By The Associated Press - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft has extended a guarantee that provides Yahoo with financial protection…
SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft has extended a guarantee that provides Yahoo with financial protection as part of the two companies’ Internet search partnership.
An arrangement requiring Microsoft Corp. to pay Yahoo Inc. a minimum amount per search on Yahoo’s website expired March 31. That had raised concerns Yahoo might make less money from the Microsoft partnership.
Those worries eased Tuesday with a Yahoo regulatory filing that disclosed Microsoft is maintaining the revenue-per-search guarantee through March 2014.
By Rosemary Westwood - Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 8:42 AM - 0 Comments
Company seeks a solution for slumping PC sales
When worldwide shipments of desktops and laptops slid by their largest margin in a decade earlier this month, Microsoft caught much of the blame over its radical new Windows 8 operating system, launched late last year, and its lack of a single, familiar button. Microsoft may now be hoping that reviving the “start” button could restart sales of PCs.
In the Windows 8.1 update, the company is rumoured to be considering an option to let users boot to the old layout, with its onscreen start button, and bypass the new app-heavy layout that makes computers look more like tablets or smartphones. Windows 8 is designed for touchscreens, clearly the future of computing. But Microsoft appears to be ahead of its time: fewer than 15 per cent of computers on the market this year will be touch-enabled, according to David Daoud, an analyst at IDC, the research firm that reported PC shipments in the first quarter of 2013 were down 14 per cent from the year before. Analysts pointed to a wave of bad reviews of Windows 8 to explain the drop (90 per cent of the world’s computers use Windows). One tech columnist even declared, “Windows: it’s over.” Continue…
By The Associated Press - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 9:44 AM - 0 Comments
AMSTERDAM – The European Union has fined Microsoft €561 million ($733 million) for breaking…
AMSTERDAM – The European Union has fined Microsoft €561 million ($733 million) for breaking a pledge to offer personal computer users a choice of Internet browsers when they install the company’s flagship Windows operating system.
The penalty imposed by the EU’s executive arm, the Commission, is a first for Brussels: no company has ever failed to keep its end of a bargain with EU authorities before.
In 2009, Microsoft Corp. struck a broad settlement with the Commission to resolve disputes over Microsoft’s abuse of the dominance of Windows, which had spanned more than a decade.
The company agreed to pay €860 million and promised to give Windows users the option of choosing another browser rather than having Microsoft’s Internet Explorer automatically installed on their machines. Continue…
By The Associated Press - Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 6:53 AM - 0 Comments
REDMOND, Wash. – Microsoft unwittingly let an online security certificate expire Friday, triggering a…
REDMOND, Wash. – Microsoft unwittingly let an online security certificate expire Friday, triggering a worldwide outage in an online service that stores data for a wide range of business customers.
The sloppy housekeeping represents an embarrassing lapse for Microsoft Corp. as the software maker tries to bring in more revenue from the storage service, which is called Azure.
The expired certificate is needed to properly run online services such as Azure which use an “https” protocol to block unauthorized users from accessing information.
Microsoft’s failure to renew the security certificate apparently caused the Azure service to go down shortly before 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT) Friday. The breakdown prevented Azure customers from accessing files kept in Microsoft’s data centres.
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 0 Comments
Caught trying to mimic the latest hot product, the most powerful tech firms can’t seem to dream up anything genuinely new
It’s a sure sign a company is in desperate straits when journalists go searching for answers from a former pitchman. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Ben Curtis, the actor who played the “Dell dude” in computer-maker Dell Inc.’s 2000-era commercials (in which he would inform strangers “Dude, you’re getting a Dell”), suggested his troubled former employer could get a sorely needed boost if his character were resurrected. “Since that campaign ended, Dell has lost their personality,” Curtis said, adding that he, too, now uses an Apple Inc.-made laptop.
Dell’s problems won’t be so easily fixed. In a bid to speed up a badly needed transition from hardware manufacturer to provider of high-margin software and services, founder and CEO Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake Partners are proposing a massive $24.4-billion leveraged buyout of Round Rock, a Texas-based company that once held the title of the world’s largest maker of personal computers. It’s just another reminder of how fast the technology industry moves. One day a company is the most powerful in Silicon Valley, with a soaring stock price; the next it’s contemplating moving away from the very business that made it a household name. (In Dell’s case, its outstanding shares, once worth nearly $60, are being purchased by its founder and Silver Lake for $13.65 apiece.)
