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T-Mobile: Back to square one – Dec. 20, 2011

9:38 am in Business, Controversial, Gadgets, Internet, Mobile, News by Admin

t-mobile.gi.top.jpg

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — It’s time for T-Mobile to desperately scramble for a viable Plan B now that AT&T has walked away.

Getting bought by AT&T (T, Fortune 500) would have solved most of T-Mobile’s problems. Its customers would finally have gotten access to a true 4G network and top-of-the-line smartphones like Apple’s (AAPL, Fortune 500) iPhone.

But after the Obama administration scuttled the deal on antitrust grounds, T-Mobile is left in an even weaker position than in March, when the merger was first announced.

Since AT&T agreed to buy it, T-Mobile has largely sat on its hands, watching its profit, sales and market share sink without any major handset or network upgrades.

It’s not all doom and gloom for T-Mobile: It’s still profitable, and AT&T will be sending it $1 billion worth of wireless spectrum allocations by the year’s end. A roaming agreement with AT&T will also help expand T-Mobile’s coverage to 50 million more Americans.

That’s a nice parting gift, but it’s not even close to enough for T-Mobile to build out a 4G network. And the real prize, the $3 billion break-up fee, will go towards paying down parent company Deutsche Telekom’s debt, not to T-Mobile USA, Deutsche Telekom announced on Tuesday.

That, analysts, say, means T-Mobile will have to act sooner rather than later to figure out its backup plan.

“T-Mobile’s entire strategy is gone,” said George Appling, partner at Booz & Co. “T-Mobile should be worried, because its business isn’t going anywhere, and now it needs to start all over again.”

Making matters worse, Appling predicted a massive exodus of management from T-Mobile now that the merger is off the table. The company had incentivized management to stay as long as the deal was in the works, but now there’s “no reason to stay,” Appling said. That talent drain will force T-Mobile’s hand even more.

A T-Mobile spokesman countered that the commitment level among T-Mobile executives remains “very strong.”

So what are the options for the nation’s fourth-largest wireless company? Experts say it’s eat, be eaten, or strike a licensing deal.

Eat: If it’s going to buy up one or several smaller wireless providers, T-Mobile could do well by making a bid for regional carriers Leap Wireless (LEAP) and MetroPCS (PCS). Both stocks rallied Tuesday along with the rest of the market.

Unlike T-Mobile, both have the spectrum necessary to create a 4G solution, and MetroPCS has already begun to roll out its next-generation network. Appling estimates T-Mobile could save at least $500 million a year by purchasing one of the companies and transitioning to the much more efficient 4G technology.

Such a deal could also restore T-Mobile’s identity as the nationwide value carrier, which got muddied in recent years as the company struggled to determine whether it was in competition with the big boys Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500), AT&T and Sprint or low-cost carriers like Virgin, Boost, MetroPCS and Leap’s Cricket network.

Be eaten: If AT&T couldn’t get regulatory approval to buy T-Mobile, there’s no chance its even larger rival Verizon would be able to scoop it up. That leaves Sprint Nextel (S, Fortune 500) as the only U.S. wireless player that might have a realistic shot at playing the role of T-Mobile’s white knight.

Sprint, after all, is the company that everyone thought would buy T-Mobile before AT&T stepped in. Sprint certainly could use T-Mobile’s spectrum, and a tie-up between the two companies could create a much more competitive third option in the wireless market — making it likely that it would receive a blessing from regulators, according to Brett Gordon, professor at Columbia Business School.

But there are many reasons why that deal might not be able to get done: Sprint is rapidly running out of cash, and its network technologies are incompatible with T-Mobile’s. Sprint couldn’t offer anything close to the $39 billion AT&T had bid.

A more likely option is that a Latin American carrier like Telefonica or Telmex would buy T-Mobile to get a foothold in the U.S. market, said Josh King, general counsel at Avvo.com and former senior corporate development executive at AT&T Wireless. A European player is also possible, similar to how Vodafone (VOD) bought a large stake in Verizon Wireless.

But cable operators, once believed to be a potential savior, are now likely out. Cox, Comcast (CMCSA, Fortune 500), Time Warner Cable (TWC, Fortune 500) and Bright House sold their wireless spectrum to Verizon this month.

