring on the version of the game for Sony Corp.'s PlayStation Portable. The game is also available for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii systems, and those versions do not appear to have been hacked.

The hack does not roll back all the changes that enabled the game to qualify for the "Mature" rating, and it requires some technical expertise and a PSP unit that is itself hacked to accept modified software.

But Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit that advises parents about entertainment that may be inappropriate for children, Thursday asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the ratings process, now funded and governed by an industry association. The process lacks basic transparency, Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer said in a statement.

"We believe that families and all consumers should have an assurance from game publishers and the game ratings board that the content being advertised is the same as the content being sold," Steyer said.

In the Grand Theft Auto incident, the ratings board changed the game's rating from "Mature" to "Adults Only" and retailers pulled it off shelves.

Since then, the board has required that publishers submit even hidden content for review, and Take-Two spokesman Ed Nebb said the publisher had followed that requirement for "Manhunt 2."

It is unclear whether the private, nonprofit ratings board considered the hidden material in assigning the "M" rating to "Manhunt 2."

Board spokesman Eliot Mizrachi said only that it is aware of the hacking issue and is looking into it.

Both the revised and original versions of "Manhunt 2" were banned by the American ratings board's British counterpart.

"I stand behind the game and the ESRB ratings process," Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick said in a statement. "It is unfortunately the case that no one in the entertainment software industry is immune from hacking. We hope that consumers will not engage in hacking or download illegally modified copies of our games."

My Story
Jammie Thomas

A lot of misinformation has been printed concerning my case, my family, my living situation, and me personally. I welcome this opportunity to set the record straight. As most already know, I was sued by RIAA (actually by some of the individual recording labels that make up the RIAA) and I lost.

First, I want to tell you all about me before we dissect my case and what went wrong.

‘I never wanted this much notoriety, ever’

I am a single mother of 2 beautiful boys; Tyler who is 13 and Triston, who is 11. These two are my life and they’re the reason why I do anything. It is also because of these two I decided to fight back against the RIAA. After I received the various letters from both my ISP and the RIAA, I made up my mind I was not going to be bullied into paying for something I didn’t do. My father always taught me to stand up and fight for what I believe in and I figured what better way to teach my boys this same lesson but through example.

My family have been my most staunch supporters through this entire situation. My parents even helped me secure a loan for the retainer money for my attorney when this first started. All of my family wanted to be at the courthouse during the trial, but after I saw the news articles that happened the day before the trial started, I asked them to stay away, to try and shield them from what I was about to go through.

After I was contacted by the RIAA, I started researching these cases hoping to find answers to why this was happening and what I could do to stop it. I came across websites that would become one some of the biggest assistant in my own case. These site are Recording Industry vs. The People, a blog written by an attorney, Mr. Ray Beckerman, who handles similar cases in New York, and p2pnet.net. It is also because of Mr. Beckerman I was able to find Mr. Brian Toder, my attorney in Minnesota.

Mr. Beckerman’s site chronicles cases of everyday people being sued by the RIAA and a lot of these cases are very similar to mine. The first case I read about was Patty Santangelo. She is also a single mother who decided to fight back. Recently, she had her case dismissed with prejudice, granting her the victor and now eligible for her attorney’s fees and court costs.

I’m very excited for her.

Another case I learned of was Tanya Anderson. Ms. Anderson is also a single mother who decided she was not going to be bullied into paying for something she didn’t do. And Ms. Anderson recently won her case against the RIAA just as Ms. Santangelo did. I would love to suggest a pattern is emerging - 3 cases of single moms refusing to pay the RIAA. But considering over 26,000 people received what the RIAA calls ‘pre-suit settlement letters’, I find it highly unlikely all of those are single parents.

After reading about these cases and others more dire than mine, including the suit against a woman with multiple sclerosis who has never even used a computer, many cases against teens and pre-teens, even a case against a deceased elderly woman, I became rather enraged. My initial reaction was how dare they? I also thought how could they get away with this type of extortion here, in America? The more I read, the more sick and disgusted I became. I knew after this I would not ever settle, no matter how bad my situation became.