Although desktop and laptops remain ubiquitous in homes, offices and schools, sales of PCs have slumped in recent years as consumers increasingly use smartphones and tablets. Worldwide PC shipments totalled 90 million units during the last three months of 2012, according to Gartner Research, a 4.9 per cent decline from the same period a year earlier. In Canada, the fall was even steeper—down nearly 14 per cent. “We’re approaching a saturation point in the market,” says Tim Brunt, an analyst at consulting firm IDC Canada. “There are multiple PCs in every household. Everybody’s got one, so now it’s just about buying replacements.”
By The Associated Press - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 5:29 AM - 0 Comments
SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft is so confident it has the Internet’s best email service…
SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft is so confident it has the Internet’s best email service that it is about to spend at least $30 million to send its message across the United States.
The barrage begins Tuesday when Microsoft’s twist on email, Outlook.com, escalates an assault on rival services from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc. and a long list of Internet service providers.
As part of the process, all users of Microsoft’s Hotmail and other email services operating under different domains such as MSN.com will be automatically converted to Outlook.com by the summer, if they don’t voluntarily switch before then. All the old messages, contacts and settings in the old inboxes will be exported to Outlook.com. Users will also be able to keep their old addresses.
Email remains a key battleground, even at a time when more people are texting each other on phones.
By Emily Senger - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 8:43 AM - 0 Comments
Can pogs, snap bracelets and neon help with a rebrand?
Internet Explorer can be cool, too. At least that’s what the much-maligned brand hopes to prove in a commercial meant to appeal to Gen-Yers through a hearty dose of ’90s nostalgia.
Snap bracelets, pogs, a neon fanny pack, Hungry Hungry Hippos and square-shaped floppy disks all make an appearance in the sharable online commercial, which rolls out fads from a time when computers were slower and clothes were brighter.
Notably, the Internet Explorer brand doesn’t even appear until then end of the commercial, when the narrator uses the tag line “you grew up, so did we” and an Internet Explorer logo appears.
The ad seems to be hitting its 20- and 30-year-old target market; the video already has more than one million views.
The ad is part of an advertising approach that uses Internet Explorer’s rocky past. Sure, the browser comes standard on PCs, but it is often replaced for Mozilla or, now, Chrome. Microsoft seems to realize this, and it hosts the video — and other sharable content meant for Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and other social media — at browseryoulovedtohate.com.
The verdict is still out on whether the self-deprecating approach to advertising will convince long-time Explorer haters to give the browser another try. As Jared Newman writes at PC World: “eventually Microsoft might want to tell the world why Internet Explorer is better than the competition. Because as any child of the 90s knows, ‘better than IE used to be’ isn’t saying much.”
By Peter Nowak - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 4:38 PM - 0 Comments
It’s not much of a stretch to predict that we’re going to see some new video game consoles this year. It might be a little surprising, however, to suggest that Microsoft is going to jump to a commanding lead in this ongoing console war and that the battle may go from the current three players to four–at least for the time being.
The writing on the wall couldn’t be more obvious in regards to new consoles, at least from Microsoft and likely from Sony as well. Slowing console sales are one indicator, but perhaps the most telling hint is Microsoft’s first-party release schedule.
The company has typically rotated its two biggest franchises, Halo and Gears of War, over successive holiday periods, with the former coming one year and the latter the next. Yet this time around, Halo 4 saw its release this past September while Gears of War: Judgment is scheduled for a March, 2013 launch. The two biggest franchises released within months of each other? What’s going on?
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:05 AM - 0 Comments
The software could one day break down language barriers
In the television show Star Trek, one of the key dramatic tools—other than an intergalactic spaceship—was the universal translator, which allowed Captain Kirk and his crew to converse with (and viewers to understand) Klingons and Romulans. Now, about 250 years ahead of schedule, Microsoft Corp. is developing similar technology for use here on Earth. Rick Rashid, the software giant’s chief research officer, recently demonstrated the software at a conference in Tianjin. He said a phrase in English and then, a few seconds later, a computer translated it into Chinese—using his voice. The crowd went nuts. While Rashid admitted it is a work in progress, explaining that all speech recognition and translation systems are prone to errors, the potential is obviously huge when it comes to breaking down language barriers. Not exactly a technology that will “explore strange new worlds,” but still boldly going where no one has gone before.