Dish Network (DISH, Fortune 500) has spent $3 billion on wireless spectrum over the past year, but Frost & Sullivan analyst Brent Iadarola said AT&T is more likely to strike a licensing deal with Dish than the satellite operator is to buy T-Mobile outright.

Make a deal: As a third option, T-Mobile could partner with another company in a spectrum licensing deal.

In what could be an interesting twist, AT&T’s 4G network might make the most sense for T-Mobile. AT&T could allow T-Mobile’s customers to roam on its 4G network in exchange for spectrum licenses that would allow AT&T to deploy 4G faster.

Another possibility is an infrastructure-for-4G partnership with 4G wholesale provider LightSquared, according to Jagdish Rebello, analyst at IHS iSuppli. But that network isn’t expected to deploy until 2013 at the earliest.

“What’s certain is that T-Mobile can’t go it alone,” said Rebello. “They can only call their 3G network 4G for so long.”

T-Mobile: Back to square one – Dec. 20, 2011.

by Admin

Carrier IQ: We don’t record keystrokes, but your phone does – Dec. 16, 2011

9:37 am in Controversial, Gadgets, Internet, Mobile, News by Admin

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — As the privacy fiasco that erupted around Carrier IQ continues smoldering, the finger pointing has intensified over the controversial software that sends data from individuals’ phones back to their carriers.

This week, Carrier IQ concluded an internal investigation and released a report on its findings. The company’s analysis confirmed that its software does not, by itself, record users’ keystrokes. Instead, the report affirmed the Carrier IQ’s prior suspicions that the recording is being triggered on the handset manufacturers’ end.

Carrier IQ’s investigation was a response to developer Trevor Eckhart’s 17-minute YouTube video, which showed how the software secretly runs on his HTC EVO 3D Android phone and logs every key press, every text, and the full URL of every website he visits. It recorded that data even from websites that use security encryption designed to prevent that kind of tracking.

Carrier IQ’s report said that what the Eckhart video displays is actually the result of separate tools put in place by the handset manufacturer.

The data recording was being done in what’s known as a debug log. The log is intended to help software developers understand what happened if something goes wrong with an application. It stashes information in the phone’s memory, which it remains stored until the device is powered down.

“It appears that the handset manufacturer software’s debug capabilities remained ‘switched on’ in devices sold to consumers,” Carrier IQ said in its analysis.

That debugger is supposed to be turned off unless a developer turns it on. It’s also highly unusual — and potentially insecure — for an application to store so much data to the debug logger. A stolen phone that hasn’t been turned off could be a gold mine for hackers, who would have access to literally everything a user has done or said on the device since it was last powered down.

Though Carrier IQ is installed on more than 150 million phones worldwide, the debug logging problem appears to only exist on HTC and Samsung smartphones. Those two manufacturers add a layer of their own software on top of the stock Google Android operating system, according to Dan Rosenberg, a consultant at Virtual Security Research who has extensively studied Carrier IQ’s software.

HTC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A Samsung spokesman confirmed to CNNMoney that Samsung was storing data in its phones’ logs, but declined to say why the manufacturer had turned on that functionality or whether it is working on a fix for the problem.

Still, Carrier IQ isn’t completely off the hook.

As part of its internal investigation, the company discovered that it had been accidentally sending users’ text messages to carriers.

The problem was the result of a bug, which Carrier IQ says it has told the carriers how to fix. The texts were also encoded, so they weren’t “human readable,” the company claims.

The potential privacy breach caught the attention of the government regulators, who have launched a probe into the issue, according to The Washington Post. Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., has been asking pointed questions, and Rep Edward Markey, D-Mass., has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the practices of Carrier IQ.

Company spokeswoman Mira Woods said she was “not aware of an official investigation into Carrier IQ at this time.”

In an attempt to get ahead of the probes, Carrier IQ this week sought meetings with the FTC and Federal Communications Commission to answer questions and present its side of the argument.

An under-the-radar company until recently, Carrier IQ is a small firm whose software is designed to help carriers run diagnostics on their phones and network. Its tools are intended to monitor boring, basic phone functions, like signal outages, battery life and website load times.