I never dreamt my case would actually make it to court. I figured the RIAA had run from every case that was even close to going before a jury and they would do the same thing with my case. Yeah, I was wrong. My attorney kept warning me all along I might be the first case to ever go to court, but I was naïve and didn’t want to see the bigger picture. A cold splash of reality wakes anyone up and the judgment against me was that splash I seemed to need.

I also never dreamt how large of a story my case would become. Before I went to court, no one except those close to me knew of this situation I was dealing with. Now, I can Google my name and read articles about me. A very odd and surreal feeling for me as I never wanted this much notoriety, ever. Unfortunately, a lot of the articles I’ve read are full of half-truths, conjectures, and right out lies. I can understand media outlets having a deadline to meet, but I cannot understand media outlets filling the holes in their stories with incorrect information.

‘Best Buy made the decision to replace the hard drive’

I would like to now talk about some of that incorrect information which has plagued news articles and comments. First, I will finally set straight the issue with my computer hard drive, when it was replaced, why it was replaced, who replaced it and what might have happened to the old drive. I have read many comments and articles that I had my hard drive replaced after I learned of my suit. This could not be further from the truth. What most people don’t know, if I did have my hard drive replaced after I was served the initial complaint to this suit, that would be considered spoliation of evidence, which is a criminally prosecutable offense. All the following dates, keep in mind so you can see the timeline yourself.

The day MediaSentry (the RIAAs ‘investigative’ company) said I was caught illegally sharing songs over KaZaa was February 21, 2005. My computer crashed approximately 2 weeks later. The only reason I know why it crashed is this: my boys were playing a video game and in the middle of some epic battle on their game, the computer froze up, then the screen went black, and in my child’s frustration, the side of the computer was smacked. After that, the computer would not load and I would receive error messages.

I brought my computer into Best Buy for repairs on March 7, 2005. Remember, I brought it in for repairs under the extended warranty, not to have the hard drive replaced. And if anyone who has used a large chain electronic store to repair their electrical equipment knows, these companies do not replace hard drives on the whim of the customer if they have to pay for the hard drive replacement covered under warranty. They try to do whatever is cheaper for the company, which normally means fixing the issues with the hard drive. With my hard drive, the issues couldn’t be fixed so Best Buy, not me but Best Buy, made the decision to replace the hard drive.

The RIAA didn’t subpoena my personal information from Charter until late April 2005, almost 2 months AFTER my hard drive was replaced. As with all RIAA subpoenas to ISPs, I was not notified of the court date when the subpoena was issued. I was only notified after Charter Communications was served with the subpoena. This letter came late April 2005, again 2 months AFTER my hard drive was replaced. I didn’t officially hear from the RIAA until late August 2005, almost 6 months AFTER my hard drive was replaced. The lawsuit itself wasn’t officially started until April 2006, over 1 year AFTER my hard drive was replaced.

As you can see, I did not replace my hard drive to hide any evidence of anything. The replacement wasn’t my choice and I would have to be psychic to know 2 months in advance my personal information was going to be subpoenaed and a year later, I would be sued.

Yes, all this information was given to the jury during the trial. The main problem that arose concerning my hard drive was the date I gave my attorney for when the hard drive was replaced. I didn’t check the records for Best Buy before I gave my hard drive to Mr. Toder, so when I told him the hard drive had been replaced, the date I gave was January or February of 2004. Obviously, after we received all the information from Best Buy, we saw that the hard drive was replaced in March 2005. We also found out I didn’t even own the computer until March 2004, one month after the date I told my attorney.

This wouldn’t be the first time I was off by a year on my dates.

During my deposition, I was off by one year on the date I purchased my computer (I said early spring 2003 when it was early spring 2004), the date my hard drive was replaced (I said 2004 when it was 2005) and when I finished ripping all the music to my computer (I said the fall of 2005 when it was the fall of 2006) to only name a few. I was basing everything off my memory, without taking into consideration as stressed as I was, my memory wasn’t what I thought it was. I have learned a hard lesson as the jury was not able to see my deposition transcript. I now know to check and double check everything and if I haven’t, my answer will be ‘I don’t know.’