By The Associated Press - Monday, November 12, 2012 at 9:38 PM - 0 Comments
REDMOND, Wash. – Microsoft says that Steven Sinofsky, the president of its Windows and…
REDMOND, Wash. – Microsoft says that Steven Sinofsky, the president of its Windows and Windows Live operations, is leaving the company.
Sinofsky’s departure comes just weeks after the Redmond, Washington, software company launched Windows 8, which represented a major overhaul of its ubiquitous computer operating system.
Microsoft Corp. said Monday it has promoted company veteran Julie Larson-Green to lead all its Windows software and hardware engineering. Tami Reller will take over responsibility for the Windows business, while retaining her posts as chief financial officer and chief marketing officer.
The company didn’t say why Sinofsky is leaving.
By Colin Campbell - Monday, September 24, 2012 at 1:19 PM - 0 Comments
Muting your cell phone with one simple whack
Technology can be frustrating. But smartphones, with their tiny touchscreen keypads and countless bells and whistles, can be downright maddening at times. Who hasn’t felt the temptation to whack their device into submission at one time or another?
Microsoft, it seems, feels your frustration. It recently filed a patent for “controlling an audio signal of a mobile device by detecting a whack.” In other words, when you want to silence your phone, you hit it. Microsoft cites the growing “capability and complexity” of today’s mobile devices for the need for its whack-it function. Tech bloggers have responded with equal parts glee and tongue-in-cheek humour to the filing. “I hereby dub this the clapper of the modern world,” said The Next Web. Many hope to see the technology appear on phones running Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system. In an increasingly crowded smartphone market, even modest improvements can help a company stand out.
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Why the software giant is betting its future on a radical new version of Windows
It was just over a year ago that hedge fund manager David Einhorn called for Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft Corp., to step down. Citing a stock price that hasn’t budged from US$30 in a decade, and a stuck-in-the-past corporate world view, Einhorn said it was time to “give someone else a chance.”
Ballmer didn’t pay any attention. And now it’s clear why. In recent months, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has re-emerged as one of the most interesting—and even innovative—companies in the technology sector. While Apple and Google churn out similar-looking smartphones and tablets—so similar that Apple recently won a US$1 billion patent infringement case against Google’s hardware partner, Samsung—Microsoft’s new Windows 8 platform (to be released officially on Oct. 26 for PCs, followed by versions for tablets and phones) is a controversial attempt to import the world of touchscreen mobile devices to desktops, while offering the biggest rethink of the user experience since Windows 95. Gone is the familiar desktop grid of icons and folders with their 3D shading. In their place is an interlocking set of two-dimensional “tiles,” which gives users more information about programs or applications at a glance. For example, an email tile displays recent messages, while a social-media tile displays updates from friends. The new interface, dubbed “Metro,” is an attempt to provide a seamless experience across a wide variety of devices and, as a result, involves a lot more swiping and scrolling (with a finger on a touchscreen or a mouse on a desktop) as opposed to pointing and clicking.
By Peter Nowak - Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
As numerous analysts have pointed out, this week could make or break Nokia as it shows off its new Windows Phone 8 devices at a press event in New York. “Make” is actually a strong word – “stave off death” is probably more appropriate.
The storied Finnish cellphone maker, in partnership with Microsoft, is benefiting from some good timing in light of the big setback handed to Samsung by a court two weeks ago. With the court siding with Apple in that epic patent dispute, Samsung and other phone manufacturers using Google’s Android operating system are likely to be slowed down in the near term, at least in the all-important U.S. market.
That gives Nokia, which essentially put all of its eggs into Microsoft’s basket last year, a window of opportunity. Wireless carriers are now especially inclined to push Windows phones, to prevent Apple and perhaps even Android from gaining too much power over them.