But there’s a whole lot lurking under the hood of our smartphones. Carrier IQ’s sudden thrust into the national spotlight illustrates that even those who build, sell and service our phones may not know everything that’s hiding inside Pandora’s box.  To top of page

Carrier IQ: We don’t record keystrokes, but your phone does – Dec. 16, 2011.

by Admin

Hard drive prices slide as Thai flood aftermath subsides – Computerworld

9:34 am in Business, Computer Hardware, Controversial, News by Admin

Computerworld - The price of the most popular hard disk drives are beginning to drop as inventories climb out of a deep hole that began in October after massive flooding shut down major production sites in Thailand.

Drive maker Western Digital was hardest hit by the flooding, with research firm IDC predicting that up to 75% of the company’s production lines were temporarily shut down.

According to new information from ecommerce tracking site Dynamite Data, the top 50 hard drives on sites such as Newegg.com and Tigerdirect.com, leaped in price by 50% to 150% after the flooding. The price jump was kicked off in October when drive inventory levels plummeted 90% in less than a week, according to Kristopher Kubicki, data architect at Dynamite Data.

Inventories plummeted

Hard disk drive inventories plummeted in October. (Source: Dynamite Data)

“The first flooding was Oct. 8 and within a week, two weeks at the most, almost all that inventory at distribution had dried up,” Kubicki said. “I’m not sure if that was distributors getting the inventory recalled from them or if it was getting purchased that fast. I think consciously people moved it out of distribution and into system manufacturers.”

Over the past few weeks, hard drive prices have leveled off and have begun to drop slowly, according to Dynamite’s data.

“For first time, less than week after Western Digital’s first [fabrication plant] went back on line, drive inventory began increasing at both distributors and ecommerce sites, and index prices began coming down a little too,” Kubicki said.

IDC has predicted that hard disk drive supply shortages in the wake of Thailand flooding would affect consumers, computer system manufacturers and corporate IT shops into 2013.

Hard disk drive prices

After floods hit a dozen manufacturing facilities in Thailand, hard drive prices skyrocketed. More recently, however, prices have begun to settle down. (Source: Dynamite Data)

Fang Zhang, an analyst with market research firm IHS iSuppli, said he also saw “a few” HDD price drops — especially in the retail market this month — from the historical highs after the floods.

However, Zhang cautioned that certain drive inventories are still short, such as 500GB and 1TB capacity models for both desktop and notebook PCs.

 

Zhang said he expects hard drive supplies to be at their low point next quarter, but he said prices will begin to decline in the latter part of the first quarter of 2012.

“And the trend will continue throughout 2012,” he said in an email reply to Computerworld. “HDD Supply could meet demand in [the third quarter of 2012] because production volumes will start to increase in [the first quarter of 2012].”

SSD prices

SSD prices have dropped in the past year, most recently correlating with the increase in hard drive prices (Source: Dynamite Data)

The drop in hard drive availability in October also correlated with a sharp drop in solid-state drive (SSD) prices, according to Dynamite’s data. SSD prices fell 23% online over the past year, despite a brief price increase in November, Kubicki’s data showed.

Data from DRAMeXchange also showed that rush orders for SSDs increased after the Thailand flooding disrupted hard disk drive supplies.

According to DRAMeXchange, a research division of TrendForce, rush orders for SSDs rose even as shipments of end-market products, including PCs, smartphones and tablet PCs, remained slugish because of slow economic conditions.

Kubicki also noted that the number of ecommerce SSD reviews has increased faster than HDD reviews over the past year.

While vendors are expected to keep their most valuable customers — computer system manufacturers — supplied with inventory, the consumer retail market will likely be hit by shortages and price increases, analysts say.

Two industry research firms, IHS iSuppli and IDC, have predicted that the overall market shortfall due to factory flooding in Thailand will reach 25% to 28% over the next six months.

Hard drive prices slide as Thai flood aftermath subsides – Computerworld.

by Admin

In-Car Video Chat And 4G Streaming From OnStar

9:33 am in Business, Controversial, Gadgets, Mobile, News by Admin

Detroit’s North American International Auto Show is typically thought of as the kick-off of the year’s major auto shows.

As automakers continue to integrate technology more and more into their vehicles, however, the Consumer Electronics Show is starting to feel like the first big auto show of the year. Automakers and third-party manufacturers have been using CES to showcase things like new infotainment systems and smartphone apps for the past several years now.