Another rumor I would like to put to rest is the question why didn’t I buy the music since it is offered for less than a dollar per song on sites like I-tunes? To be completely honest with you, I already own those songs they accused me of ‘making available’ on KaZaa. I own over 240 CDs I have purchased throughout my life, most while I worked at Best Buy when I was in college. Their employee discount is amazing!

Anyway, on these CDs are almost 3,000 songs, which in turn are on my computer right now. I have purchased additional songs from Walmart.com. So in total, I own roughly 3,000 individual songs, all legally purchased.

‘I can look back now and see many things I could have or should have done differently’

Now on to my defense during the trial. A lot of people have said I should not have used a ’spoofing’ defense, especially without an expert to testify and give the details.

First, I did not use a ’spoofing’ defense. That term was not even mentioned during my trial until after the judge himself asked one of the witnesses what spoofing was. I never presented a defense someone spoofed my information. My defense was based around the facts an IP address does not identify a person, there was no trace of KaZaa or any peer to peer software on any computer I owned, not a single witness could testify they could identify who was online making song files available, there was no witness who could testify they ever saw me use or talk about any peer to peer software, and there was not a single person who could identify me as the person caught on February 21, 2005 sharing files through KaZaa. Yes, my attorney mentioned certain computer terms during the trial, but I have no idea what any of those terms are.

Second, I did have an expert. This expert did inspect my computer and was going to testify for me at trial. That was originally the plan, until I couldn’t come up with the money for my expert during the trial. Another thing most people don’t know is the defendant is responsible for paying expert witnesses their hourly rate during the trial and providing for their food and board while at the trial. My attorney was able to secure that expert witness at a very reasonable rate, but I wasn’t able to afford this rate during the entire trial.

As for what’s next, my attorney filed a motion to have the verdict thrown out or to have the judgment reduced based on the constitutionality of the judgment. This is not an appeal, this is a post trial motion. We are currently waiting for the plaintiffs to file their response to our motion. The judge will not make a decision on that motion until after the plaintiffs have filed. The timeline for appeals is we have 30 days after the judge decides all post trial motions before we file any appeals. The legal aspects of this case are questions for my attorney and I will always refer those kinds of questions to him. I do know personally I cannot allow my case to end this way, with this judgment. My case will be used as a sledgehammer by the RIAA to force other people caught in the RIAA’s driftnets to settle, even if they are or are not guilty of illegally sharing music online.

Considering hindsight is always 20/20, I can look back now and see many things I could have or should have done differently. I could have settled before I was even sued. I could have settled many times before the case went to trial. I could have worked harder to find a way to afford the things I needed at trial. But I refuse to live life regretting could haves or would have or should haves.

The one piece of advice I can give to anyone who finds themselves being sued or threatened to be sued by the RIAA is to fight back.

The more people fight back against these cases, the more expensive it will be for the RIAA to bring these suits and the less resources the RIAA will have to use against others.

I was found liable of copyright infringement without the plaintiffs having to prove I downloaded anything, without having to prove I was aware of any file sharing taking place on my computer or within my home, without having to prove I owned a copy of KaZaa, without having to prove any files were shared with anyone from my computer and without having to prove who was on the computer the night of February 21, 2005.

This doesn’t seem fair and it’s what keeps me going in my fight.

Tuesday, November 6th Is Election Day.

Don't Forget To

Until next week,

- js.

Current Week In Review

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Jack Spratts' Week In Review is published every Friday. Submit letters, articles and press releases in plain text English to jackspratts (at) lycos (dot) com. Submission deadlines are Thursdays @ 1400 UTC. Please include contact info. Questions or comments? Call (617) 939-2340, country code U.S.. The right to publish all remarks is reserved.

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