So far though, Nokia and Microsoft have failed to spark the imaginations of the buying public. Windows phones, despite promising a very different experience from iPhone and Android devices, have captured less than 4 per cent of the global market, according to Strategy Analytics. That’s compared to 17 and 68 per cent respectively for Apple and Google. (BlackBerry, by the way, has plummeted to just 6 per cent, according to IDC.)
By Peter Nowak - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 1:57 PM - 0 Comments
There was a ton of commentary over the weekend on what happens after Apple’s $1 billion win over Samsung, with the likeliest scenario being that the latter appeals. But should the verdict stand, the biggest effect will be on Android phones overall. Apple’s victory could send a temporary chill through the market, with all manufacturers – not just Samsung – giving second thoughts to their Android devices. After all, no one is going to risk releasing a device that has a good chance of getting them sued. Google may have to work some fundamental redesigns into its operating system to avoid this sort of thing happening again, while manufacturers themselves will have to make sure their actual designs are clearly distinct from Apple products.
The more likely scenario is that Android phone makers will have to pay Apple a license fee on the patents. Earlier this year, the company reportedly offered these manufacturers a deal that would have seen them paybetween $5 and $15 on each device. Given the big court win, such a fee could be expected to come in on the high end now. Some critics have said this is going to result in more expensive phones. While that’s true, adding $15 or so to the cost is not going to break anybody’s bank.
Of course, that’s assuming Apple is actually willing to license its technology. If Steve Jobs, who told his biographer in no uncertain terms that he wanted to destroy Android, were still alive, it would be a safe bet that no licensing deals would be offered. This is a company that has resisted licensing its Macintosh operating system for much of its existence, after all. If Jobs’ successors take the same approach, it could indeed be back to the drawing board for Google and its Android partners.
By David Newland - Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 6:11 PM - 0 Comments
Who can resist the lure of a new email address?
I don’t remember what my first email address was. But I know what my latest is, and it ends with @outlook.com. That’s right: I’ve taken on a whole new Outlook. Not for any great technical reason, mind you. I just signed up for the latest web-based email service to come along because I wanted an inbox with nothing in it.
Microsoft’s new webmail service is a reboot of the venerable, badly outdated (but still dominant) Hotmail. It goes by the name Outlook, which many of us remember from the corporate version we’ve used at our workplaces for years. The new service has had good reviews, as rival Gmail, a Google product of which I’ve been a keen user, begins to sag under its own weight. But that wasn’t the selling feature, for me.
To be sure, the new web-based Outlook has a tidy design, and some features I may appreciate at some point. A million people have already signed up for it. This isn’t an endorsement, though. It’s a confession.
My first Internet session occurred over a 2400 baud modem, using something called “Kermit” to connect to a university server, taking over my home telephone line in the process. That was in about 1992. Since that time, I’ve had literally dozens of email addresses. Maybe a hundred or more. Crazy, right?
Those who work online will easily accept that figure: add up multiple workplaces and organizations, many of which offered several addresses (@macleans and @rogers, for example). Throw in the personal email addresses, some of which come free with ISP offerings and others of which are web-based: I’ve had Hotmail, Yahoo!, Sympatico and Gmail addresses, each in its time. Not to mention the addresses that come with computers, phones, and other assorted online-enabled equipment.
I’ve also had several email addresses for my own website (info, bookings, webmaster, etc.) and others for every .com I’ve owned. Not to mention the handles I’ve created so I could run multiple, separate blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds for various groups, interests and entities. I’ve had email addresses whose only purpose was to post sound files to my blog. Somewhere I have a list of emails I created for fictional characters. I even blogged as my cat for a while. Well, who hasn’t?
All this might lead you to wonder why I guy like me needs another address. The answer is as depressing as it is simple: the other ones are full. Virtually every email address I’ve ever used day-to-day has become a virtual version of a hoarder’s basement, overflowing with crap that I can’t get rid of, continually threatening to overwhelm, if not destroy me.
Of course I don’t use them all anymore. Remember the Simpsons episode where Springfield is so full of trash, the whole town has to move down the highway? That’s the approach I take. I’ve literally abandoned past email addresses that were brimming with back-and-forths, overflowing with data, loaded with contacts—all in pursuit of the mythical “inbox zero.”
Some will tell you there are other ways to get there. File your correspondence carefully; delete regularly. Unsubscribe from things. Use your spam filter.