Last year, GM’s OnStar provided a preview of a technological system developed in conjunction with Verizon. It was equipped in a Buick LaCrosse research vehicle. The system used the power of Verizon’s 4G LTE network to deliver some interesting, next-generation features.

At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, OnStar will reveal the latest on that system. This time, the system will be equipped in a Chevy Volt research vehicle, which seems to be a more appropriate vessel than a Buick for previewing your latest technology.

In a press release teasing the appearance, OnStar said the system will offer such features as cloud-based streaming of information and entertainment, rear-seat infotainment management and video chat.

While it doesn’t get into the specific configuration, the pictures make it appear as though the car itself is equipped with a 4G modem that provides Internet connectivity and services throughout. In the rear, we see two tablet computers that look hardwired directly to the car.

Video chat may sound like a terrifying feature for any car, but OnStar said in last year’s CES press materials that the feature would only be enabled when the car is in park. Other features like video streaming would also be limited to the rear seat or to a parked vehicle.

In addition to the 4G system, OnStar will show the latest in smart-charging technology. It will also make an announcement about its over-the-counter FMV system.

OnStar will make its presentation alongside Cadillac on Sunday, January 8.

In-Car Video Chat And 4G Streaming From OnStar.

by Admin

One year in federal prison for X-Men Origins pirate – Tech Products & Geek News | Geek.com

9:28 am in Controversial, Internet, News by Admin

Unfortunately it’s the norm today that most movies will be uploaded to file sharing networks either before or shortly after their official release. For some reason the movie industry has readily targeted downloaders rather than trying to weed out who stole the movie in the first place. But for once, the right person looks to have been prosecuted–at least for the digital piracy.

In 2009, a copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine found its way on to Megaupload a month before it was due to appear in movie theaters. The so-called “workprint” copy was unfinished, so unfinished in fact, anyone viewing this copy saw green screens and wires attached to actors used to help with the more acrobatic movements during action scenes.

Hugh Jackman even commented on the leak, describing it as like getting a “Ferrari without a paint job.”

The person who decided to share the movie illegally was tracked down, however. He is a 49-year-old New Yorker by the name of Gilberto Sanchez, and he’s just been prosecuted.

Sanchez has received a sentence of one year in federal prison, which will be followed by another year on supervised release. He will also only have restricted access to computers during that time. As well as uploading the movie he promoted it at two other websites and had a history of piracy over several years. His reason for watching a pirated copy of the movie is the fact he can’t afford the high price of going to the theater.

Does the punishment fit the crime? Yes, if you want people to be deterred from uploading movies, then it probably does. The message this sends is uploading movies could mean jail time. The other positive to take from this is the fact the original uploader of the movie was targeted.

In an interview with the New York Times early last year, Sanchez explained that he actually bought the movie on DVD for $5 from a Korean man in a Chinese restaurant. After watching it with his grandchildren he uploaded it to Megaupload under the username SkillyGilly. The day after the leak of the movie was all over the news, and 8 months later in December 2009 the FBI had tracked him down and came knocking on his door.

Read more at BBC News and Reuters

One year in federal prison for X-Men Origins pirate – Tech Products & Geek News | Geek.com.

by Admin

Denver must prove red-light cameras improve safety, city audit says

9:24 am in Controversial, Gadgets, News by Admin

 

Denver must prove that its controversial photo-radar and photo-red-light programs are making the streets safer, or people will think they exist only to raise money, according to a city audit.

The Denver Auditor’s Office last week issued a report about the two programs that use video and photos to catch traffic violators, saying they should be shut down unless the city can prove they are a public-safety benefit.

“These programs were sold as public-safety enhancements but are widely viewed as a cash grab,” Auditor Dennis Gallagher wrote in a letter last week to Manager of Safety Alex Martinez. “It undermines public trust to maintain photo enforcement programs that are profitable but whose safety impact has not been conclusively shown.”

The City Council next month is scheduled to decide whether to renew a $700,000 contract with the private company that operates the photo-red-light system at four Denver intersections. That program is especially controversial because since May, drivers who stop with their front tires past the stop line have been dinged with $75 fines.

From May to October, violations at those four intersections resulted in $1.3 million in fines, compared with $230,000 from January to April.

“I get a good number of complaints (about that),” said City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb. “We need to have a public discussion about this.”

The City Council might push to cut the stop-line fines in half.

