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  • In Antitrust They Trust

    April 19, 2007
    Satellite radio pioneers XM and Sirius are finally going down the long-expected merger path, but not without a fight from the usual suspects. Mel Karmazin and others testified this week before the Senate Commerce Committee, where some members expressed skepticism about the supposedly Goliath-like corporate giant that would result.
    XM Sirius logo mashup
    Our take is here, summarized below:
  • Attack of the Killer Bee Killers

    April 16, 2007
    We know cell phones don't give you cancer, but according to some people quoted by The Independent in the UK, they are messing with bees:
    The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a...
  • Apple, EMI Test DRM-Free

    April 4, 2007
    In the wake of the announcement by EMI (along with Apple) that its catalog will now be available on iTunes DRM-free and at twice the bit-rate, many techies and tech market watchers are predicting the end is near from DRM. It's probably true that EMI will reap the benefits of being the only company to drop DRM, for a while. Others will likely follow suit and drop DRM as well. I doubt this will hurt bottom lines as the majority of songs are still distributed via physical media, which has always been DRM-free, with rare root-kit powered exceptions (thanks, Sony)....
  • Craig Newmark on Trust

    March 30, 2007
    Cragislist founder Craig Newmark has an interesting op ed in today's Washington Examiner on ways in which voluntary collaboration will help resolve new issues of trust in the always-developing online world (and in some cases in the real world). He sees great promise in "neutral, independent reputation systems, like the ones in eBay or Amazon, but independent of any particular business," and in "forms of collaborative filtering acting as BS screens, which will make it easy for people to figure when they're getting scammed." He notes:
    Success in using digital technology to advance the science of establishing trust and reputation will have implications in countless fields, including, but not limited to,...
  • Give Us Some Decent Games

    March 26, 2007
    Last week, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)introduced H. R. 1531, the "Video Game Decency Act." This bill is in response to the Hot Coffee controversy, which refers to the sexually explicit unlockable mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Sen. Brownback (R-Kan.) has also introduced a bill to deal with this controversy (see my 2/15 post on Sen. Brownback's bill). His bill would require the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to play the "entire game," a measure that shows Senator Brownback and his staff have never played a modern video game. Unlike classics like Mario Brothers, modern games don't...
  • Freedom to Hide Behind Avatar

    March 16, 2007
    The recent proposed law in Connecticut to verify age of and other social-networking site users has brought up an old question. Is anonymous speech protected under the 1st Amendment? The courts have a history of supporting anonymous speech as an extension of our right to free speech. Social-networking sites are just a new form of technology that allow people to exercise this right. Almost a year ago the Supreme Court reaffirmed this position in MacIntyre v. Ohio Election Commission. This case was narrow, focusing on political speech, and said that anonymous political speech is permissible so long as it serves the interest of the state. While any good libertarian would be appalled by the “interest of the state” portion of this ruling, as all types of anonymous speech should be protected, the ruling still favored protecting anonymous speech. A 1960 case, Talley v....
  • The Simpleton's Guide to Net Neutrality

    March 8, 2007
    Wayne has just alerted me that Scott Cleland of The Precursor Blog has linked to our recent short video on net neutrality. In this installment, our resident know-it-all Prof. Scammington brings you the basics on NN and its implications. Thanks to Scott for calling it "wonderfully succinct." [youtube]SFurcOLYAjk[/youtube]
  • Thou Shalt Play All of Grand Theft Auto

    February 15, 2007
    Yesterday, CNET Reported the following:
    Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) on Tuesday reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, first proposed last September. It calls for requiring video game rating organizations to play all games "in their entirety" before issuing labels and prohibiting game developers from withholding any "hidden" game content from raters. It would also punish ratings groups that "grossly mischaracterize" any game's content.
    CNET's Anne Broache goes on to explain that one of the primary motivations for this revision of the ratings system is that ...
  • Amazingly efficient merger approvals, cont.

    December 8, 2006
    Congress leaves town today, with just two appropriations bills completed (that can be a good thing!). Agencies aren't going anywhere, but there must be something in the water here preventing the tying up of loose ends. We've spilled lots of ink on the importance of liberalizing telecommunications; the latest iteration is the attempt to finalize the AT&T and BellSouth marriage so that procreation can begin, and there will be many more telecommuncations upheavals in the future communications landscape, and that's a good thing. But several times now, the FCC has postponed a vote on the AT&T/BellSouth merger, given disagreements over net neutrality (see one of our many cautions on this concept) and the recusal by Republican Robert McDowell. The remaining two Democrats and two Republicans leave the situation deadlocked,...
  • Look out Mars, the Humans Are Coming

    December 6, 2006
    Today NASA released a series of satellite photograps of Mars, which strongly reinforce the theory that there is (or very recently was) liquid water on the planet's surface. This is exciting.
    Water on Mars?
    So, thanks to NASA for taking the photos, but let's look forward now to private investors taking the next step of actually settling Mars. A recent article from The Space Review examines how this could happen:
    If the private sector is to capitalize on Mars from the earliest stages it must start sooner rather than later. There are many nations and...


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