I try. Honest, I do. But it’s like trying to hold back the tide. On an ordinary day I get well over a hundred emails at my personal address alone. My Gmail at the moment contains more than 16,000 inbound messages. And I feel like I just cleaned it up.
So I signed up for a new Outlook address, thank you very much, Microsoft. It’s free (supported, as Gmail is, by contextual ads, although with some tweaks based on common complaints from Gmail users). It has some decent-looking features. And it’s always a good idea to camp on the address you want, just in case.
But mostly I love my new Outlook address because it’s pristine.
Please don’t email me there.
By Peter Nowak - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM - 0 Comments
If there’s one fact that crystallized a little more last week, it’s that the video game industry is set for some major disruption. Ouya, an Android-running set-top box that is looking for investment via crowd-sourced funding site Kickstarter, made a big splash on Tuesday. The attention came partly because Kickstarter projects are all the rage these days, but also because there is a definite appetite for just the sort of disruption Ouya is promising. The fact that the effort hit its $1million funding goal in no time indicates just how badly the gaming public wants something new.
The frustration was most effectively articulated by Destructoid reviews editor Jim Sterling in his latest video rant, which he posted a day before Ouya hit Kickstarter. To summarize, Sterling thinks video game consoles – primarily the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – have become “crap PCs” that ultimately defeat their entire purpose. Virtually every console game now requires multiple log-ins, upfront installation, frequent downloadable updates and complicated – and annoying – digital rights management that limits how the game and its assorted content can be used. Whereas once upon a time a person could pop a disc (or cartridge) into the machine and be off to the races in seconds, now there’s a whole slew of hoops to jump through before the action starts.
By Peter Nowak - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 2:10 PM - 0 Comments
If you haven’t read a good dystopian tale like George Orwell’s 1984 lately, have a look at a new study on usage-based Internet billing from Microsoft and a couple of professors from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The report tells of a number of families in South Africa that took part in the study, which sought to understand how the caps on monthly home broadband plans affected Internet usage. It’s bone-chilling stuff.
In South Africa, broadband speeds are still relatively slow, hitting a maximum of four megabits per second as of the study’s purview (2010). Usage caps, meanwhile, typically came in at between one and nine gigabytes per month, with unlimited plans only recently surfacing.
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 10:57 AM - 0 Comments
Instead it’s been a reminder of how brutally hard it is to engineer a turnaround
It was one year ago that Finland’s Nokia Oyj joined forces with Microsoft Corp. in a last-ditch effort to secure a foothold in the booming smartphone industry. With its once-dominant global market share in free fall and losses piling up, Nokia faced a grim future as customers increasingly took a pass on its high-end devices and opted instead for Apple Inc.’s iPhone or those running Google’s Android software—a situation not unlike the one beleaguered BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. faces today. Just prior to revealing a bold plan to replace Nokia’s new smartphone operating system with Microsoft’s, CEO Stephen Elop wrote a memo to employees that compared Nokia’s precarious situation to a man standing on a burning oil platform in the North Sea. There were two options, said Elop: stay the course or jump into the unknown. Nokia jumped.
It didn’t take long for the massive shift in strategy to show signs of promise. Prior to going on sale in North America this month, there was an unmistakable buzz around Nokia’s new Lumia 900 touchscreen, which runs the new Windows Phone OS and can operate on fourth-generation, or LTE, wireless networks. The phone won “best of” accolades at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and was touted from a marketing standpoint as AT&T’s biggest-ever device launch—including its 2007 launch of the iPhone.
But then reality sank in. The company recently warned investors that it will post losses for the next two quarters, sending its stock plunging to around $4, a level not seen since 1998. Then came reports that the Lumia 900 was marred by an embarrassing software glitch, and that several big European carriers didn’t think it was worthy enough to compete with the iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy phones. Some have even questioned whether Elop bet on the wrong horse by hitching Nokia’s fortunes to Microsoft’s.
By Peter Nowak - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 1:47 PM - 0 Comments
Everybody likes to root for the underdog, which is why Microsoft and Nokia are weirdly attracting a lot of positive vibes these days. As the New York Times pointed out just before the Consumer Electronics Show started in January, Microsoft in particular was getting rave reviews for its new Windows Phones, a trend not usually associated with the storied software maker.