City traffic engineer Brian Mitchell said fewer crashes are being recorded at intersections where photo-red-light enforcement has been set up and where yellow-light clearance time has been lengthened.

“The good news is, at all of the intersections looked at, we are trending downward,” he said.

The audit that was delivered Thursday also insists that the city prove the photo-radar program has reduced speeds and accidents, and improved pedestrian safety.

The program, which uses photo- radar-equipped vans deployed around the city, generated $3.6 million in revenues in 2010 and nearly $6 million this year through Oct. 24.

The city says a 2009 study of the program showed a decrease in speeds in eight of the 10 most frequently enforced photo-radar areas. City officials say they will conduct another study to cover the three-year period from 2010 to 2012.

But the officials say it will be difficult to determine whether photo radar has decreased the number of accidents and pedestrian injuries because locations of those events are random.

Still, according to the city, accidents throughout Denver declined by about 24 percent to 22,242 in 2010 from 29,100 in 2002, the year photo radar was introduced.

Denver must prove red-light cameras improve safety, city audit says – The Denver Post.

by Admin

How Facebook Is Affecting School Reunions

9:23 am in Browsers, Controversial, Facebook, News, Social Media by Admin

 

Who got fat, who got hot, and is that old crush of mine still single? Whatever happened to that weird kid with the hair? Wait, am I the one who got fat?

Such are the essential questions at the core of every high school and college reunion. For decades, the routine has remained the same: a bunch of old classmates get together and catch up, settle (or renew) grievances and swap glory-days stories. Yet the ability to locate former classmates through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and, well, the Internet itself, has alumni organizations and other such groups wondering if the sun is setting on the traditionally organized reunion. (Read a TIME report: “Five Facebook No-Nos for Divorcing Couples.”)

Take Kim Brinegar, who in 1998 helped organize the 10-year reunion for her class at Maryland’s Arundel High School. “Back then, the Internet wasn’t really that reliable for finding people,” she says. “I had to rely on word of mouth, advertising in the paper and sending things to people’s parents.” For the 20-year reunion, however, she had a new tool: Facebook. Through the site, Brinegar was able to get in touch with tons of people she couldn’t track down last time around, including an exchange student from Italy who flew across the Atlantic for the reunion last November. (See TIME’s top 10 social-networking apps.)

Rather than turn people off from wanting to attend (“Well, smokin’ hot Sally looks just awful now — no need for me to go”), Facebook only increased the excitement for the 20th reunion at Massachusetts’ Sharon High School, says Holly Goshin, who helped plan the event. “It’s enticing. It’s like a little preview, seeing everyone’s life online. And whether you’re happy that someone is not doing as well as you or you’re happy that they look amazing, you get to see it all in person. Then you can move on with your life.”

But such self-organization is hurting businesses devoted to reunions, says Jonathan Miller, co-owner of Reunited Inc., a 20-year-old company that has helped plan more than 1,000 high school reunions. “It’s definitely affected our business,” Miller says. “Classes can now easily say to me, ‘Jonathan, we have 150 people in our Facebook group right now, and we really don’t need your services.’ ” (See 10 ways in which your job is going to change.)

College-alumni associations are dealing with the same issues. “Students now are all connected through Facebook and MySpace and other sites, so they leave college with their own network completely intact,” says Deborah Dietzler, executive director of alumni relations at the University of Georgia. “This is not like 20 years ago, where, if you wanted to get in touch with someone, you kind of needed to call the alumni office.”

On a personal level, Dietzler is a good example of how Facebook can hurt reunion attendance. “There was a Facebook page for my 20-year college reunion, which took place this May,” she says. “I looked at it a couple of times and it didn’t seem like anyone I knew would be there, so I lost interest.” (Read “Your Facebook Relationship Status: It’s Complicated.”)

Still, the idea that social-networking sites might kill reunions is a faulty one, because that would essentially mean killing nostalgia itself. While Facebook allows you to easily discover that your old pal Jack now has twins, it does not allow you to knock back a drink with Jack at your old campus dive (unless it’s a virtual drink, and where’s the fun in that?). What the Internet is doing is shifting power from schools to former students. There’s less need for snail-mail brochures and impersonal e-mails from alumni offices and businesses like Reunited Inc. when any former student can just form a reunion group on Facebook.

