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OpenMarket: Tech and Telecom

  • Next: Mandatory equal air time for rock and disco

    June 27, 2007
    Isn't it comforting that Dick Durbin is watching out for Americans' impressionable minds? He recently told The Hill, “It's time to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine...I have this old-fashioned attitude that when Americans hear both sides of the story, they're in a better position to make a decision.” Durbin's attitude is old-fashioned alright, in two ways. It betrays an old-fashioned paternalistic distrust of the public being easily manipulated by the media. And it's also old-fashioned in its willful ignorance of new media. Remember that when the Federal Communications Commission dropped the Fairness Doctrine in the 1980s, cable TV was young and the Web did not exist. This idiocy would be surprising from anyone other than a politician. What other class of people would...
  • Radio Frequency Your Way to Good Health

    June 27, 2007
    AFP reports on a new study by the American Medical Association recommending the implantation of RFID tags to carry medical information in case of an emergency. This, of course, is an excellent idea, especially for people with particular allergies or medical conditions which could complicate emergency care. There are some practical questions to work out - such as how you keep something the size of a grain of rice from moving around under your skin - but in general, the technology is ready to be deployed widely and start saving lives. Naturally some patients have privacy concerns, especially about "active" versus "passive" tags, but these also need to be put into perspective. Particularly if you are contemplating a stripped-down version of a medical RFID tag with, say,...
  • Zero Carbon Computer 100% BS

    June 18, 2007
    One of my favorite tech sites,, commented today on a story by the Telegraph entitled "The wooden computer that adds up to zero." The story claims that PC World has produced a wood and aluminum PC that's "Carbon Zero." Richard Swinburne of has a great commentary on this, especially the idea that simply removing fans will cut the carbon footprint of a PC! Cutting fans will only make a minimal impact, of course, and the savings in electricity don't warrant buying this over-price marketing ploy. Those advocating a carbon-neutral lifestyle should be offended by these false claims, but it's likely that PC World will be hailed for its efforts in cleaning up e-waste.
  • Cell Phones and Driving

    June 15, 2007
    Interesting new study from James E. Prieger of Pepperdine University and Bob Hahn at the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, looking at the relationship between mobile phone use while driving and accidents. It appears that "drivers who use mobile phones while driving may be more likely to get into accidents than drivers who do not, even when they are not using the phone." How's that again? Evidence suggests that people who use hand-held mobile phones while driving tend to be less careful drivers compared with those who use hands-free mobile devices, suggesting that use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving is just a proxy for more generalized bad driving. According to the authors, their results "call into question previous cost-benefit analyses of bans on mobile phone usage while driving,...
  • Michael Moore's "Sicko" - Diagnosis: PWNED

    June 15, 2007
    Michael Moore's new attack-umentary on the American health care system, Sicko, seems to be having viral problems of its own. A mysterious source has uploaded the entire movie to the web, and as a result, it is now freely available for (unauthorized) download by anyone with an Internet connection. Ad Age has the story:
    Last week, the Oscar winning director announced that he'd decided to stash a copy of "Sicko" in Canada, in case the Federal government decided to impound it over an apparently unauthorized trip to Cuba made during its filming. As it turns out, the hard part won't be getting the film released, but getting audiences to pay to see it now that its available for free. If the breach is as wide as it appears -- and this reporter downloaded a copy...
  • Tesla in the 21st Century

    June 13, 2007
    Last week the Daily Mail reported on the advent of a new technology that uses electromagnetic induction to transfer energy wirelessly across spans of up to 3 meters. But this new invention isn't new, and don't say that Ayn Rand already thought of it! Rand didn't pull the idea of wireless power from thin air, but took the inspiration for Gault's Motor from the work of many scientists studying power transfer in the later 19th and early 20th century. The most famous of of these electrical pioneers was...
  • EFF Wrong About iTunes Privacy Concerns

    June 13, 2007
    The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a story published by the Associate Press last week, says that Apple's new DRM-Free tracks available through iTunes are raising new privacy concerns. That's because although DRM (Digital Rights Managment) has been removed from the songs, making it easier to move them between multiple music players and computers, Apple does include customer names and account information in the digital music music files they sell. Privacy advocates claim that by embedding customer names and account info into songs that it exposes to a greater risk of theft of that private information. However, the only way in which only these music files could be copied or otherwise examined would be through illegal file sharing. Attacks on a system that allowed access to music...
  • Google's Squabble Over Desktop Search

    June 11, 2007
    Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the U.S. Department of Justice had come out against a complaint leveled by Google against Microsoft alleging anti-competitive behavior. Stephan Labaton of the Times described this move as, "The most striking recent example of the policy shift." The shift that Labton refers to is the shift away from the proposed breaking up of Microsoft, the world's largest software publisher, that started with an antitrust lawsuit brought against the Redmond, Washington-based giant in 1998. The Times piece goes on to point out that the Justice Department's...
  • Conservatarian Thoughts on the FCC

    June 5, 2007
    Our friend (and former Open Market editor) Peter Suderman makes an excellent free market point at The Corner today about broadcast obscenity and the FCC on the heels of the Commission's recent Supreme Court loss.
    HBO...tends to run kids shows (or movies) on Saturday morning and save the R-rated fare for later in the evening. The network could run whatever it wanted during the day, but it generally sticks to less graphic fare—not because it has to, but because it's good business. I don't see why the same wouldn't occur on networks if given the chance.
  • A Tale of Two Googles

    June 5, 2007
    Google, the company turned into a common verb, has come under fire recently because of the fear that many have of the potential misuse of the troves of data piling up at the ol' Googleplex. Although these fears aren't totally irrational, I recently pointed out in CEI's tech newsletter C:\Spin (C-SPAN for nerds) that Google and other similar companies do a great job of handling our data. Moreover, they do a much better job than the alternative guardian of our data, the federal government. Think of the mayhem! A C:\Spin reader was kind enough to point out that, while I was right to defend Google against the anti-trust regulators and the privacy hawks, Google isn't exactly an innocent party. While I think that Google is a tremendous force for innovation and has created and will create more wealth than can be measured, they do also...


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