It’s funny that both companies are now underdogs, given that only a few years ago they were the undisputed kings of their respective realms–Microsoft in software and Nokia in phones. But in the span of only a few short years, Google and Apple largely displaced both titans and relegated them to also-ran status in the mobile world, which prompted their team-up–in large part engineered by Nokia’s chief, Canadian Stephen Elop–last year.
The fruit of that tag team, the flagship Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone, has finally come to North America via Telus. I’ve been playing with it for the past week with an eye to answering one question: is it a big deal?
By Chris Sorensen - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
Their latest ads attack competitors Apple and Google. But will the frontal assault pay off?
After being pounded mercilessly for two years with Apple’s popular “Get a Mac” campaign, Microsoft is taking its own swipes at rivals with its “Smoked by Windows Phone” online ads. The spots challenge people to stack up their iPhones and Android devices in a speed test. A video on Microsoft’s Facebook site shows Windows Phone user “Ben” betting people $100 that his device will be faster when it comes to taking photos and posting them to Facebook, or pulling up directions to a nearby restaurant. Guess who wins?
Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says Microsoft needs to breathe some life into its staid brand at a time when desktop computers (where Microsoft’s Windows operating system dominates) are gradually ceding ground to mobile devices running Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. Case in point: thanks to the iPad, Apple is now considered the biggest maker of mobile computers, boasting a quarter of the market. “What’s happened in the last decade is that now you’ve got a whole bunch of new players out there tempting consumers with multiple ways to consume media and other information,” he says. However, he cautions that Microsoft needs to be careful because, despite its struggles in the mobile space, nobody is going to mistake the company for an underdog, considering that it generated US$70 billion in revenue last year. “The danger in 2012 is they will seem like a rich has-been,” he says.
That’s certainly the way the Redmond, Wash., company comes off in another sharp-tongued marketing effort. This time it’s a video that targets Google’s free productivity software, Google Apps, which competes with Microsoft Office. Google is portrayed as a smarmy salesman named “Googen Apperson,” who attempts to sell a company executive on Google’s services even though features may disappear unexpectedly, a reference to Google’s preference for beta-testing products on users. The video has so far been viewed about 728,000 times on YouTube, which, as commenters were quick to point out, is owned by Google. Ouch.
By Peter Nowak - Monday, January 2, 2012 at 12:02 PM - 0 Comments
I kind of like year-end lists. I dig retrospectives because they remind me of things I might have forgotten–a year is a long time, after all. I also like lists that look ahead because they help me to start thinking about what’s to come. And again, they remind me of things that may not be top of mind right away heading into the new year.
That said, here’s my very own list of things–in order of significance–that are looking likely for 2012 as they pertain to technology in North America, with special relevance for those of us here in Canada. This isn’t so much a list of predictions as much as a roundup of items that seem inevitable because of the momentum building around them.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, November 24, 2011 at 5:39 PM - 27 Comments
By now you may have heard of SOPA–the Stop Online Piracy Act–an anti-infringement bill that’s working it’s way through the U.S. House of Representatives while its companion bill PIPA–Protect Intellectual Property Act–makes its way through the Senate. Opposition to the legislation has gone viral, with over a million emails hitting Congress, carrying the phrase “Don’t Break the Internet.”
These people’s beef? There are many. A tentative summary: Critics argue that, in their desire to curb piracy, SOPA and PIPA will in effect render the Internet itself legally untenable by holding search engines, ISPs and user-generated content sites responsible for other people’s piracy. The proposed legislation targets not just infringers, but anyone suspected of being associated with them–advertisers, payment sites, even those who just link to them. With their shaky understanding of technology, the bills will potentially result in entire websites (like say, Wikipedia) being blocked due to infringements found in a small section of them. Though the bills were not designed to be censorship legislation, censorship could be the outcome, as false positives and false infringement claims could block access to millions of non-infringing sites. Before things even get to that stage, self-censorship will chill voices online that simply can’t risk possibly transgressing the bills’ overly general language. Meanwhile, censorship-circumvention tools like TOR, used to evade Net-censors in Iran and China, will be rendered illegal, as such tools can also be used to gain access to pirated content.