Marc Dizon was a class officer for Virginia’s West Springfield High class of 1999. Nine or so years later, dozens of former classmates began to e-mail him via Facebook to ask if a reunion was going to happen. The interest was there. “I don’t think reunions are redundant on account of social media,” he says. “You’re always going to want to see people face to face. And those who don’t go are probably those who wouldn’t have gone even if there was no Facebook.”

Mike Huynh, who helped organize a reunion for his 1998 Lowell High School class in San Francisco, says the gathering — which 214 out of about 600 class members attended — might not have happened if it weren’t for Facebook. “It made it very cheap for us to connect quickly with classmates and get information out to them. It was also easy to get feedback on what dates students prefer and, afterwards, on how the event went. I think that five years from now, the popularity of Facebook is going to make it an even more effective way to get people together.” (Read about using Facebook and Twitter to find a job.)

So reunions are probably here to stay, says Andrew Shaindlin, executive director of the Caltech Alumni Association and a blogger at Alumni Futures. But the real danger is that an end to reunions organized by alumni associations would make it more difficult for those associations to raise funds from former students. “It’s going to affect donations,” says Shaindlin. “We’ve lost our monopoly over the data on how to communicate with schoolmates. We need to step back and figure out how to remain relevant, because there may be some point three or five or seven years from now when we’re going to hold a reunion and almost nobody is going to sign up.” By then, however, alumni associations may have figured out how to tap donors via Facebook.

How Facebook Is Affecting School Reunions – TIME.

by Admin

Big Brother in the Home Office – NYTimes.com

6:25 pm in Browsers, Business, Censorship, Computer Software, Controversial, Google, Internet, News, programming, Social Media by Admin

Tens of thousands of programmers, writers, accountants and other workers labor at home doing contract work for companies like Google, Hewlett-Packard and NBC. The computers they use contain software that takes snapshots of what they are doing six times an hour. The snooping occurs randomly, making it impossible for the computer user to game the system.

It is probably more invasive than what happens to those working in offices, where scooting through Facebook entries, shopping on Cyber Monday, and peeping at N.S.F.W. (“Not Safe for Work”) Web sites on corporate computers is both normal and rarely observed by managers.

Almost certainly, such surveillance is likely to be an increasing aspect of modern work, where remote software manages time worked, Web sites visited, keystrokes logged, and observes the informational networks established among employees.

ODesk, an outsourcing company offering screen shot software, has 1.4 million contractors registered in dozens of countries. Those contractors vie for work from 250,000 buyers, ranging from small companies to large multinationals. Typically companies post jobs, from working at a call center to constructing an elaborate database, and workers bid on the work by naming an hourly fee.

oDesk's software takes screenshots of an employees computer at random intervals.ODesk’s software takes screenshots of an employee’s computer at random intervals.

The hours are verified by the screen shots, which workers can see before their employers do. Untoward images, like a Skype conversation with a spouse or something worse, can be blanked out, at a cost to the employee of one-sixth of the hourly wage. The software can also drill deeper, looking at things like individual key strokes and where someone moved the computer mouse. Employers who see something they do not like can likewise dispute that portion of the work.

Gary Swart, oDesk’s chief executive, figures his company will run about $225 million in jobs through his company’s marketplace this year, double last year’s sum. By his reckoning, that’s about one-quarter of the $1 billion in remote-contracted work done this year. ODesk collects a commission of about 10 percent for the service.

“There are big trends here: globalization, labor as a service over the Internet, and companies trying to do more with less,” says Mr. Swart. “Everyone is struggling to find good talent.”

Most of the work goes to a relatively small number of those total registered employees, and the top-rated talent can push their wages up. A programmer on the site using the name Evgeny M. in Omsk, Russia, is currently engaged by four different employers, at $24 to $34 an hour before oDesk takes its cut. “I know for a fact that he was making $7 an hour before he signed up,” Mr. Swart says.

Newcomers looking to make a reputation, along with workers with poorer ratings, make significantly less. A “social media concierge” in the Philippines, who encourages others to interact with a Web site, is currently charging $5.56 an hour. Writers on blogs, based both in the United States and overseas, are charging anywhere from $24 to $77 an hour.

American workers still have certain native talents and skills that make them relatively valuable, including an understanding of American slang and pop culture. Knowing how to insert those terms correctly can make a Web site more attractive to a search engine, giving it a higher ranking on Google or Bing.

An internal survey done by oDesk says that 80 percent of the hiring was for new work and not to replace existing workers.

Most work contracted over the cloud is typically paid by the task, not the hour. Outfits like TaskRabbit and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk handle little jobs like wrapping presents or cleaning up the grammar on Web pages. Newcomers like Coffee and Power enable people to list talents that others can bid for, in addition to posting jobs.

As remote work moves from the exotic to the mainstream, however, traditional measures make a comeback. ELance, a company similar to oDesk, currently has a half-million contractors vying for 55,000 jobs. ELance also uses a model of hourly payments, and irregular screen shots for verification. LiveOps, which builds virtual call centers of people working from their homes, signs up people in half-hour increments and monitors quality by screening calls and listening to what workers say about each other in internal forums.

Even away from the labor marketplaces, software like Tahometer, Hyperhour, Time Doctor and Work Snaps lets employers track the doings of at-home workers, freelancers and dispersed teams.

The real valuable skill, Mr. Swart says, may be in knowing how to run a virtual team, including when to monitor closely and when to let an idle Facebook page slide. “All of the challenges you have in an office, things like communication, collaboration, common standards, clarity, setting expectations — they’re all compounded online,” he says.

Big Brother in the Home Office – NYTimes.com.

by Admin

Bloggers, you’re second-class citizens now

6:23 pm in Browsers, Business, Censorship, Controversial, Internet, Mobile, News, programming, Social Media by Admin

Federal judge says bloggers don’t enjoy same legal protection as journalists; Cringely wonders if the ruling goes too far

 

When is a blogger not a journalist? Where does legitimate criticism end and pure slander begin? Is that shiny red can filled with floor wax or dessert topping?

These are the hard questions we face in these trying times. A federal judge in Oregon just weighed in on the first of those, and the news is sending a chill through the blogosphere.

[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or tales from the trenches. Send your story to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]

Crystal Cox, an “investigative blogger” in Oregon, may soon be $2.5 million poorer thanks to a ruling that appears to cut a sharp line between journalists who enjoy a scosh more legal protection than most civilians under the law and the bloggers who don’t.

On sites like industrywhistleblower.com, judicialhellhole.com, and obsidianfinancesucks.com, Cox went out of her way to smear investment firm Obsidian Finance Group and its co-founder Kevin Padrick. Check out this choice nugget from BankruptcyCorruption.com (her stylistic choices intact):

There are Many Reasons Why I Claim that Kevin Padrick, Obsidian Finance LLC is a Thug, Thief and a Liar.. Many More Will Continue to Post.. in Detail .. as Oregon Attorney David Aman of Tonkon Torp LLP Law Firm sent me a Cease and Desist Requesting that I Stop saying such Facts about his Client Oregon Attorney Kevin Padrick for Obsidian Finance Portland Oregon.

A disclaimer for any Obsidian lawyers in the audience: Quoting Cox here does not constitute an endorsement of her claims. A corrupt investment banker? Who’d believe that?

Not surprisingly, Obsidian sued. Cox decided to forgo an attorney, relying on a number of Oregon state laws that protect people who have a legitimate interest in exposing corruption or corporate malfeasance. For example, it has a shield law for journalists and an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute to keep corporations from squelching consumer complaints by suing them. Cox tried to invoke both of those. The judge said no dice.

Per Seattle Weekly’s Curtis Cartier:

Representing herself in court, Cox had argued that her writing was a mixture of facts, commentary and opinion (like a million other blogs on the web) and moved to have the case dismissed. Dismissed it wasn’t, however, and after throwing out all but one of the blog posts cited by Obsidian Financial, the judge ruled that this single post was indeed defamatory because it was presented, essentially, as more factual in tone than her other posts, and therefore a reasonable person could conclude it was factual.

I am not a lawyer (despite the fact that I look really quite stylish in a three-piece suit). But I have talked to a few lawyers over the years about libel and defamation, and what Cox did in her post sounds like a textbook definition of it.

As evidenced by that little snippet I quoted above — and the multiple copycat sites Cox created — it’s clear she was trying to use cheap SEO tricks to build a Google bomb out of “Padrick” and “Obsidian.” And it worked. Google “Kevin Padrick” and the first results page is full of extremely similar sites with names like BankruptcyTrusteeFraud, OregonShyster, and RealEstateHoax.