The effects of SOPA and PIPA will be felt throughout the world, as the way the bill defines “U.S. websites” is so broad as to cover most of the Internet itself. The list of collateral damage the bills are feared to cause goes on, and the list of the bills’ critics keeps expanding. In addition to the million+ citizens who have spoken out, the legislation is also opposed by tech companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, AOL, LinkedIn, eBay, Mozilla, Wikimedia, and, yes, even Microsoft.
Here’s what people are saying about SOPA and PIPA:
“The definitions written in the bill are so broad that any U.S. consumer who uses a website overseas immediately gives the U.S. jurisdiction the power to potentially take action against it.”
-Art Bordsky of Public Knowledge
“…this aggressive U.S. approach… simply asserts jurisdiction over millions of Canadian registered IP addresses and domain names.”
-Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law
“It’ll have a stifling effect on venture capital. No one would invest because of the legal liability.”
-Internet entrepreneur Lukas Biewald, founder of Crowdflower
“This is just another case of Congress doing the bidding of powerful lobbyists—in this case, Hollywood and the music industry, among others.”
“…this would mean the end of the Internet as we know it.”
-Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
“This bill cannot be fixed; it must be killed.”
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 1:40 PM - 2 Comments
How Microsoft’s affordable Kinect video game system is changing the world of advanced robotics
A sudden gust of wind blew a six-bladed, remote-controlled helicopter over a white bus half buried in bricks and busted slabs of concrete. Jimmy Tran, a Ryerson University doctoral candidate, scrambled at the multi-levered controls as the device shot toward the horizon. “I had to land it as fast as possible,” he says. “ I didn’t want to hit power lines or cars.”
Despite his efforts, the hexarotor, now a mess of shattered blades and smashed chip boards, sits among the piles of electronics at Ryerson’s Network-Centric Applied Research Team’s (N-CART) lab. “That’s 5,000 bucks, another 1,000 for the parts to repair, plus man hours,” says Alex Ferworn, who oversees N-CART. But it could have been much worse—if not for one piece of hardware cradled under the helicopter. Ferworn’s group uses robots and computers to help search and rescue, bomb disposal and crime scene investigation teams. The day the chopper crashed they were testing a new technique to map rubble using a 3-D scanner that generates images to help rescuers.
And that scanner did not cost tens of thousand of dollars, like the scanners on most unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It cost $150, and it came from a Microsoft Kinect video game.
By Richard Warnica - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
For months after independence, the country remained a non-entity on online maps
Sudan, once Africa’s largest country, gained independence in 1956. It has been breaking apart, in one way or another, almost every day since. This summer, the two largest parts of the country finally split for good. After decades of bloody civil war, South Sudan became its own nation on July 9. Recognition for the fledgling oil giant was swift, at least in some circles. The United Nations and the African Union accepted South Sudan’s membership without delay. But another, arguably equally powerful body, lagged a little behind. For months after independence, South Sudan remained a non-entity on Google Maps. Other online cartographers, including Yahoo and Bing, also ignored the new state.
Those slights didn’t sit well with John Tanza Mabusu, a South Sudanese native who works as a journalist in Washington. This summer, Mabusu started an online petition to try to pressure the digital firms into recognizing his homeland. “My people of South Sudan have endured 50 years of bitter conflict,” Mabusu wrote. Google, for one, responded swiftly. By late September, South Sudan was appearing on its eponymous site. The other tech giants, though, have yet to recognize the change. But after waiting decades for a country, one imagines the people of South Sudan can live with a little online lag.
By Peter Nowak - Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 12:18 PM - 4 Comments
If digital music is your thing, you’ll have one more option come Monday. Microsoft is today announcing that its Zune Music service is finally coming to Canada, starting Oct. 3.
The service will offer 14 million download-to-own tracks at variable pricing, with no copy protection on them. More intriguing is the Zune Music Pass, which is basically an all-you-can-eat option for $9.99 per month (the U.S. store is also dropping its pricing today to that level from $14.99). If you buy a 10-month pass, you get the last two months free.
The pass is pretty cool because it extends across devices, so it can be enabled on a PC, Xbox 360 or Windows Phone.
Microsoft is usually pretty good at getting new products into Canada quickly, but it has been a bit of a laggard with Zune-related things. Continue…