 

Those sites are registered to Cox or “Leslie Turner,” who happens to sport the same email address and general location as Cox. Clearly Crystal isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer — more like a plastic spoon. But I digress.

Cox also claimed she got her information from an inside, confidential source, which she cannot name and never actually cites inside that particularly nasty post. Right. Sorry Crystal, but calling yourself an “investigative blogger” doesn’t actually make you one. It certainly doesn’t give you license to say any damned thing you please about anyone you feel like. I don’t know what Cox had against Obsidian and Padrick, but she went about exacting revenge in exactly the wrong way, and now she has to pay.

However. What’s troubling about this decision isn’t the defamation question. It’s that the judge in this instance decided to carve out a little island, placing journos in the middle of it and everyone else outside. The money graph is on page 9 of the 13-page ruling:

Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist. For example, there is no evidence of (1) any education in journalism; (2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity; (3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest; (4) keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted; (5) mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources; (6) creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others; or (7) contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story. Without evidence of this nature, defendant is not “media.”

Woe unto the bloggers of the world who must produce any or all of the above to qualify as journalists. Granted, the vast majority of them are not. But there are a handful of good, independent investigative bloggers who are more than worthy of the title of journalist, however dubious that distinction might ultimately be. And there are a lot of reporters who happen to still have jobs with recognized media organizations but aren’t worth shite. Sorry comrades, but it’s true.

Part of the problem is that Oregon’s shield statutes were written before the age of the InterWeb and apparently have never been updated. Theoretically, then, employees of a news organization who write only for that org’s website might also be excluded from that law’s definition of “media.”

Cartier points out that Cox might have had more legal protections had she lived a few miles north of Portland in Washington, whose shield laws do embrace the Internet as a form of media. But she’d probably still be required to hand over the name of her “confidential source” to defend herself, according to attorney Bruce E. H. Johnson, who drafted that state’s shield law.

Still, as an HTML-stained journo-turned-bloggo, it gives one pause. Is it suddenly chillier on the Internet this morning, or is it just me?

Are bloggers journalists? Discuss below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, “Bloggers, you’re second-class citizens now,” was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely’s Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely’s Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Bloggers, you’re second-class citizens now | Cringely – InfoWorld.

by Admin

Could Call of Duty online ‘warriors’ be forced to obey the Geneva convention?

6:19 pm in Censorship, Computer Software, Controversial, Internet, News by Admin

Earlier this year, game maker Activision counted up that 62 billion people had been ‘killed’ virtually in online games of Call of Duty: Black Ops – including 242 million stabbed to death at close range.

That’s just one title among hundreds of modern war games – most of which lack any kind of ‘surrender’ button bar switching the machine off.

Now, a committee of the Red Cross is debating if gamers might be violating the International Humanitarian Law as they slaughter each other online.

Modern Warfare 3: But as millions 'die' every day online, could gamers be violating International Humanitarian Law?

Modern Warfare 3: But as millions ‘die’ every day online, could gamers be violating International Humanitarian Law?

 

Few games such as Modern Warfare 3 include the capacity to accept surrender - and if someone is wounded, the polite reaction is simply to finish them off

Few games such as Modern Warfare 3 include the capacity to accept surrender – and if someone is wounded, the polite reaction is simply to finish them off

‘While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating International Humanitarian Law,’ said the committee’s site.

‘Exactly how video games influence individuals is a hotly debated topic, but for the first time, Movement partners discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of this law in video games.

 

‘There is, however, an overall consensus and motivation to take action.’

Whether or not gamers who had won the longest ‘killstreaks’ – an uninterrupted run of kills in online games – could be prosecuted is another question.

The committee’s action is aimed more towards developers: as war games become more realistic, do they have a responsibility to add humanitarian elements to their games?

Whether or not games such as Modern Warfare 3 offer a 'realistic' enough experience of warfare that International Humanitarian Law might apply is still open to debate

Whether or not games such as Modern Warfare 3 offer a ‘realistic’ enough experience of warfare that International Humanitarian Law might apply is still open to debate

Could Call of Duty online ‘warriors’ be forced to obey the Geneva convention? | Mail Online.